Written by Regina Gee of Wellspring Coaching

Longing for Safety

We are longing for a world in which everyone feels safe – safe in our bodies, safe in our homes, safe in our relationships – the safety of having our needs met (ala Maslow’s hierarchy) so that we can do the work of meaning and purpose, of the soul, of the deeper and higher good. I believe this is a noble longing, one full of love, this prayer for safety. We need safety for the best in us to emerge.

I think we get lost on our way to this goal when we confuse safety as a result of fragility rather than a result of resiliency. Fragile safety isn’t strong enough to withstand the complexity, difficulty, and messiness of the human experience. We need resilient safety, the safety and security that allows us to stretch, to struggle, to wrestle with what is challenging and different… In watching the interactions in my life, I see the ways the goal of authentic connection breaks upon the rocks of safe spaces. I know there is a deeper learning here, a way through the discomfort to more sound iteration of safety.

We need ways that can hold complexity and challenge and get us to our learning edge. We need to be able to talk with people who have a different experience of the world, the people we travel alongside, without having to project and protect our own world view. We need space for listening, for understanding, for connection.

“Beloved, this is the perseverance place – a devoted pilgrimage taken by the brave & trembling into the deepest channels of the human heart.” Joy Prouty

Getting to Supple, Secure, & Gritty Safety

How often do we avoid growth because it feels unsafe? If we want a world where we can show up as we really are, connect wholeheartedly, and continue to expand, we need to be able to talk about the hard things in a way that doesn’t break at the first sign of different understandings, opinions, or experiences. Getting to the place where we can learn about each other and the different worlds we inhabit is uncomfortable. It is vulnerable and exposed. If we tap out at the first sign of discomfort, we shut down every opportunity for connection, bravery, and ultimately safety. The safety of our biggest, most beautiful selves is often sacrificed in the name of safety for our small self.

Judgement doesn’t inspire change; it continues cycles of interpersonal violence and breaks connection. We get stuck in safe places when these spaces that are intended to be secure become inhospitable to complexity. Topics of race, of reproductive rights, of education, of poverty, of religion are deeply complex; when we get stuck in ideas of right and wrong, of judgement, our conversations become very fragile places indeed. I am longing for more spaces that are able to withstand differences and maintain complexity as opposed to being delicate and requiring simplicity. I find language for this in the definition of humility and the idea of brave space.


Ann Voscamp defines humility as a life committed to lowering one’s defenses. We hold fragile space when we are committed to projecting and protecting (living in our small self). We hold resilient space when we are committed to listening and practicing humility (living from our true self). For Brené Brown, humility isn’t being right, it is getting it right. This commitment to humility is how we can hold complexity; when we check our judgements, our projections, and the ways we are trying to protect ourselves, we can see the ways we are shutting down to life. When we commit to listening to another human being, to witnessing their experience, and to getting out of the way, we are opening to life. The allure to create a simple and straightforward answer in the face of the hard and uncomfortable is a very real longing. But if we do this, we armor up. We start judging all that doesn’t fit our neat explanations, causing the safety we so long for ourselves and others to shatter.

Brave Space

Not armoring up and lowering our defenses is vulnerable. It is terrifying. It means we will have to work through our feelings of resistance, fear, disconnection, judgement and other difficult emotions. It means holding uncertainty. It means not knowing. It means we might look stupid or uncultured or say the wrong things. It means we have to manage our reaction to our emotions (emotional resiliency) and choose to show up in a way that can hold connection with another. Isn’t this the only way for true connection with others? Showing up as we really are and allowing them to do the same?

Choosing to be brave is committing to practicing resiliency, especially emotional resiliency. The difference between brave space and fragile space is the commitment to feel the feelings instead of shut them down. Emotions are events that happen in the body, they are data points. Choosing brave is choosing to show up even when it is hard because you are able to navigate well. Resiliency is being able to navigate in a way that returns us to our center, our equilibrium. It is what Jack Kornfield calls true equanimity: “balanced engagement with all aspects of life… opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things.” Inhabiting brave space means holding the tension of uncertainty, of living the questions.

When we are capable of returning to our balance, we are able to hold more space for complexity. Brave space helps birth the type of safety that comes when individuals go inward and commit to listening, to bravery, and to humility. It is the space that can handle hard conversations without shattering. It is a space that produces security and potentially belonging as opposed to just safety.

The Way is Through

Transformation cannot happen without the genuine. When we show up as armored selves, hunkered down in project and protect, we are not being genuine. We are scared. For learning to occur, it needs an open and respectful environment. Open in the fact that the people are involved are rooted in humility. Respectful in the fact that everyone involved holds a deep regard for the humanity of all present. When we are in this environment, when we stay present even when it is hard and uncomfortable, then it becomes possible to meet and be met by others. It becomes possible to learn, to grow, to change, to be safe.

This secure environment is the culmination of individuals who are committed to going inward, to navigating our own emotional responses, to listening, to practicing humility, to showing up as we really are and allowing others to do the same. Belonging is born of authenticity. We can’t get to belonging without being brave, without risking discomfort. The way is through – especially if we are to get to a place of resilient safety.