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.