Holding Space

As we continue to settle into our temporary life here in New Zealand we are meeting more of the people in the church and the community. Some have shown up at the church just to check us out, while others are excited to have us and eager to see what we have to offer as their pastors.

Kimberly, our daughter, begins high school here this week. Last week we took her to the school to be registered and gather all the necessary information parents should know about the school their teenager is about to attend in a different country (at least I hope we got all the necessary information!).

Today at church we met some more members for the first time and spent some time getting to know them by listening to their stories. They are also interested in our stories, especially how we ended up becoming their pastors for the next six months.

After service we were taken to meet one of the long-standing members of the church who can no longer attend because of the need to take care of an ailing spouse. We sat and visited with the member and some other family members, again listening to their stories while also sharing a bit of ours.

As I reflected on these encounters, I was made aware of the importance of holding space for each of the individuals with whom I was conversing. I was also reminded of how important it is to hold space for the other person or group when trying to adjust to and relate well in another culture.

What does it mean to hold space for someone else?

It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control. Heather Plett

Of course, holding space for someone could be applied to anyone from immediate family to the stranger you meet for the first time. It is about being fully present with no agenda except to offer a non-judgmental, egoless presence as they share their story.

This is especially challenging when living in a different culture. I often find myself quickly wanting to compare their story to what I am used to in my own culture. It takes intentionality and vulnerability to hold space when listening to another’s story. It is almost a natural human instinct to want to compare stories or experiences, especially when you are in a new culture.

Holding space for the people I have been conversing with – whether the foreign student advisor at my daughter’s high school, the spouse who is a 24/7 care-giver to a spouse or the farmer telling me of the challenges he faced last week – calls for me to be a good listener, have a non-judgmental mindset, make eye contact, ask questions to know more about their stories, and be less concerned about them knowing my story.

Holding space for someone helps them feel valued, respected, heard and appreciated.  They are more likely to enjoy being in your presence. They will want to come back and talk with you.

We live in such a busy, self-focused time that people notice when you hold space for them.

I doubt that holding space for someone will ever come naturally because we are self-focused human beings. But I do believe it can become easier and a more regular part of who we are as we become intentional about making the effort to hold space.

Pay attention to your interaction with others, and see whether you are holding space for them as they share their stories. Or notice if your ego and your need to be in control of the conversation gets in the way. Seek to demonstrate your value for others by holding space.

If you would like help achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at errol@errolcarrim.com to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.