In an earlier post, we talked about what to do when someone resists our efforts to help. And whether you find yourself in that situation or you just want to be proactive in your care for others, one thing that is foundational is to create a safe place for others so they know they can come to you when they are ready.
The thing is, creating a safe place for others isn’t so much about the physical space as it is about the relational space.
Presence of Care
In her book The Art of Comforting, Val Walker shares an experience she had with her friend Morna:
“Morna offered me something that few professionals or lay people are willing or even able to offer: she allowed me to fall apart in her presence. She didn’t judge me, diagnose me, hire me or fire me, bill me, instruct me, save me, or heal me. She wasn’t trying to be absolutely unconditionally loving or saintly. She wasn’t even trying to make me smile. She just sat with me amid the mess in my kitchen, the mess in my life, and the mess in my heart and allowed me to be in my pain. Unfazed by all this mess, she sat there and held it together with her mere presence.”Val Walker
Who is that person for you? Who do you go to when you need care and comfort? And what is it about them that draws you to them?
Chances are, the person that you turn to exhibits some characteristics that make it easy for you to trust them.
What we need to realize, however, is that people can show comfort in different ways. Sometimes we need a calm, peaceful, quiet presence to sit with us in our pain, and other times we need a wise, empathic friend who can guide us to our next steps.
Characteristics of Comforters
Walker identifies 20 such characteristics of people who are seen as comforting by others. I invite you to prayerfully read through the list and write down the ones that describe you.
Be honest, because not all of these will fit you and your style of care. And when we create a safe space for others, we want to do so in a way that is authentic for us, because if it’s not authentic, it won’t be safe.
- PRESENT–giving their full focus and attention
- EMPATHIC–sensing the feelings of another person
- GENUINE–sincere, with integrity
- RESPECTFUL–honors others as human beings
- PATIENT–doesn’t rush people but lets them move at their own pace
- CARING–kind, compassionate, thoughtful, considerate
- RELIABLE–do what they say they will do, dependable
- CLEAR–is realistic in what they can do and keeps boundaries
- WARM–welcoming, gracious, approachable
- ACCEPTING–willing to learn from others, open-minded
- CALM–centered, quiet, steady, still
- HOPEFUL–instills hope without being preachy or giving advice
- HUMBLE–honors their own limitations and vulnerabilities
- SUPPORTIVE–offers words and gestures that build on a person’s strengths
- APPRECIATIVE–grateful, recognizes the value of others
- GENEROUS–giving, without expectations
- GENTLE–soft, can sensitively allow the other person to respond
- ADAPTABLE–flexible, can respond to changes and go with the flow
- WISE/EXPERIENCED–has been through demanding challenges and losses
- STRONG–persevering, resilient, enduring
Take a look at your list and then identify the five that describe you best.
For example, my top five would probably be calm, gentle, present, caring, and patient. You can see how they kind of go together. Yours may or may not be like that.
While we certainly strive to grow in our “least” characteristics, focusing on our top comforting traits allows us to help in ways that are most authentic for us.
The Source of Comfort
Remember, my friends, that we don’t manufacture comfort on our own. God comforts us, and in turn, we can offer that same comfort to our brothers and sisters.
“…God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Let’s take the comfort God has given us in our own times of despair and turn that into a safe place for others to turn to when they need some encouragement.
What do you do when your type of comfort isn’t what someone needs? What if they turn to someone else instead? We’ll look at that in a future post.
Learn more with Val Walker’s book, The Art of Comforting.