Who Is “Unsafe” and Who Is “Safe?”
When I was a counselor at a Christian agency, the front desk received a call from a distressed woman. She said that she didn’t feel safe because her husband would chase her around the house with an axe. (Apparently, he stopped long enough for her to make the call.) She also said that “he’s really a nice guy; I just think he has a spirit of murder on him.” Woah!
The woman didn’t want counseling and she wouldn’t give us her phone number or address. Because I counsel people with severe complaints against their mates – though rarely this severe – the situation still makes me wonder how we know who is “safe” and who is “unsafe.” The “really nice guy with the spirit of murder” on him is pretty obvious. Well, I guess it wasn’t obvious to his girlfriend. But the rest of us could probably conclude that he was the carrier of many red flags.
Here’s a great list when things aren’t so obvious:
Personal Traits of Unsafe People:
1. Unsafe people think they “have it all together,” instead of admitting their weaknesses.
2. Unsafe people are religious, instead of spiritual.
3. Unsafe people are defensive, instead of open to feedback.
4. Unsafe people are self-righteous, instead of humble.
5. Unsafe people only apologize, instead of changing their behavior.
6. Unsafe people avoid working on their problems, instead of dealing with them.
7. Unsafe people demand trust, instead of earning it.
8. Unsafe people believe they are perfect, instead of admitting their faults.
9. Unsafe people blame others, instead of taking responsibility.
10. Unsafe people lie, instead of telling the truth.
11. Unsafe people are stagnant, instead of growing.
Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People
1. Unsafe people avoid closeness, instead of connecting.
2. Unsafe people are only concerned about “I,” instead of “we.”
Safe people are empathic.
Safe people act on their empathy.
3. Unsafe people resist freedom, instead of encouraging it.
4. Unsafe people flatter us, instead of confronting us.
5. Unsafe people condemn us, instead of forgiving us.
6. Unsafe people stay in parent/child roles, instead of relating as equals, e.g., “I feel like a kid around them,” or “I feel like I have to be their parent.”
7. Unsafe people are unstable over time, instead of being consistent.
8. Unsafe people are a negative influence on us, rather than a positive one.
9. Unsafe people gossip, instead of keeping secrets.
As with the story above, I’ve heard plenty of other stories of unsafe people: There was the person who smuggled dope aboard their plane when they traveled abroad – without the partner’s knowledge. Someone just told me how their car was rear ended by someone who was talking on a cell phone. The man with the phone got out of the car and told my friend, “You made me drop my phone” (perhaps, he’s in the category of someone who thinks he has it all together). I once advised a woman to get out of a relationship with a controlling man. She did. But the woman who ended up marrying him, not knowing of the other woman’s experience, came to my office to tell me of her misery, due to marrying someone so controlling. (Stories have been slightly alterred to insure confidentiality – except for the cell phone story!)
Do you know anyone who is unsafe? If that person(s) is a close friend, do you have a plan to either leave the relationship or draw boundaries to create safety? Always stay safe!
(The list above is from “Safe People,” by Cloud and Townsend.)
And now for some comic relief: