Monthly Archives: March 2015

Safe spaces

Circle of love by Andy WooLast night I sat across from two people I’m close to and lied to them.

Every Sunday evening we sit in a Sharing Circle and pass a stone, taking turns to speak and be listened to. These kinds of spaces are incredibly rare.

What usually happens in this circle is a kind of magic. The words we speak (whatever they are) take on a preciousness as the others all listen quietly. The words of others become tender and wise. The space between us fills up with empathy – we can really begin to understand what it’s like for others at the circle to live their lives. (Much like it is for us to live ours.)

I usually come away from the circle feeling warm & fuzzy. Last night I came away feeling resentful and tired.

My lies were lies of omission. When I had the stone I talked lightly about my week and what I was doing tomorrow.

What I should have said was:
I really didn’t want to come along to the Sharing Circle tonight. I’m tired of people. I’m grumpy. I don’t want to listen to anyone. Now leave me alone.

I don’t know for sure what might have happened next if I’d started with that. I might have felt more angry. I might have cried. I might have realised what the grumpiness was about. But I think it would have brought me ultimately closer to the people I was sitting with, rather than distancing me.

“Our society is so fragmented, our family lives so sundered by physical and emotional distance, our friendships so sporadic, our intimacies so ‘in-between’ things and often so utilitarian, that there are few places where we can feel truly safe.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Safe spaces are scarce for most of us. Even when we find them, it’s not easy to make use of them. It’s not always appropriate to share what’s in our heart, and often we are too afraid to show others what’s really going on. I didn’t share more honestly because I was scared – of being rejected, of hurting others. That’s okay – that’s how it was last night.

But if you can look again and find somewhere, as I have with this piece of writing this morning, you will find the magic. I can feel it now. The magic is love.

Where are your safe spaces? How can you make more of them?


‘Circle of Love’ by Andy Woo, with thanks.