Do People Like You?

As believers we are called to share the love of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom with others who have yet to experience God’s amazing grace. To do this we need to build solid relationships with people so that they know they are important. We need to learn how to treat everyone with dignity and respect iso that they will grow to trust you.

For this to even begin you need to come across as ‘likeable.’ And, regretfully, many believers are simply not likeable. So, here are some things we can adapt into our lives to become more likeable and approachable.

1> Become genuinely interested in other people

Often we are so wrapped up in our own life – our issues, our circumstances, our problems – that we really come across as distant and not interested in how others are doing. More importantly, we come across as not even interested in who they really are. One of my mentors taught me many years ago: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It doesn’t matter how much power, education, or expertise you possess; people will respond to you more favourably if you first let them know that they matter to you as individuals.

2> Smile

A smile is inviting. To appear that you are interested in another person and actually care about them you need to make eye contact with them and do so with a smile. Research has shown that the eye contact alone is not enough. Eye contact says you are treating them as a person and they are important to you. You really want to connect. Add to that a sincere smile. You must smile as it is the smile that says you are a warm and caring person.

3> Remember that a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound

I personally have trouble remembering peoples names. And, so I work hard at listening carefully when I first hear it. Then, if possible, I repeat it to myself a number of times or find some way to associate the name with the face or the person. I don’t always remember a name but at least I am trying. It is important as people like it when we call them by name the second time we meet them.

4> Be a good listener – encourage others to talk about themselves.

Remember that a person’s favourite topic is themselves. So, encourage them to talk about themselves and share some of their life story with you. 

Someone once wrote: “Try to care about something in this vast world besides the gratification of small selfish desires. Try to care for what is best in thought and action – something that is good apart from the accidents of your own lot. Look on other lives besides your own. See what their troubles are, and how they are borne.”  (Novelist George Eliot)

How do you take that advice to heart? By listening!

5> Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

To win in relationships, a person needs to learn to talk in terms of the other person’s interests. That’s true when meeting somebody for the first time, and it is true when you are building a long-term relationship.

One of the keys is what author Tony Allesandra calls the Platinum Rule. You probably know the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Platinum Rule says, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Do that, and you almost can’t go wrong.

6> Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely

The bottom line is that you need to make others feel important. And, anyone can learn to value people and make them feel important. It seldom comes naturally as most of us are too focused on ourselves. 

We can learn this relational ability. This ability has been called “Woo.” Woo stands for ‘winning over others.’ I believe that individuals who have “woo” are drawn to people and “want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that they can strike up a conversation and build rapport. Woo is a natural strength that you have or you don’t. However, I believe that any person can develop people skills and learn to have charisma.

When talking about charisma – and that is what this blog has been all about – it all boils down to this: the person without charisma walks into a group and says, ‘Here I am.’ The person with charisma walks into a group and says, ‘There you are.’

Just about anyone can learn to do that. If you want to be the kind of person who makes others smile when they see you coming, get outside yourself, change your focus, and become interested in others. Doing these six things will change your life. 

It’s Not Me, It’s You! – The Bob Principle – Part Two

Read yesterday’s blog “It’s Not Me, It’s You! – The Bob Principle – Part One” first…

So what do you do if you have a Bob (it can be a female – so a Bobbie) in your life, someone who finds, creates, and spreads problems? Consider these suggestions:

1> Respond with a positive comment

When a negative person tries to drop a problem in your lap, respond with something positive. If the comment is about a situation, try to find the bright side. If it’s about a person, point out a positive trait you’ve observed.

2> Show your concern for someone being criticized

Anytime a person’s motives are being critiqued, the best thing is to give him the benefit of the doubt. No one should presume to know the heart of another person. That’s something only God can judge. Believe the best in others (and express that belief) unless the individuals prove otherwise to you personally.

3> Encourage steps towards resolution

Anytime someone brings you a problem he has with another person – and he hasn’t personally addressed the problem with the other person – he’s really engaging in gossip. And if you listen, you are too.

The best way to deal with gossip is to direct the complainer to talk to the person with whom he has an issue. Encourage him to meet one-on-one and work things out. And if he brings up the issue again, ask him point-blank: “Have you addressed this with him yet?” If the answer is no, refuse to discuss it or go with him and help bring reconciliation to the situation. 

4> Ask Bob to THINK before speaking

Not everyone will respond positively to your suggestions. But if you have a strong connection with Bob or you are in a position of authority with him, then ask him to THINK before he speaks using this acronym:

        • T – Is it true?
        • H – Is it helpful?
        • I – Is it inspiring?
        • N – Is it necessary?
        • K – Is it kind?

If he can answer yes to all of these questions, then it’s appropriate for him to proceed.

So, here’s a question: What if you are Bob?

I’ve written a lot about what to do if you have a Bob in your life. But, what is you are Bob? If you are not sure, ask yourself these questions:

        • Do I experience some kind of conflict every day?
        • Do people often rub me the wrong way?
        • Do bad things just naturally happen to me?
        • Do I have few friends and wish I had more?
        • Do I always seem to say the wrong thing?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, then you might be Bob (or Bobbie). If that’s true, remember the first rule of holes. When you’re in one, stop digging.

The first thing you have to do is to admit you’re Bob. The second is that you must want to change your lifestyle. 

Begin by following the guidelines above. Use the THINK questions before you speak. Try to see the positive in every situation. And ask people to hold you accountable for your attitude and actions. No one has to be a Bob forever. 

It’s Not Me, It’s You! – The Bob Principle – Part One

Have you ever known a person who had problems follow him wherever he went? And, that the problems often, if not always, seemed to be that he had a hard time getting along with people? 

There is a relational truth that I learned from a mentor many years ago. Let’s call our person Bob. And the principle The Bob Principle. The Bob Principle goes like this: If Bob has problems with Bill, and Bob has problems with Fred, and Bob has problems with Sue, and Bob has problems with Jane, and Bob has problems with Sam, then Bob is usually the problem. Because Bob seems to be incapable of looking inside himself and recognizing that he has problems that need to be dealt with … he doesn’t just cause problems for himself. He causes problems for everyone with whom he comes into contact. 

Anyone who is like our Bob would have some or all of the following four characteristics:

1> Bob is a problem carrier

The Bobs of the world carry around problems, and these problems affect others. Many years ago when first starting my ministry we were making a major change in the life of a local church. One of the leaders came to me and told me that everyone was upset with the change we were announcing and planning to make. It was a small community and the church had about 15 families who attended regularly. So, I went to each family, had coffee, and discussed the change we were proposing. As it turned out – only the man who came to speak to me had an issue with the change. And, he had been making the rounds of these families working to get people to agree with him and vote against the change. He was a Bob.

The lesson I learned – not only did I find out that we had one very vocal person, but I discovered that problem carriers spend their poison far and wide. I also learned that when someone tells you there are “lots of complaints,” then find out the source. It may turn out to be one person doing lots of complaining.

2> Bob is a problem finder

Bob also likes to find problems and expose them to others. He subscribes to Chisholm’s Second Law, which says, “Any time things appear to be going better, you have overlooked something.”

Because some people have this tendency, it is good to make a rule. My rule, again learned from my mentor … anyone who brings me a problem must also bring three possible solutions to solve it. It doesn’t take great talent to see a problem. In fact, if you look hard enough, people can find a problem in every situation. It takes great talent to solve problems. Most Bobs have no interest in doing that.

3> Bob is a problem creator

Bob always creates problems, and he usually involves others in what he’s doing. So, we have two choices every time we encounter a Bob or anyone else creating a problem. Every problem starter is like a fire lighter. And each of us is like a person carrying two buckets. One is filled with water and the other with gasoline. When we see the spark of a problem being lit, we can choose to douse it with water and out it out. Or we can throw gasoline on it and make it worse. If we want to control the amount of damage Bob can do, we need to use the water.

4> Bob is a problem receiver

Bob is usually a recipient of problems from others, and he encourages people to bring him more. In this case people see Bob as a garbage dump. Garbage trucks take their loads of trash to a place that accepts garbage. And people with problems take their gripes, gossip, and grumbling to someone who will listen and accept what they have to say. Bob allows people to dump on him and makes no effort to stop them when they are sharing. So, they keep dumping. And, they won’t stop until Bob tells then that they are not welcome any more. 

Part two next time…

Take a Look in the Mirror

People unaware of who they really are and what they do often damage relationships with others. The way to change that is to look in the mirror and see who you really are. It is something all of us must do – discover the real “me.” Consider what it is we will learn by doing so. 

1> The first person I must know is myself – Self-Awareness

Human nature seems to endow people with the ability yo size up everybody in the world but themselves. They simply don’t have a clear image of who they are and thus how other people see them. 

Some people are endowed with natural self-awareness. These kinds of people possess interpersonal intelligence. They are naturally aware of who they are, how they come across to others, and how this impacts their relationships. 

However, becoming self-aware does not come easily for most people. It is a process – sometimes a slow one – that requires intentionality.

2> The first person I must get along with is myself – Self-Image

If you’re not comfortable with yourself you can’t be comfortable with others. In fact, we can take that even a step further. If you do not believe in yourself, your will sabotage relationships.

Self-image is a relational ceiling. Your image of yourself restricts or enables your ability to build healthy relationships. A negative self-image will even keep a person from being successful. And even when a person with a poor self-image does somehow achieve success, it won’t last because he will eventually bring himself down to the level of his own expectations. 

Psychologist Phil McGraw states, “I always say that the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You’ve got to be your own best friend first.” How can you be “best friends” with someone you don’t know or don’t like? You can’t. That’s why it is so important to find out who you are and work to become someone you like and respect. 

3> The first person to cause me problems is myself – Self-Honesty

Jack Parr stated, “Looking back, my life seems like one big obstacle race, with me being the chief obstacle.” He was making a joke, but what he says is still true for most of us. If we could kick the person responsible for most of our troubles, we wouldn’t be able to sit down for weeks. What can save us is the willingness to look in the mirror and get honest about our short-comings, faults, and problems. 

This is the insight I realized early in my ministry and return to often. In most situations, I am the problem. My mentalities, my pictures, my expectations, form the biggest obstacles to my success. If you want to keep from becoming your own worst enemy, you have to look at yourself realistically. 

4> The first person I must change is myself – Self-Improvement

People who often experience relational difficulties are tempted to look at everyone but themselves to explain the problem. But we must always begin by examining ourselves and being willing to change whatever deficiencies we find that we have. 

Critic Samuel Johnson advised that “he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he purposes to remove.”

5> The first person that can make a difference is myself – Self-Responsibility

If you want to make a difference in this world, you must take responsibility for yourself. Stop blaming others for your problems. Start taking ownership of your attitude, emotions (especially anger), your actions, your words. It is time to grow up and realize that you cannot go through life blaming everything and everyone for what is happening. 

Psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp believes “all the significant battles are waged within the self.” As we examine ourselves, we discover what those battles are. And then we have two choices. The first is to be like the man who visited his doctor and found out that he had serious health issues. When the doctor showed him his X-rays and suggested a painful and expensive surgery, the man asked, “Okay, but how much would you charge to just touch up the X-rays?”

The second choice is to stop blaming others, look at ourselves, and do the hard work of resolving the issues that are causing us problems. If you want to have better relationships with others, then stop, look in the mirror, and start working on yourself. 

Begin with yourself…

In the crypts of Westminster Abbey, the following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop who lived in the eleventh century:

“When I was young and free my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I are older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew in my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realized: If I had only changed my self first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have even able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed my world.”

People who often experience relational difficulties are tempted to look at everyone but themselves to explain the problem. But we must always begin by examining ourselves and being willing to change whatever deficiencies we have. 

I am in my early seventies and am still continuing to grow and change. I realize that there is a lot that I don’t know or understand when it comes to healthy relationships. In fact, I am sure that there are many things that I need to learn about many aspects of life. Yes I am wiser than I was ten or twenty years ago. But, I have not arrived. No one ever does. And, if you have stopped changing and growing because you “have arrived” you are deceived; self-deceived but nonetheless deceived. So, I am still working hard daily at knowing myself and improving who I am and how I live and relate to others. It is a daily challenge.

Critic Samuel Johnson advised that “he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he proposes to remove.”  

If you want to make a difference in your world, you must know yourself and then take responsibility for yourself. It is up to you who you become and what you accomplish in your life. 

A former mentor of mine writes: A few years ago when I travelled to New Zealand to do a conference, I stayed in a hotel in Christchurch. One evening I was thirsty and started looking for a Coke machine. When I couldn’t find one and I saw a door marked “Staff,” I figured I’d go in and see if anyone in there could help me. I didn’t find a hotel worker or a drink machine there, but I did observe something interesting. As I approached the door to go back out into the hall, I found that the door had a full-length mirror with the following words: ‘Take a good look at yourself. This is what the customer sees.’ The hotel’s management was reminding employees that to fulfill their purpose, they needed to take a look at themselves.”

And that is true for us too. Psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp believes “all the significant battles are waged within the self.” As we examine ourselves, we discover what those battles are. And then we have two choices. The first choice is to be like the man who visited his doctor and found out that he had serious health issues. When the doctor showed him his X-rays and suggested a painful and expensive surgery, the man asked, “Okay, but how much would you change to just touch up the X-rays?”

The second choice is to stop blaming others, look at ourselves, and do the hard work of resolving the issues that are causing us problems in life and in our relationships. If you want to have better relationships with others and a more fulfilling life, then stop, look in the mirror, and start working on yourself. 

Remember: Coping with difficult people is always a problem, especially if the difficult person happens to be you.

So, a question to ask yourself: Have I examined myself and taken responsibility for who I am?

Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People – Part Eight

As we draw this series on the international traits of an unsafe person, let me remind you of the territory we have already covered:

1> Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting

2> Unsafe people are only concerned about “I” instead of “we”

3> Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it

4> Unsafe people flatter us instead of confronting us

5> Unsafe people condemn us instead of forgiving us

6> Unsafe people stay in parent/child roles instead of relating as equals

7> Unsafe people are unstable over time instead of being consistent

8> Unsafe people are a negative influence on us, rather than a positive one

9> Unsafe people gossip instead of keeping secrets

We all have experiences, thoughts, emotions, or behaviours that we don’t feel safe telling the world. We need someone in whom to confide. Some of us have secret sins that plague us. Others haver been victimized or abused. Still others simply need a person to tell our private stories to.

Few things are more bruising than having your secrets betrayed. If you have ever entrusted part of yourself to another, and then heard about it from a third party, you have been triangulated. Triangulation occurs when person A tells a secret to person B, who then tells person C about it. Triangulation is a form of what the Bible calls “gossip”. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13).

Often, a triangulator will try to justify his untrustworthiness by different excuses, such as:

      • It just slipped out
      • It wasn’t that serious. You’re overreacting
      • It was for your own good
      • They made me tell

But just as often the truth has more to do with the unsafe person. He was unable to confront people directly, so he does it behind their backs. He may feel insignificant, so gossip give him the sense that he is important and on the “inside track.” He may be pitting one person against another in a repetitive pattern from childhood. Or he may simply lack a sense of empathy for the terrible pain that gossip brings to others.

No matter what, this is nothing but destructive. We all need a place for our secrets to be held and respected. Secrets don’t get well without relationship. We are all looking for safe relationships where someone knows all of our parts. So, when you divulge a private matter with another, it’s a big deal. You are taking a risk with an important part of your soul. And when confidence is broken, so is trust, hope, and healing.

Not only this, but also relationships can be torn apart between friends. Persons A and C can be alienated by the triangulator. This is what people mean when they say, “She came between us.” A triangulator has been at work. 

A safe person will hold confidences. He will not use your secrets for his own needs. “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

The eighteeth-century English preacher George Whitefield is a good example of a safe person. With John Wesley, Whitefield was one of the founders of the Methodist Church. Yet he disagreed heartily with Wesley’s theology, and the two men were well known for their differences.

One day a reporter asked Whitefield, “Reverend, do you think you will see John Wesley in heaven?” This question was an invitation to triangulation between two opponents.

“No, I do not,” replied Whitefield.

“Why is that?” Asked a surprised reporter.

Whitefield answers, “Because I believe that John Wesley will be so close to the bosom of God that we will not be able to see him for the surrounding glory.” 

George Whitefield would not attack a person who was not there to defend himself. Look for people who can hold your secrets. They would be a safe person for you. 

Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People – Part Seven

We are looking at the interpersonal traits of unsafe people. So far we have seen:

1> Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting

2> Unsafe people are only concerned about “I” instead of “we”

3> Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it

4> Unsafe people flatter us instead of confronting us

5> Unsafe people condemn us instead of forgiving us

6> Unsafe people stay in parent/child roles instead of relating as equals

7> Unsafe people are unstable over time instead of being consistent

8> Unsafe people are a negative influence on us, rather than a positive one

When a person has such an influence on you and your life that you are becoming more and more like them – this person is an unsafe person. When having a relationship with this person means other healthy relationships you are in are neglected and even suffer then this person is unsafe. 

Safety breeds safety. And safe people make us better people for being around them. This is Jesus’ “fruit test”: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). We cannot fail to be influenced, for better or worse, by the people in whom we invest. It will always show: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). And good company builds up our hearts and releases us to build other relationships as well.

An unsafe person may make you feel good – yet wound you emotionally. She may make you act better, but hurt your character. And you may think you’re being treated well, but she may be hindering your growth. Fruit is about character issues – not symptoms. 

The woman who is swept off her feet by an insincere charmer is a good example of this. She feels wonderful: loved, pursued, intoxicated by the attentiveness and flattery of the charmer. Her infatuation may make her more caring for her friends, more patient and forgiving. Her cup feels so full that she can give more.

But the reality is that while she feels and acts better, she is in the middle of a fantasy that will someday come crashing down around her. She is not being prepared for a real relationship, in which you deal with the imperfections of yourself and the other person. So she falls very hard, and sometimes she can’t trust again for a long time. 

Safe people are not perfect, but they help us progress toward Christlike character in the four major areas of spiritual growth. Ask yourself these questions about the people with whom you relate.

As a result of spending time with this person, am I

        • more loving or more detached?
        • more honest or more compliant?
        • more forgiving or more idealistic?
        • more mature or more childish?

Deciding whether a relationship is good for you will take time and some long, hard, coldly objective analysis. And it will probably take a friend’s detached eye. But look at your relationships over the long haul, and judge them for how they have changed your life – for better or worse.

Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People – Part Six

7> Unsafe people are unstable over time instead of being consistent

Are you the romantic / naive type? If so, you’re particular vulnerable to unsafe people because you tend to trust people immediately instead of putting them through the test of time. As cliched as it may sound, time is indeed the best judge of character.

Who we are and what we do are very, very related. Character cannot be completely hidden over a lifetime; it leaks out sooner or later. As Jesus said, “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:3). So hiding and pretending aren’t ever going to pay off for us.

And time tends to prove out the truth. As time passes, spouses, for example, learn the truth about each other’s ability to love, to listen, to be responsible, and to forgive. No matter what one says, the other one has years of memories that will either confirm or deny that person’s words.

Those who are not safe are those who are “relational sprinters” as compared to a “marathoner.” A sprinter is there for you if you are there. But, out of sight is out of mind. So, he may promise something and then never come through with what he promised. This trait makes the person unsafe with friends and family. You cannot depend on him. He commits and commits and commits – but he does not come through. If you ask him to return the lawnmower he borrowed last week, don’t block out your mowing hours on your schedule anytime soon.

He is not a bad person, nor is he insincere. But he loves the intense warmth of being close to a person in the here-and-now. It gets somewhat addictive to him, and he can’t delay gratification to help a person who isn’t around, when another, in-the-flesh person is available. And so he routinely disappoints himself and his friends. He flunks the time test. 

Safety isn’t like that. People who pass the test of time are “timeless” people. They guard your trust as if it were money in the bank. They are stable and reliable in their emotional commitments.

That’s why time-friendly people tend to make fewer emotional commitments than an unsafe person. They have a profound understanding of how much time it takes to be there for someone, so they think, deliberate, and pray long and hard before they decide to invest in a relationship. You might think they are aloof or uncaring. They’re not. They are, instead, unwilling to write bad cheques, emotionally speaking.

Look for people who are “anchored” over time. Don’t go for flashy, intense, addictive types. A Ford that will be there tomorrow is a lot better than a Maserati that might be gone. There are stable Maseratis. But it’s best to drive them awhile, that is, test out the relationship over time, to make sure.

Here are some traits to look for in your relationships:

      • Are they living up to their commitments to me?
      • Are they here for me only when I’m here?
      • Do they tell me no when they don’t have time?
      • Do they make promises they can’t keep?
      • Am I the last or most recent in a string of broken relationships?
      • Do others warn me about their pattern of relating?

Love is abiding, timeless, and unchanging, just like its Author. Find people who love you, and love you well over time, like He does: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 

Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People – Part Five

We are looking at people who are not safe relationally. People who do not make good friends or members of your support team. Unsafe people are common and often we waste time building relationally with them only to see the relationship crash at a time when it is most needed. 

We have looked at…

1> Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting

2> Unsafe people are only concerned about “I” instead of “we”

3> Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it

4> Unsafe people flatter us instead of confronting us

5> Unsafe people condemn us instead of forgiving us

6> Unsafe people stay in parent/child roles instead of relating as equals

Safe people respect our right to make decisions and adult choices. Unsafe people resist adult functioning. They “don’t agree with our right” to an opinion, a value, or a decision. Unsafe people react to our adultness by withdrawing from it.

This is the opposite of how safe people relate to us. Safe individuals love to see us grow up and mature, and they rejoice when we carry out our responsibility to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). They want to see us develop our God-given gifts and talents and use them. Safe people love to see adults being formed.

This is true in all relationships, and especially in parenting. When the Bible tell us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6), this doesn’t mean you should decide where the child is to go. Instead, you should help the child discover God’s path for her – even if that means a path you might not have chosen.

The same is true in our friendships. Your closest relationships are, at times, actively working either for or against your growth. In the list below, the first two ways of relating hinder your growth, and the last one encourages it:

        • I feel like a kid around them (Unsafe person)
        • I feel like I have to be their parent (Unsafe person)
        • I feel equal to them (Safe person)

I feel like a kid around them (Unsafe person)

In this first type of relationship, you often feel controlled or criticized. The parental person acts as if you can’t make decisions for yourself regarding values, money, job, theology, sex, or politics. He feels resentful when you attempt any major decisions without his approval. So he withholds approval of your decisions until you again resign yourself to being his child – even if you’re in your middle-age years.

Authority roles often lend themselves to these kind of dynamics. For example, bosses, teachers, doctors, and police often act parental, as in “the boss put me down again and made me feel like a child.” It’s important to separate roles from character here. While some parental-types do seek out roles where they can push people around, some just want to do a good job.

Here are some things to look for in the parental person:

      • He gives me advice without asking if I want it
      • He doesn’t trust my judgment
      • He thinks I need his help in navigating through life
      • He is critical
      • He is disapproving
      • He withdraws when I make adult decisions with which he disagrees

Now suppose you are exquisitely sensitive to critical people. When they confront you, you immediately question your decisions. Put this character problem, with a parental-type person – and you have major problems.

I feel like I have to be their parent (Unsafe person)

You can also have the opposite type of relationship. Here, the roles are reversed. You’re trying to relate to a person who wants you to be their parent. Here’s a hint that there’s a problem: They are neither under eighteen years old nor under your legal guardianship.

With this second subtype of unsafety, your friend is afraid of adulthood with its responsibilities and risks. Can’t fault him for that. But the problem emerges in what he sees as your role: you become either the approval-providing parent, or the authoritarian controller in his head.

For example, he may pressure you to tell him what to do: what clothes to buy, where to work, and what women to date. He may ask you to interpret the Bible for him. On the other hand, he may act like a rebellious adolescent around you, constantly challenging you and accusing you of being controlling.

Neither of these child positions are mature. Both are unsafe. One is over compliant, and one is overreactive. And they can hurt you by not allowing you simply to be an adult: You be you and I’ll be me, and we’ll respect each other. There’s always a power struggle going on here.

I feel equal with them (Safe person)

The safe person doesn’t make you become either a child or a parent. He takes ownership of his life, talents, and values. He wants to “seek first (God’s) Kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) on his own, but with your consultation – not your approval. And he wants you to flourish in your life – without needing his approval. Even if you disagree.

You know you’re around a safe, adult person by the following characteristics:

      • She is not threatened by your differences
      • She has standards, values, and convictions she’s worked out for herself
      • At the same time, she doesn’t have a “right way” and a “wrong way” for everything
      • She functions at least on the same level of maturity as her same-age peers
      • She appreciates mystery and the unknown
      • She encourages me to develop my own values

Remember that we want our efforts to be approved by God (2 Timothy 2:15), not people. Find people who want the same goal for you. 

Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People – Part Four

We have looked at…

1> Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting

2> Unsafe people are only concerned about “I” instead of “we”

3> Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it

4> Unsafe people flatter us instead of confronting us

This relational trait is a little more difficult to spot than the previous one. That’s because an unsafe person can make you feel very, very good. And a safe person can make you feel very, very bad. It can get confusing. How can you tell the difference?

Safe relationships are not just about trust, support, and sharing. They are also about truth, righteousness, and honesty. God uses people not only to nurture us, but also to open our eyes to sins, selfishness, and denial in us. Love means saying, “I hold this against you,” as Jesus did when He confronted the churches (Revelation 2:4, 14, 20).

Being confronted on character issues isn’t pleasant. It hurts our self-image. It humbles us. But it doesn’t harm us. Loving confrontations protect us from our blindness and self-destructiveness. Just as a mother rushes into a busy street and grabs her child out of traffic, the loving confrontation stops us from walking into disaster.

There is a major difference between confronters and strokers. Confronters (safe ones, not critical-parent types) risk our leaving them to tell us a needed truth. They jeopardize comfort to give us honest love. Strokers, in contrast, lull us to sleep by idealizing our specialness. As long as you feel good, they are happy. This is more addictive than loving. And it certainly isn’t safe.

This isn’t a diatribe against praise. We all need it: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2). But praise affirms the truth. Strokers, however, avoid the truth by exclusively praising.

Beware of people who only tell you your good points, justifying it by a desire to be “positive.” They aren’t loving you enough to tell you when your attitude or behaviour is driving your life over a cliff, even though you desperately need to know it. 

5> Unsafe people condemn us instead of forgiving us

When people care about each other, forgiveness restores and reconciles. Forgiveness is the glue of love, making it possible for love to do what it does best: to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NASB). These tasks are absolutely impossible without forgiveness. We are just too hard to live with otherwise.

The Bible talks about forgiveness as a legal term. It means to “cancel a debt.” This is the central idea behind Jesus’ death for us: He paid the penalty for our sins so that we would not have to.

Safe relationships are centered and grounded in forgiveness. When you have a friend with the ability to forgive you for hurting her or letting her down, something deeply spiritual occurs in the transaction between you two. You actually experience a glimpse of the deepest nature of God Himself.

People who forgive can – and should – also be people who confront. What is not confessed can’t be forgiven. God Himself confronts our sins and shows us how we wound Him: “I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes, which played the harlot after their idols” (Ezekiel 6:9 NASB). When we are made aware of how we hurt a loved one, then we can be reconciled.

Therefore you should not discount someone who “has something against you,” labeling him as unsafe. He might actually be attempting to come closer in love, in all the way that the Bible tells us we are to do.

When we are forgiven by a safe person, several things happen:

    • He knows our failings
    • He neither minimizes nor excuses our sin
    • His love for us is greater than our transgressions
    • He marks “paid in full” and lets it go
    • He stays close to us and doesn’t abandon us

That’s why the forgiving person is safe. He sees our wrongs, yet loves us beyond it. And that love helps heal and transform us into the person God intended. Receiving forgiveness when we know we’ve truly blown it is a humbling and growth-producing experience. It’s the only thing better than forgiving someone else.

On the other hand, an unsafe person who is unable to forgive can be very destructive. Instead of forgiving, she condemns:

    • She centers on my failings
    • She won’t let go of the past, even when I’ve confessed, repented, and made restitution
    • She uses my weaknesses to avoid looking at hers
    • She sees me as morally inferior to her
    • She desires justice more than intimacy

Unsafe people are often good at identifying your weaknesses. They can quote the minute and hour you hurt them, and recall the scene in intimate detail and living colour. Like a good attorney, they have their entire case mapped out. And you are judged “guilty.”

Yes, we need to be confronted with our weaknesses. Unsafe people, however, confront us not to forgive us, but to condemn and punish us. They remove their love until we are appropriately chastened. This, obviously, destroys any chance for connection or safety.