Holding Space

“Boy, it’s absolutely gorgeous!” “Thanks, it was my grandfather’s!” “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you selling this it?” “We’re downsizing, and I have more cars than I have space in our new place.” “What are you thinking you might like to sell the car for?” “Well, a car like this, in this good of condition is really hard to find.” And thus begins the dance. For fifteen minutes these two gentlemen went back and forth trying to find a place where they could agree on a price. Each had their own narrative of the value of the car, and the price range they were willing to settle on. They started at a distance from each other, so it took lots of patience and hanging in with each other.

Systemic leadership expert Ron Heifetz talks about how important it is to create a Holding Environment. This is a space where people feel both safe AND uncomfortable. Safe enough that the person feels able to fully engage and uncomfortable enough that they feel a strong desire to bring resolution. In my experience this is both a learned skill, and more and more counter culture. The capacity to actually work together rather than to stay entrenched seems like an ever increasing lost art.

Journalist Arthur C. Brooks writes, “Political differences are ripping our country apart, swamping my big, fancy policy ideas. Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?”

I found it fascinating to watch how many have engaged the Jeep Super Bowl commercial with Bruce Springsteen. It appeared that many were originally moved by the words, “All are more than welcome to come meet here in the middle. It’s no secret the middle has been a hard place to get to lately. Between red and blue. Between servant and citizen. Between our freedom and our fear. Now fear has never been the best of who we are, and as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all, whoever you are, wherever you’re from. It’s what connects us and we need that connection. We need the middle.” Yet shortly after it aired concerns began to be expressed, and that which was an attempt to bring folks together became another experience of division.

How do we find a holding space, or as my friend and colleague Catherine Meeks calls it a Brave Space? A place were we can gain clarity and conviction with our narrative and at the same time openness and wonder about another’s. A place that I often refer to as the Montessori model of education where all are teachers and all are learners. A place where the dignity of every human being is respected.

The Rev. Barbara Talcott, chaplain and chair of the religion department at St. Mark’s Episcopal School Southborough, Massachusetts, writing on their school’s identity said:

• We value time for spiritual reflection, and the intentional teaching of wisdom, compassion and humility
• We value life in common, believing it is strengthened by the honest and respectful dialogue across lives of disagreement and difference
• We value human reason used critically in the pursuit of knowledge

My hope and prayer is that each of us will strive to be a part of creating brave spaces that are safe and uncomfortable where we can come together, motivating us to have respectful dialogue.

Still praying…

“Open our hearts so that we can welcome each other
with our differences and live in forgiveness.
Grant us to live united in one body,
so that the gift that is each person comes to light.” – World Council of Churches

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3 thoughts on “Holding Space”

  1. B.P. I love reading your posts. you always manage to speak to me about real issues. Love and hugs to you and Staci from Charmaine

  2. Thanks Brian. I’m wondering if we could use this as a discussion starting point for the theology group that meets February 24?

  3. This really resonated with me. Thank you, Brian, for all you do and who you are. You make such a difference in this world.. I am so proud of of you

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