Safe People

A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity                                                                                         Proverbs 17:17

Today, a few thoughts on ways to be helpful to people who are struggling with some emotional response in these stressful days. Yesterday I wrote about how stress affects us in all ways- physically, spiritually, and emotionally. So, I want to give just a few thoughts on how to reach out to one another. Encouraging words, as I discussed, are healing to both body and spirit. However, to go a bit deeper, I will share some considerations about helping others.

I think we need to consider the two factors that we always use when we hear about therapeutic medications- safe and effective. Pharmaceutical companies typically advertise that their products are “safe and effective” . By that, they mean that the drugs will not produce undue harm, and that they have been shown to have some level of actually working to solve the medical problem for which they were developed.

So, helpers also need to be “safe and effective”. That means that we are “safe people”. In this case, safe means that we are trying to be helpful and available to help the other person, not to get our own needs met. That we can be non-judging and accepting. That we will not add to the burden already there for the person we help. That what they tell us is confidential, and will not be spread to others.

I recognize that I am discussing informal, friendly interventions, not professional counseling. Friends are not legally held to standards of confidentiality, however, there needs to be a discussion about where the information can go. The general rule is that the helping person is not the owner of the information, and has no right to share it without permission.

Finally, if possible, the helper should consider pointing the friend toward other safe people, who can be of help. Isolation is the thing that can get us in trouble during times of stress. Having a group of people who care is a tremendous help in our collective efforts to handle stressful times.

Tomorrow, we discuss “effective”. In the meantime, “be safe out there”! 

Prayer: Lord, help us to be strong and safe as we go about helping one another in hard times, Amen.



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