Almost all of the time, The Lasting Supper goes along just great. Not just goes along, but thrives with awesome interactions. I’m almost always impressed with the quality of people and conversations in our private Facebook group. (If you’re not in that group, please just respond to this letter and I’ll get you in! That’s where all the action is… if you want it.) Pretty much all the time, I’m very thankful that I launched TLS back in the fall of 2012.
But then once in a while I’m not. Well… that’s not really true. I’m always thankful. It’s just that some times it is very difficult to facilitate the community discussion on TLS. It is very time consuming, exhausting, and often discouraging. I do not claim to be an excellent facilitator, but I want to be, and so I experience some frustration with myself as I stumble along trying to make it work and trying to get us to an amiable and agreeable place.
So last week we had some issues. Some pretty strong disagreements arose and some very real conflicts. As a result, some people have said that it is a lie to say that TLS is a “safe space”.
I still stand by that claim, and I want to explain why. I’m going to use an analogy that I’ve used before, and that is the traffic analogy.
Here in New Brunswick, Canada, we can claim that we have “safe roads”. What does that mean? Does that mean that there are never any accidents? That no one ever gets hurt? No, it doesn’t.
I think it means three things:
- The roads themselves are in safe shape. That is, they are planned, paved (well… most!), and maintained. That is, if there is ever an accident or someone gets hurt, they should never be able to blame the condition of the road itself.
- There are rules, laws and etiquettes in place to drive on them. That is, everyone who drives on them must be licensed and know the rules and laws that govern the road they’re driving on, such as speed limits, signaling, braking, spacing, passing, etcetera. This is probably the most crucial aspect of making sure a road is safe.
- These laws are enforced. That is, there are people… police… who punish people who break the rules and endanger their lives and wellbeing as well as the lives and wellbeing of others. There are warnings, fines and other measures used to make sure people obey the rules and keep the roads safe.
There could be more I’m not thinking of now. But these three things are the essentials for safe roads. Even though there are accidents here, and even though I’ve been in some of them, I would still claim that the roads here are safe.
I compare this to the TLS community. I claim that it is a safe community because the same three essentials exist:
- The platform itself is in safe shape. That is, the incredible planning, creating, and maintaining that goes into The Lasting Supper is all to make it a safe space for healthy conversations to happen.
- There are rules. We have rights and responsibilities as well as values and principles in place to ensure that we use TLS in healthy ways. If you weren’t aware of this, it might help to check out those links. This, like driving, is crucial to know. If we would observe these then we would avoid most conflicts or at least handle them in a healthy manner.
- These are enforced. Well… I don’t like to use the word “enforce”. I prefer to call myself a facilitator or a reminder of who we really are and what we really are about. If someone breaks their responsibility, or conflicts with our values, or interferes with our principles, then it is my job or anyone else’s job who cares to facilitate or remind, to step up to facilitate and remind them.
Does this mean no one gets hurt? No. Does this mean we will always feel safe? No.
There are so many factors that can come to play. Weather. Inebriation. Moods. Blind spots. Road rage. Language. Cultures. Assumptions. Animals. The internet. Lack of certain social skills. Passion. You name it. There are all kinds of factors.
But as long as the platform is built for safety, as long as there are rules to remind us, and as long as there are people willing to facilitate, remind, and enforce if need be, then I would dare call TLS a safe space for community and conversation to happen. Even though at moments we may feel unsafe, I hope we can say that generally TLS is safe.
The analogy can be pushed further. For example, we could say that some people have to have their license to drive on this road because they keep causing accidents. That’s only happened a few times in over two years. Thankfully. Most times we issue gentle warning that their patterns of driving are potentially dangerous and could hurt someone else. Other times it is clear that whenever they get on the road they are going to hurt others. We revoke their license to drive.
Then there are other things that defy explanation. I’ve driven with many people. Some drivers drive me crazy. They aren’t doing anything illegal, but I just can’t stand their driving. It makes me nervous. Then there are some drivers who just make others angry and bring out the worst in us. For example, someone driving way below the speed limit. My dad used to be a cop and he said they caused more accidents but they never knew about it because they never looked in their rear view mirror. Then there are drivers who think they own the road and you’re in their way. Then there are some drivers who are so nervous that they make everyone around them nervous.
Something interesting happened to me the other day. Well… it started a couple years ago when Lisa and I were driving on the highway on a rainy day and we hydro-planed. We spun out of control and ended up on a guard-rail. Ever since that day Lisa prefers to drive slower and wants me to drive slower. So, the other day I was out with Jesse, our son, in his big 2500 Dodge Ram Diesel and we hit a little patch of ice and his truck slipped just ever so slightly. I could barely feel it. But my heart dropped into my gut.
Triggering! There are certain things about TLS that make me nervous. I’ve been through horrible church experiences. I can’t stand conflicts even though I’ve learned to work within them. But sometimes when someone says something I immediately get triggered and wait for an accident to happen and for someone to get hurt. But that’s my issue, not yours. I’m just sharing this because we all may have triggers that make our driving on TLS a little bit of a challenge sometimes.
I want to say that TLS isn’t perfect. Neither am I. I have failed in the past. I have relied on my poor judgment, taken bad advice, and made mistakes in decisions. I myself have caused accidents to happen and got people hurt! I truly regret these times and promise to make TLS a safer place with clearer values and me a better facilitator.
I hope this helps.
Stay safe. And thanks for helping TLS be safe too.
Your friendly neighborhood driver,