10 Suggestions on How to Create Safe Spaces:
The comments section on my most popular post ever, Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology (with 900 comments so far, and 73,000 views), has provoked me to draw this cartoon and write this post about creating safe spaces.
It is interesting to me that the Jones Driscoll post’s conversation is being called by some a “safe space”. I would never have considered nakedpastor a safe space because usually the conversations have been very fiery. A lot of people don’t want to comment out of fear of being argued down.
Because of that, and because of my passion for creating safe spaces for people, I launched The Lasting Supper a couple of years ago. I would call that a safe space. There are over 350 members and, for the most part, the space has been kept safe. There have been a few episodes where it has been threatened, but we always manage to come back to a safe space.
I want to give 10 suggestions on what I’ve learned about how to create a safe space:
- Diversity: From the very beginning, you have to allow for diversity. Recognize that the world of people is already actually diverse and must be allowed to be expressed in the space.
- Reflect: You must be aware of the diverse aspects of your own self, and not just the acceptable parts, but the ugly parts too. Otherwise you won’t be able to handle the offensive parts of others either. This takes years of self-analysis and honesty to develop. Having wise counselors, therapists and spiritual directors helps.
- Protect: The only gauge I use to moderate a conversation is if someone is saying something that really is hurtful to another. I’m not talking about perceived hurt, but something that everyone knows is hurtful. It takes time to learn the difference. When something hurtful is being done, you must step in with a gentle strength that ensures the other members that even though the safety of the space has been compromised, it is only temporary.
- Release: You cannot control the conversation. You cannot censor, censure or silence… unless hurt is being inflicted. If people understand that something they may say can be corrected, rebuked, or edited, then they will not share honestly.
- Strengthen: Your strength is not in your ability to steer a conversation or manage people. Your greatest strength is actually your ability to keep your hands of the wheel of a democratic process.
- Liberate: Let people be authentically themselves, but also encourage them as it goes along like any good friend would. We live in a very controlling world, and when we get the taste of freedom to be who we are in a supportive context, amazing things happen.
- Detach: Detach yourself from any desired result. If you have a goal in mind other than the safety of the space, then you are violating the members’ freedom to develop as they wish, as well as the freedom of the space to become what it may.
- Relinquish: If you have dreams of being a guru, relinquish them. If you’re in it for any glory at all, get out now. I learned pretty quickly at The Lasting Supper that the last thing people wanted was a guru or leader. Because this is one of the things many of them rejected when they questioned religion, its organizations and pushy leaders. They want to find their truth for themselves independently but with support.
- Humble: Humble yourself. Don’t imagine for a moment that you have created something then relish in it. Don’t believe you’ve achieved some kind of utopia. Even though a safe space can be incredibly delightful, it is also incredibly fragile. Anything can happen at any moment to threaten and even destroy it. I know this from personal experience. There’s no perfect community. There are only perfect moments.
- Give: Don’t be protective. Since I started The Lasting Supper, I’ve heard of other similar communities launching. In fact, I know of others who joined The Lasting Supper to learn how it was done, then went off to start their own. I’ve offered to help them, give them advice, and share any insights I might have so they can succeed because the issue isn’t my success or the success of The Lasting Supper, but the success of creating safe spaces for people. They are rare. Let’s create more!
There’s lots more I could share on this, but I figure this is a good start.
In closing, I’m often asked why I charge $7/ month or $75/ year for a membership in The Lasting Supper.
Here are three reasons:
- I do this full time so remuneration is required.
- It provides an effective barrier of access that successfully keeps trolls and predators out.
- We exchange value for value. TLS is a wonderful place. These things cost.
I hope this helps.
Looking for an exclusively LGBTQ supportive community? Join the community of my friend Candace, Whosoever!