Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People – Part Three

We have looked at two interpersonal traits of unsafe people…People who are not the best to be building a relationship with and who will not permit the relationship or friendship to be beneficial to both you and them. 

Jesus was a “safe person” and like all safe people He did three things:

1> He drew people closer to God

2> He drew people closer to one another

3> He encouraged people to become all that God created them to be

Unsafe people, however, have a number of interpersonal traits that warn us that this will not be a beneficial relationship:

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

This interpersonal trait is easy to note in a person. Simply ask yourself, “What does this person do with my ‘No’?”

Love protects the separateness of other people, the right to say ‘no’ and remain separate from the other person. To be an individual that has an identity separate from the other person. When we are in relationship, the “we” is still “you and me.” A safe connection involves two people trusting, opening up, and being honest with each other. Yet the second great theme of relationship, after connection, is separateness.

Separateness is the ability to maintain spiritual and emotional property lines, called boundaries, between you and others. Separate people take responsibility for what is theirs – and they don’t take ownership for what isn’t there.

When we are separate, we bring good things close to our soul, and keep bad things away from us. God created us to stand against what is not from Him: “No one who practices deceit will dwell in My house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in My presence” (Psalm 101:7).

Love withers and dies without separateness. It’s simply impossible to connect if you are not free to disagree. That kind of love is compliance and people-pleasing. It is not real love. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” asks Paul. “Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

The opposite of separateness is enmeshment. Enmeshing relationships are those in which one person is swallowed up in the needs of another. In enmeshment, one person feels threatened by the individuality of the other, and actively seeks to control the other by intimidating or manipulating him. In an enmeshing relationship, “together” is bliss (for one), and “apart” is hell (for one). Enmeshment emphasizes similarities and discourages differences in people. 

Safe people encourage, value, and nurture the separateness of other people. They understand that they need their own free choices – and that they need to protect the freedom of other people, too. You will always find that the best connections embrace the individual concern of the other person.

Here are some things to look for in determining safety in this area:

  • Do they respect my “no” when I state it?
  • Do they withdraw emotionally when I say no”
  • Do they get hurt and “make” me feel guilty when I say no?
  • Do they have a life (interests, hobbies, friends) separate from me?
  • Do they encourage me to have a separate life too?

Now, you may have never said no in your relationships! This problem may be more your issue than your friend’s. So test the waters. Disagree. Be honest. Tell the truth. Choose a value, event, or emotion distinct from his. And see what happens. You will learn a lot about the level of safety in your relationship and wether this person is “safe”.