Our one-year-old foster baby is just learning how to walk. He’s the cutest little thing, holding on to tables, chairs, and seat cushions as he tries to make his way around our family room. Tonight, I was on the floor trying to encourage him to come to me. Still feeling insecure in his ability to walk, he reached for my hand. I wanted him to trust himself, so instead of allowing him to take my hand, I stayed just beyond his reach. He tried multiple times to reach me, but because he couldn’t touch my hand and find the security of knowing I’d be there for him, he didn’t come to me. Instead, he stayed in the safety of his comfort zone.
Interestingly, even as adults I believe we mimic this same behavior. Maybe someone asks for vulnerability from us and while we want to trust them, we need more than just outstretched arms out of reach. We reach out by sharing parts of heart, hoping that they’ll reach back, showing us it’s safe to move forward and into a level of trust we had not yet stepped into.
Our foster baby knows I would never let him fall. He’s walked to me plenty of times in the past and even though he’s fallen, I have caught him. He’s felt the safety in my arms and has trusted that I’ll be there for him. Yet tonight, he needed more. By his motions, he was telling me that he needed the security of holding my hand before he’d let go of our couch and walk to me.
As adults, we have different motions which signify to others that we need more from them to feel secure, but how often is it recognized? Our insecurities come out in different ways. For some, it’s by putting up a wall of independence, for others it’s not allowing yourself to trust those around you, and then there are some who hide behind a wall of pride.
Personally, when I feel I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable and then am hurt by someone because of it, I quickly put an emotional wall up. I put on my independent swagger and hide behind a mask that tells the world, “I don’t need you. I’m fine on my own.” I’ll be honest – it’s not a pretty picture, nor my most proud moments.
But it’s how I protect myself.
The moment I feel used in some way or played, it’s very hard to earn trust from me again. It’s amazing how trust can take years to build, but in a moment it can be destroyed. I’m trying to learn to guard my words and actions, because just as someone else can break the trust they’ve built with me, I too can damage trust with a misspoken word or deed.
Reader, when someone responds unfavorably to something you’ve done, instead of being defensive, ask yourself if they’re responding out of hurt or insecurity. Instead of lashing back, respond in a way to bring healing, not more hurt.
Sometimes all people need is someone saying a word of encouragement or extending a hand of security to bring out the best in them. When people feel safe with those around them, it gives them the freedom to be who they are.
May we be people who bring out the best in others and give those around us a safe place to be vulnerable, with no fear of judgement, no showcasing of insecurities, and no doubt that they are loved just the way they are.