The Vital Work of Holding Space

by Andrea Kolber


We’re all just walking each other home
— Ram Dass

She sat with me, and you could cut the air with a knife. It was thick with tension and possibility, but mostly with emotion. My emotion.

My dear mentor cried with me, and sat with me, as I processed my family and my story and my heart.

She held space for me—to be broken and messy and unfinished. 

But also, by creating safety in our relationship— she caused me to feel seen and known and loved.

The art of holding space is one we’re all capable of, and yet we fear it. It’s scary to enter each other’s stories without waving our imaginary ‘fix-it wand.’ But I can say, both from my personal experience and having sat with others as I have created space for them, it is powerful.

Why is that? Why is the simple act of creating safety in relationship so healing?

For one thing, when we honor another's humanity by hearing their story, we affirm they, too, are an image bearer of God (Genesis 1:26). This means their value is embedded in who they are, and it can’t be taken from them. By recognizing the inherent dignity of people, we merely affirm what God has already said about them. They are worthy of being heard.

And maybe this is the part that's easy for you.

Possibly, it's easy to affirm the humanity in others. I would also wonder, can you affirm it for yourself? 

One of the best ways we can become a people who creates space for others, is in fact, to allow space to be created for ourselves. When we honor our own Imago Dei (image of God), we may see the increasing necessity and beauty of honoring it in others.

 

Holding space is also vital because our world doesn’t do it well.

In a way we’re all just clamoring to be heard and seen. This is a natural, God given thing and yet without the self-awareness that other’s are there in this place with us, we become self-centered in our pain. Like a two year old when they stub their toe, there is little ability to regulate our emotion unless and until, someone comes in and guides us first.  

This is where the beauty of healing is so powerful. As each of us experiences bits of growth, we get to look the other proverbial two year old in the eye and say, I will hold you until the pain stops.

And in a way, all we’re doing is what God has already done for us, loving his people with the almost tangible hands of Jesus.

This is the definition of creating space. It says: I see you. There is room for you to have feelings. There is room for you to process.

I will wait with you until we're finished. I will walk you home.