A Final Note for Those in Crisis

sanctuary

I thought it fitting to write a last word on the crisis piece. The comments in the piece Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis hurt my heart. And so this piece is for you. All of you who wrote in the comments – thank you for your heart. Thank you for your vulnerability. This one’s for you.

Know your safe people and cry and laugh with them. Be kind to those who aren’t safe, but don’t let them into your sanctuary.

There is being vulnerable and then there is being safe. Can safety and vulnerability coexist?

I think they must coexist. Particularly at different points in our lives. Only when we feel safe can we be vulnerable. When we are in the midst of a crisis, not matter what the crisis is, it’s difficult to be vulnerable. Because all of our safeguards are gone.

When we let people who are not safe into the sanctuaries of our souls they tend to break things. They take those fragile pieces and treat them poorly, throwing them around, tossing out words and behaviours that shatter our safety. And when those fragile pieces break, it can take a lot of work to put them back together. Trust is broken easily, but repaired slowly.

Several years ago I heard a story about a public school in New York City that wanted to take down the fence around the school yard. I’m not sure why, perhaps they wanted children to feel more freedom. But the opposite happened: instead of more freedom, children huddled together in the middle of the play ground. They were afraid and they could not move freely. When they had the fence, they could run and play, there was safety around the perimeter and it made all the difference. The fence, instead of constricting, gave freedom.

We need fences in the sanctuaries of our souls. We are not made to be emotionally naked with everyone, everyone is not safe. But with proper fences, we have freedom to be vulnerable. 

So know your safe people, and be vulnerable with them. But keep proper fences, not walls that cannot be penetrated, but fences that allow freedom around the sanctuary of your soul.

Lastly, can we learn to give grace to those who mess it up? Give grace to those people who muddle through their own discomfort with crisis and loss, and say things that are stupid? I think this is something that I will work to learn the rest of my life, but they too are deserving of grace. The time comes into everyone’s life when they will suffer crisis and loss. No one is immune to this. Some have far more than their share of loss, others seem impervious to even raging storms. But the human experience includes loss. Every relationship ultimately ends in loss. When that person, the one who used the wrong words, goes through loss, may we be the first to give grace. 

If you are just coming by, you may want to take a look at these two posts:

Note: The content in this piece is largely taken from here.

19 thoughts on “A Final Note for Those in Crisis

  1. Thank you for your words. I have been through the worst grief since my husband died, aged only 55, last year. Much of what you’ve written has been said/happened to me and it is huge to know I’m not alone and even more helpful to know how to manage in the future.

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  2. I have a feeling I will be reading all three of these over and over again this week. Last year after going back to Urgent care for the 2nd time to clear up a respiratory infection, I get inform that it’s my 10th trip there that year. Flash forward a year and here I sit, week 5 of recovery of a acdf surgery due to severely advanced osteoarthritis degrading the bones in my spine.
    The journey here was not filled with the love and support of family and friends. Truth be told most have jumped ship. See what they thought was just a person who couldn’t get their life together was really a person who had been led to believe all of her complaints were just depression that could be snapped out of. That a pill and talking things out would make me better.
    So 7 months ago as I had been given a bigger picture of my condition, I started a gofundme to help my son and I get through this process. This had been after 7 months of struggling to try and do it all on our own but still ending up with utilities in shut off, my condition getting worse, and work becoming almost impossible.
    I was abandoned by life long friends, called a begger and annoying, but the worst was the complete shut out by my own brothers and their families.
    My favorite though I was told that I wasn’t being positive enough for people to want to help me. That as a mother I shouldn’t be worried about myself, I should be putting my son first and sheltering him from my pain and suffering. But in the same breath tell me he should drop everything, during his senior year mind you, and be taking care of everything that I normally did.
    Now I didn’t always handle it all with grace. Anger be got me at times. I couldn’t understand how ppl, especially those who were family and friends couldn’t be drawn to help two people, one of which was a child, try and keep our gas, water, and electric on. I tried raising money through my small business I had started when I had gone back to college and needed extra money for the holidays. But still the money came so slowly it couldn’t get used for the bigger things we really needed the help with. My parents helped where they could but at 73 they could only help w the rent and letting my son finish his senior yr at his school.
    Then something I never imagined could happen did. An angel donation came through that touched my heart to its core. I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the circumstances but this person contacted me bc their family had been through something similar years ago and wanted to help get all of our utilities current right before I had my surgery. And what we now know will be the first but unfortunately not the last.
    Since that act of completely self-less generosity I’ve done my best to bite my tongue publicly even if on the other side of the computer screen I’m usually in tears. But their act of not only grace but also empowerment have been my guiding light through these weeks of recovery and into my next phases of treatment.
    Financially we aren’t out of the woods yet, but the gift they gave us is bigger than I will ever be able to express.

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  3. Thank you for writing so simply and with such clarity. I have a mother in law who wants to be a safe person, but tends to be insensitive. It’s a such a good reminder that I can still be kind, loving and full of grace.

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    1. It’s taken me a long time to learn this…and I still struggle. I tend to think it’s mean not to let people in – and then I end up in a way too vulnerable place with folks who don’t get it. Here’s to working this through! So glad that you came by.

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  4. Thankyou for your thoughts, this is so true. It took me 4years of marraige to be able to open up to my husband about abuse that had happened when I was younger and he was my safest safe person. I also loved your stupid comments for people in crisis. They struck a chord as so many people do say those things intending them to be helpful but really they are not but I also found it humorous. A great read on the subject of crisis and how to talk to people.

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    1. So sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond. I love your honesty about how long it took you to open up. It’s true – we enter in slowly when trust has repeatedly been broken. Thanks for reading the series and grace to you today.

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  5. Thanks for all three posts – really REALLY got alot out of all of them. I spent my first 8 years in Thailand as an MK. My parents moved an awful lot when I was a kid, countries, towns, cities, houses – I have had numerous schools and friends made and lost. As a result, I belong nowhere, and although I make friends very easily and am communicative and resilient, I find not many want deeper relationship or my friendship long term. My husband has also moved around alot as a child and adult. We have both been going through the absolute worse time of our lives in the past 2 years, family wise, financially, emotionally and spiritually. My home church and some family have let us down terribly, just recently, and we felt so very alone. These articles really speak to my heart and I will re-read them over and over so I don’t become like the people who let us down.

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    1. I’m so sorry for taking so long to respond to this comment – I cannot tell you how much I relate with your words. We had something really similar happen to us early on in our marriage, and much of what I wrote comes from that time and a couple of others. Grateful for your honesty. I believe that our longing for place and deep relationships comes from God himself. And we especially long for them when the world around us feels like it’s crumbling. Thank you so much for coming by.

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  6. Amen. Appreciate your final words, espcially “Give them Grace”. I fear as I continue to receive so many responses to Stupid phrases that many will wallow in and rehearse over and over those poor choices of words received, but those folks who uttered hurtful words need to be offered grace as well.

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  7. Thanks for the posts about responding to crisis!
    The story about the fence sounds like a paraphrase of the following parable. It appears in G. K. Chesterton’s 1908 book Orthodoxy (Chap. IX) —

    >
    We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.
    >

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  8. Having now read all three articles, all I can say is “ditto” and “spread the word”. Thanks for writing on this important topic.

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  9. A way that my husband and I have looked at this is ‘not throwing our pearls before swine’. Not that I am saying that people who say stupid, hurtful things are swine per se — most of them are just clueless blind men stepping on our toes. But my griefs and losses are pearls that are too precious to be tossed out wily nily to just anyone. Thanks so much for your recent posts, they express such wisdom and grace.

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  10. Beautifully said, Marilyn. Thank you for this thought-provoking, timely, inspiring and yes, courageous series. I shudder at the hurtful, even when well-intentioned, words I’ve spoken to others in crisis and painfully remember some of the words, probably also well-intentioned, that were spoken to me. Thank goodness for the Grace of forgiveness. Thank you for the voice you’ve given to those in crisis; I take all of their words, and yours, to my own heart.

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