Of course I could not pass it by when the title popped up on my facebook wall.

And Heather Plett’s piece, “What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone” did not disappoint. It should be read by everyone who takes an interest in living kindly and gently as part of the human community. Follow this link to Plett’s original piece: http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/

Here are a few excerpts with some comment from me, none of which improves in any way on Plett’s original writing.

Plett begins by asking,

What does it mean to “hold space” for someone else?

Her answer to this questions challenges many of the assumptions we might normally have about what it means to be a “helping” person. But, she is absolutely correct that letting go of our need to fix, judge, or control is the key to being able to function in a truly supportive relationship:

It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

Space-holders do not:

[try to] fix people

give them advice

judge them for not being further along the path than they are….

[take] their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems)

[shame] them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do)

[overwhelm] them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for).

Plett offers “8 Tips to Help You Hold Space for Others” with helpful descriptions, personal examples and observations:

1. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.

2. Give people only as much information as they can handle.

3. Don’t take their power away.

4. Keep your own ego out of it.

5. Make them feel safe enough to fail.

6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.

7. Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc.

8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.

These eight profound and important tips can be and should be, applied in any setting in which we find ourselves relating to other people. They are not only helpful for relating as a helping person. They have deep application for parenting, being in intimate relationship with a peer, functioning in community, and in any human situation in which we may find ourselves relating to other people. (I hope to make some of these connections in a few upcoming posts.)

In 1835, beset by self-doubt and insecurity, Charlotte Elliot wrote a hymn that has since become famous, for some perhaps infamous for its associations with evangelical evangelistic meetings.

Elliot’s hymn is filled with 19th century atonement theology and a grovelling sentiment that today may seem embarrassing. But, leaving aside these drawbacks, Charlotte Elliot’s hymn goes a long way towards moving into the kind of open spacious place to which Heather Plett is pointing. I don’t know anything about Plett’s spirituality, but for Elliot, this spacious place points to her vision of the fundamental nature of God, and so she can sing:

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting and fears within without
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

For Charlotte Elliot, there is room in God for everything. Nothing has to be left out, ignored, shunned, or denied. Love can hold, not just the “acceptable” bits of our lives, but also the difficult, the broken, the imperfect, and even the parts that seem shameful. There is room for everything.

Plett and Elliot challenge us to open spaces that truly allow life, other people, and the world, to be just as they are and so to move together to a place of greater wholeness.

 

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