Everyone needs a “safe person” in their life. Someone who is there for them, treats them well even in the tough times, and is willing to speak into their life so that they can hear the truth. Jesus was a safe person and had these three traits – Presence, grace, and truth. (see the two blogs – “Safe People”)
However, many people have others in their life who are not safe. Individuals I would call “unsafe people.” Let’s look at some of the characteristics of unsafe people.
Unsafe people have personal character traits that make them extremely dangerous to other people. They act as if they “have it all together.” They are self-righteous. They demand trust. And when their facade of perfection is stripped away, they blow up or disappear.
In my life they have what I call “huff and puff” as in the three pigs and the big bad wolf who huffed and puffed and blew the house down. These people raise their voices, get angry, yell at you, accuse you of things that are not true, and always work to turn the tables and make the conversation about you and not them. They refuse to take any personal responsibility for the situation or their life and so they “huff and puff” to blow you off the issue you were addressing.
1> Unsafe people think they “have it all together” instead of admitting their weaknesses
So, in the relationship, one person is open and real letting the other person in to their world, their hurts, and their issues. However, it is a one way street. The other person in the relationship, for whatever reason, does not share what is happening in their life and what areas they too are struggling with. And, everyone has struggles even if they won’t admit it.
When someone “has it all together,” that person’s friends will suffer some very predictable results:
Feeling disconnected. Intimacy is built on sharing weaknesses, and friendship involves sharing vulnerabilities
- Feeling “one down.” There is an implied superiority in the one who thinks and acts like they have no need for the other.
- Feeling weaker than one actually is. The vulnerable one plays the “weakness” role in the relationship. There is no balance, for they are not allowed to be strong.
- Feeling dependant on the “strong one.” The weaker one thinks they need the stronger one to survive.
- Feeling anger and hostility at the “together one.” The vulnerable person grows tired of the “together” facade of the stronger person.
- Feeling the need to compete to reverse the role. The weaker person feels stuck in their role and fights to change it.
The “weak” one may try to be the “strong” one is some other relationships to compensate for their lack of strength in their primary relationship. Instead of suffering through only one bad relationship, they may end up with several unbalanced, unsafe relationships. They would do better to balance elements of strength and weakness in each of their relationships.
This pattern also keeps the “strong” one from growing spiritually and emotionally. We grow in part by confessing our faults and weaknesses to each other (James 5:16; Ephesians 4:10). If we are always being strong and without needs, we are not growing, and we are setting ourselves up for a very dangerous fall.
2> Unsafe people are religious instead of spiritual
A true testimony… I remember when I first became a committed Christian. For a long time, I really looked up to people who were religious. I admired their dedication to God and their Bible knowledge. They seemed so strong and “together” that I wanted to be like them.
For about five years, I hung around these kind of people. During that time I grew a lot and learned a lot of theology, but unknowingly, I also was getting father and farther away from being a real person. I became more and more “religious,” and less and less of what I now understand to be spiritual. I was losing touch with my vulnerability, my pain, my need for other people, my sinfulness and ‘bad parts,’ and many other aspects of what it means to be a real person.
The wake-up call came when I had a series of failed relationships. I had to begin to look at why I could not get close to people and trust them at a very deep level, and why I knew more and more about God but felt farther and farther away from Him.
In my graduate studies I got into a group where people were real and they started confronting me in the areas where I was faking it. I learned to open up about my pain and inadequacies, and I got closer to others as I was more vulnerable and needed them more. As the safe people around me loved me just like I was, I learned to open up about my struggles, sinfulness, and imperfections. And I started to really grow as a person and learned a lot more about God than I had known when I had been so “religious.”
After that, I was able able to recognize people who weren’t “real,” although they seemed very spiritual. And I found that I was able to pick better friends, people who really knew God and His ways instead of a lot of religious language and activities, truly relational people who were able to understand and love others and were honest about themselves and about life.