Safe spaces are brave spaces

Safe spaces are brave spaces

Today is the end of this year’s National Business and Management Conference, which also coincides with the tail-end of my students’ research defenses for the trimester. The invited speakers of the conference talked about bouncing beyond (not just bouncing back) through responsible, relevant, and practical research.

A particular insight that stood out to me is the role of scholar-practitioners to design both “safe spaces” and “brave spaces”, especially because it seems like a great answer to the question: “how should we deal with mental health?”

Our society has done an admirable job in being more aware when it comes to mental health and holistic well-being issues. It is a big deal that we are more mindful of creating safe spaces — spaces that are psychologically and emotionally safe for us to discuss our anxieties and negative emotions. However, what makes the management of safe spaces challenging is that there could be people who may act in bad faith, using mental health as catch-all phrase to get away with being irresponsible. Since managers and educators should always strive to give stakeholders the benefit of the doubt, it is trickier to evaluate performance.

But if we look at how athletes train and analogize gyms as “safe spaces”, what stands out is that gyms, exercises, and supervised drills are not only safe spaces but also “brave spaces” — we challenge the trainee to go beyond their limit, even for just a little bit, and if they fail, there are coaches and trainers who can spot and give a bit of respite.

Thus, a truly safe space is also a brave space. The challenge for the trainer-teacher-manager is to encourage courage and for the athlete-student-stakeholder to bare their vulnerability in the hopes of flourishing, even for just a little bit. Because hiding behind our vulnerabilities stunts our growth, while embracing our vulnerabilities vigilantly enables our flourishing.

Luke 21:34-36. Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.


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