I’m reading the book Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I plan to write about boundaries once I finish the book, but a line in the book caught my attention that I want to share because I found it really powerful.
The authors describe a group counseling session where one of the members finally sees his issue clearly and is able to admit some things to himself that he had not been owning before that meeting. The authors describe the atmosphere of the group as being “in the safety of grace.”
Think about that for a second. In the safety of grace. What comes to your mind when you say that phrase? How did your body language respond to hearing yourself say that?
I just love the idea put forward here. Imagine being able to share your ideas, thoughts, concerns, hurts, and fears in the safety of grace. There would be no judgment, no ridicule, no embarrassment, no shame, no guilt, and no humiliation. Instead you would be loved unconditionally by the person or people with whom you are sharing.
Unfortunately for a lot of people they don’t actually have places to share that are in the safety of grace. Instead of being able to share openly and confidently, our relationships are more like mine fields where we are careful where we step. We don’t want to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time for fear of being blown up! Even in our most intimate relationships (or especially in them) we hold back and don’t share for fear of being attacked, unsupported, or judged for what we share. We don’t share because we don’t feel safe.
Obviously there is one place where we are always in the safety of grace and that is in our prayer life with God. Not only can we, but God wants us to share everything with Him so that He can extend His grace, mercy, and unconditional love to us.
But wouldn’t it be great if we could have that on earth as it is in heaven?
I actually think we can and we’re not going to have to go to group counseling to get it.
It starts with you. Are you willing to provide the safety of grace to people who share with you? This is a lot harder than it sounds so don’t just reactively say yes to this. If you agree to provide the safety of grace to others it means you cannot judge the person sharing with you in any way no matter how distasteful or shocking their admissions. It’s really hard to put your mind in total agape love mode, because we spend most of our day judging everything we see and hear.
But if you are willing to provide a safe haven for people to share with you it’s my experience they will reciprocate, especially if you verbalize the expectation within the relationship. For example, if you have an accountability partner you simply tell them that you would like the relationship to be safe, meaning each can share without fear or judgment or a breach of confidentiality.
That said, I think the most difficult but most important place we need to provide the safety of grace is in our marriages. If you are married you know that it is this relationship where we are at our very best and our very worst. It’s always those closest to us that we hurt the most. Many marriage suffer because two people who love each other cannot speak to one another without hurting each other.
If we apply this concept of providing safety through grace in our marriage – really showing unconditional love no matter what our spouses tell us – I think you would see a revival in marriage with divorce rates decreasing and happiness increasing.
The trick is how to do it! Here’s the answer: All of us need to stop personalizing everything other people say. Again, that’s a lot easier said than done!
Jesus told us that we need to die to ourselves if we are to live. Paul tells us that we are to consider others better than ourselves and to look after others needs as well as our own. Jesus tells us to love sacrificially like He did. These scriptures and more (actually all of them!) tell us to stop being so selfish and start loving others unconditionally.
Personally I can share that I am very selfish when it comes to certain things in my life – those things in which I am insecure. But I’ll also tell you that it is selfishness that leads to sin. It is self-less-ness that leads to unconditional love.
I think this idea of providing safety in grace is vitally important and can improve all of our relationships. But it has to start with us being less selfish and more selfless. We need to become less so Jesus can become more in our lives.
Take some time today and think about where you can provide this kind of safety for people in your life and where you may need this kind of safety from others. Talk about it with your circle of intimates and friends. And talk to God about it and let Him show you how your life can change by the simple act of grace.