But it also got me to thinking: am I always a safe person for my friends and family? I certainly want to be but sometimes my own distress or sorrow or anxiety makes me less than the person I am working to become. The authors noted problems with abandoners, critics and the irresponsibles. And I have to ask myself where I might need to do better in my own life:
Abandoner - Do I sometimes fail a friend or love-one because my own drama and wants seems more important to me than their need? Oh, I'm not talking about the person who calls at the last minute for a ride to work when their car is broken down because the don't like riding the bus or some other example of people trying to maniuplate or abuse us. But I'm talking about an aged realtive that is lonely or a new mother who is overwhelmed and we are so emtionally strung out that we have no time to help out.
Critic - Do I sometimes jump to tell someone all the reasons they can't go back to school or leave an abusive relationshp or find a healther work environment rather than encourage them to find good ways to turn dreams into plans and to identify resources that might help? Am I willing to let them check back with me to update me so they have continued counsel that focuses on the way to solve problems rather smugly saying "I told you that this was a mistake?"
An Irresponsible - Do I behave irresponsibly in not keeping my word, not following through on volunteer commitments or making excuses when I don't meet my work deadlines? Do I buy things I want before I meet my financial responsibilities? Am I generous with family and friends and patient when things go wrong? Am I kind to folks with physical, mental or financial challenges?
When I find myself with too little energy to be a good friend, become casually critical or fall into "me first" thinking it often means I'm not getting my own needs met and I need to deal promptly with my own issues if I am going to be the person I want to be...loving, giving mercy, encouraging, hope-filled, willing to give folks the benefit of a doubt (maybe they are not trying to do harm to me, but only are overwhemed with their own burdens) and willing to forgive (as I so often need forgiveness myself), yet wise in how to make safe choices in my most intimate relationships, selecting social friends and being responsible for my own choices and actions.
And when I work on these choices for myself, I find it is easier to attract and trust people who are also loyal, encouraging and responsible. After all, that is what I deserve in a friend!
* From the book Safe People, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend