I’m Andrew Chirch, an Interfaith advisor and coach. 99 is a special weekly podcast series where we meet for 9 minutes to regroup, re-center ourselves, and prepare for the work ahead.
Subscribe here to listen on your favorite podcast app, or you can use the player at the top of this post. A transcript is below.
This week’s time is made possible by Prolificate.com where, for a limited time, you can sign up for one of a few slots I have for coaching. This is great when you’re working on a big decision – that maybe feels a little scary, or if you want to spend some time unpacking your own spiritual path. Sign up at prolificate.com/guide.
Do you feel safe? What does that feel like?
Have you ever felt UNsafe? What did THAT feel like?
I think that feeling safe should be a human right or at least something that everyone should have access to at some point. Instead, it’s a privilege.
I feel pretty safe.
I’m uncomfortable sometimes… like the kind of discomfort that makes me squirm and get defensive or angry or self-righteous…. But really when I think about it, I’m not actually *unsafe.* Mostly, when I find myself reacting strongly to something… as if I’m reacting to a threat…. it isn’t actually my safety that’s being threatened. Maybe it’s something else.
Lately, I’ve been spending time trying to understand the difference between comfort and safety – which is the topic for our time together today.
Safety, Trust, Confidence, and Security.
Where does it come from? What does it mean? Is anyone *ever* really safe?
As an interfaith chaplain, part of my job is to accompany people from all faiths- and no faith at all – in some scary situations… It’s a reminder of just how UNsafe some people are – and of the comparative luxury I have most of the time.
One thing that never fails to surprise me — some folks who seem the *least* safe… people who have seen hard things, lived through tough experiences… are sometimes the most serene, calm, patient people I’ve ever met.
Think about this: Have you ever spent time around someone in this kind of position – say, a cancer patient? Somebody you think has EVERY REASON to be angry or resentful or suspicious because of what they’ve been through, but instead, they have this grounded presence… Why is that? Maybe they’re the one reassuring other patients and even staff in the hospital while they’re getting their treatment.
Then, imagine leaving the hospital and on your way home, stopping by Starbucks for a coffee. As you walk in, someone in line is clearly agitated, maybe yelling or berating the person behind the counter because they got their order wrong.
Is the Starbucks customer bad? Is the cancer patient good?
It’s easy to praise the one and condemn the other. Clearly, life is short and we don’t need people creating more pain in the world just because you accidentally got whole milk instead of skim in your latte.
What’s difference between that calm, saint-like cancer patient and the obnoxious, privileged snotty customer at the coffee shop?
Here’s something to think about:
What if both of those people are YOU?
What if you just got done getting your radiation treatment and stopped at Starbucks on the way home – where I happened to see you yelling at the barista?
Life’s complicated, no?
I like to think in terms of black and white, but in truth, it’s often more complicated.
James Baldwin, the American author, playwright, and social critic said, “Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition.”
Safety. Trust. Confidence. Security.
Some religious traditions teach us that these things come from a God or something bigger than us. They can be given and taken away on a whim or maybe as a punishment.
Other traditions teach us that we already have the tools we need. We have access to a feeling of safety, trust, confidence, and security all the time, regardless of what’s happening around us.
Whatever your belief, I invite you to recognize that *both* of these potentials – the calm, reassured cancer patient, and the agitated, unreasonable customer at Starbucks exist in YOU. Right now.
Safety. Trust. Confidence. Security.
The next time I encounter you doing that at Starbucks, I hope I remember that you also were just at the clinic reassuring the other patients that everything is going to work out in the end, and reminding them not to miss the beauty of the spring crocus just starting bloom on the hospital lawn.
The next time I encounter you at the clinic, surrounded by a saintly light, I hope I remember that you’re not proud of everything you’ve done in your life and that you’ll still make plenty of poor choices in the future.
The next time I see you, I hope I remember that YOU are ME. I’m capable of all those things just like you.
My safety, my trust, my confidence, my security, are all states of mind and ways of being in the world. Depending on how AWARE of them or CONNECTED to them I feel, I might behave in different ways.
I hope when you see ME doing that at Starbucks, you might give me a wink and remind me that, whatever has me feeling so threatened, I have access to comfort and confidence.
I hope that when you see me feeling safe, you give me a wink to remind me that not everyone has that same luxury and to be sure and do the work of lifting up those who aren’t as fortunate.
Actually, I hope we both remember that we’re in this together… we can actually *create* a world with more safety, trust, confidence, and security just by reminding each other. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put an extra dollar in the tip jar at Starbucks.
Be well, my friend.