Safe People
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How to Find Safe People

Finding safe people with whom you can share your struggles and pain, is one of the keys to thriving in life and ministry.

Have you ever shared something personal with a friend only to have them say something hurtful in return? Maybe they offered advice when you needed affirmation. Maybe the didn’t really listen and identify with your story. Finding safe people who will accept you without judgement but still challenge you to grow can be a challenging task. Safe people are not easy to find and the only way to know if they are truly safe is to risk vulnerability.

In his book People Fuel, John Townsend lists 22 characteristics of people who will fill your relationship tank. When you are hurting and need to talk, look for people who have the characteristics in the list below. When people have these character traits, risking vulnerability is easier. No one is perfect. Very few people will have all 22 traits. However, if you can find people who have most of them, you have probably found safe people.

You can use this list to become a safe person for your family, friends, and coworkers. I use it to help me be a better husband, father, and ministry coach.

22 Characteristics of a Safe Person*

  1. Acceptance – Connection without judging you.
  2. Attunement – Awareness of what you are experiencing and responding to it.
  3. Validation – Affirming the significance of your experience.
  4. Identification – Shares similar story from their life with you.
  5. Containment – Allows you to vent while remaining open and non-reactive.
  6. Comfort – Provides support for your grief and loss.
  7. Affirmation – Draws your attention to the good.
  8. Encouragement – Conveys belief in you.
  9. Respect – Values you for who you are.
  10. Hope – Provides reality-based confidence in your future.
  11. Forgiveness – Willing to overlook or cancel a debt when wronged.
  12. Celebration – Acknowledges your wins with truth and heart-felt emotion.
  13. Clarification – Helps you bring order to confusion
  14. Perspective – Offers you a different viewpoint (without attack).
  15. Insight – Helps you find a deeper understanding of the problem.
  16. Feedback – Give you their honest opinion.
  17. Confrontation – Challenges you where you need to change.
  18. Advise – Recommends an action step when you ask.
  19. Structure – Provides you with a framework to work through your problems.
  20. Challenge – Strongly recommends you take a difficult action.
  21. Development – Creates an environment where you can grow.
  22. Service – Guides you to give back and engage with others.

I’m interested in your feedback. Which of these traits do think are most important when looking for safe people? Are there other things you look for in a safe person?

Pastors, if you are interested in Clergy Coaching contact PIR Ministries at or visit

*Adapted from People Fuel by John Townsend. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI. 2019.P.81ff.

Author of 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒚 𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒓’𝒔 𝑮𝒖𝒊𝒅𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝑩𝒖𝒓𝒏𝒐𝒖𝒕: 𝑨 𝑱𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒏𝒆𝒚 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝑬𝒙𝒉𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒐 𝑾𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 Zondervan Reflective, March 28, 2023 | West Michigan Regional Director for Pastor-in-Residence Ministries ( | Co-host of the Hope Renewed podcast | Clergy Coach | Certified PRO-D facilitator | Spiritual director | Graduate of the Soul Care Institute | Provides training in soul care and leadership | Consults for churches and leadership teams | Leads workshops and retreats | Served as an ordained pastor for 18 years | MDiv from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. | Learn more about Sean at

2 comments on “How to Find Safe People

  1. Any one of these might make a good friend. As I search for a pastor we do look for some of these qualities

    • Good point Steve! I would hope a pastor would strive to have all of these qualities (though we all fall short at times). I ask my coaching clients to rate me on each one so I know my strengths and where I need to put more effort.

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