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home : columnists : joy in the journey August 23, 2017

Holding Space

By Teri Ditslear
Joy in the Journey

It is a spiritual practice that has finally been given a name, holding space, or in simpler terms, "listening." For some people it is difficult to do, others find it extremely uncomfortable. Holding space is a pause, being comfortable with letting someone just be who they are. Often times, when we have a problem, and we share this problem with another person, this friend might try to give advise or fix said problem. Admittedly, I am a recovering fixer of problems, a recovering advice giver, especially when it comes to giving unsolicited advice. Because empathy is one of my spiritual gifts, people are intuitively at ease telling me their stories of both struggle and success. It takes a certain amount of restraint to keep my mouth shut, and not blather on about all the ways to fix said problem. Most of the time, people just want a safe space to air out issues of struggles, hurdles, or sorrow. I have the great fortune to have a husband who knows how to hold space for me. Instead of offering advice when I complain or pout, he just listens until I give him the green light to weigh in on the subject at hand.

Holding space is also a spiritual practice that can last for much longer than a conversation. Holding space for someone while they figure out who they are is a sacred trust between God and you and the person to whom you are holding space. Being in the room, just being present while someone is grieving or suffering in some way, is holding space. Letting our children figure out life instead of always rescuing is holding space. For that matter, letting our friends, and family become who they are without judgment, and in love is holding space.

This week, I read an article that proposed the idea that it is the people who have the gift of holding space, who will be the ones that bring new life into the Church. In the midst of divisive political and cultural changes, it will be a welcome relief to have more people of faith to learn how to simply hold space. Listening more, and talking less naturally brings about the transformation of understanding into compassion. The world seems to be so very loud these days. People vying to be right regardless of the damage that is done through violent rhetoric and assumptions is a social disease that can be quelled by holding space.

Changing the tone of the world, starts first through our own interactions with those close to us. Letting our children be who they are meant to be is a good first step. Letting our spouses and partners be who they are, instead of who we wish they were is also holding space. I wonder, what would our community and our world look like if we held space for each other, listened to one another, and used more compassion and empathy as a way to understand one another. I imagine we would soon see peace. Let it be so.

Noblesville's Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at pastor@rolcommunity.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com

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