“… sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.” ~Jean Vanier
Safe spaces can be our comfort zones, those places that can give us a sense of control and security. Safe spaces can also describe the people we can trust with our deepest selves.
I recently read a book written by a friend about her volunteer work at a hospice. She wrote about some of the other people involved in the program—the Catholic sisters who ran the hospice, other volunteers and those who were dying. She wrote of the poverty of those dying, and she shared that this volunteer work had touched her and changed her.
What she did not describe, though, was what specifically had been touched in her by those who were dying—what inner poverty or brokenness connected with the poverty and brokenness of those who were dying.
Putting words to our wounds can be difficult, and it can make us feel vulnerable. We get plenty of practice saying, “I’m fine,” and much less practice admitting when we are not. Finding safe spaces where we can share openly and honestly can be a challenge.
As a young adult, I mistakenly shared my story with people who were not trustworthy and who used it against me. Then I retreated into my safe space where I shared with no one.
But at some point I realized that what I was calling a safe space was really just a place of fear, and staying there kept me from facing my wounds and allowing God’s love to heal me.
I was fortunate to find a therapist who helped me see that by staying locked in on myself I was neither safe nor free. I needed to step out of that space and start finding true safe spaces where I could name my weaknesses and difficulties.
Attending Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings helped a great deal. Sitting among others who had similar backgrounds created a foundation of trust. Once the foundation was established, trusting and sharing became easier.
Living in l’Arche helped, too. I had gone there thinking I was going to help others, but God showed me that I was called me there to receive help more than to give it. The invitation of the Beatitudes and of l’Arche was to reveal my poverty—to myself as much as to others—and be blessed by it. By acknowledging my weakness, I came to understand that I was totally dependent on God.
God continues to invite me into deeper relationship so I can know my broken places, hidden crevices that are awaiting God’s healing touch. That touch releases me from my fear of being judged and allows me to speak of my vulnerability.
Like my friend who wrote the book, I went to l’Arche to help others but realized I was the one who was to be helped. My brokenness is my blessing and allowing others to see it is my healing.