The Problem With Staying Safe

My friends and I part ways.

“Take care!” we tell each other.

“Be safe!”

I suppose we say these things for many different reasons – most of the time we don’t even think about the meaning behind the words. They are, after all, fairly standard ways of saying good-bye, and I imagine at the heart of it is the desire to communicate how much we appreciate each other.

I love you and can’t wait to see you again soon. Don’t do anything stupid. I hope you stay healthy and accident-free.

The other night, as we parted ways with dear friends who we might not see again for quite some time, they shouted out through the night.

“Be safe!”

I shouted back.

“You, too!”

And the irony of those words became achingly apparent. Because so many of us live that life. The safe life. The controlled life. The comfortable life.

If I would have taken those words to heart years ago, that simple request to “be safe,” Maile and I never would have moved out of our house and taken a four-month, cross-country trip. We certainly never would have crossed the Teton Pass in our big blue bus (and lost our brakes). We wouldn’t have hit the road when I didn’t have any long-term income lined up. I wouldn’t have turned down a job while living in my parents’ basement.

Living a safe life would have stripped the last nine months of so many incredible experiences. We never would have taken the cross-country trip that led to a new friendship that in turn led to an invite to blog in Sri Lanka. We never would have looked into the opportunity to purchase a house that instead led to something way better (more on that in the coming days). I never would have had the opportunity to help so many people share their stories.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little security. A little comfort. We each thrive under varying levels of stability or the lack thereof. But if your entire life is dedicated to maintaining security and comfort, if you wake up in the morning determined to further shore up the walls of your castle, you are missing out on a lot.

* * * * *

I’m trying to think of new words to use when saying good-bye to friends. Words that better reflect my own experience of not always taking the safe path.

“Live wildly!”

“Do something courageous and ridiculous!”

“Here’s to your next adventure!”

How do you sign off? More important, what’s waiting for you beyond the “Do Not Enter” sign?

15 Replies to “The Problem With Staying Safe”

  1. You’re such a tease! I want to know about this house story!

    I stopped saying “Be safe” a long time ago. We say goodbye or see you soon. I’ve always thought that telling my children, “Remember whose you are” as they leave the house would be a good farewell. But I haven’t said it yet.

  2. I generally say, “Be well!” when I’m saying good-bye. It conveys what I want to say about safety (I don’t want harm to befall them), but without making it seem like all risk-taking is bad.

    And if we say it, “I love you.”

  3. Seems like mostly I mumble something while running out the door, more often than not a brief command, “Don’t forget your bag!” “Make sure you give the teacher your notes!” or “Get your pajamas on, Daddy’s putting you to be NOW!” or, on ocassion, “Let me go, seriously, you’re going to hurt Mommy!”
    Anyway, for me, right now, I think a good benediction would be something like “Don’t be afraid of the edge.” All of our edges are invitations of one sort or another and few are as frightening as we fear. The energy spent clinging might be better used to soar.

  4. I want safety while simultaneously chafing at my self-imposed restraints. It’s frustrating to be sure.

    I usually bit people adieu with a “See you later” or “Talk to you later”, and add a “Love you” for family in particular.

  5. One of my favorites is “run with scissors”, but I have become selective about who I say it too. Besides the obvious of not saying it to children, I often ask myself if the person I am with will respond with a puzzled look or ask for an explanation…

  6. I’ve wondered about this too. We even pray this way. “Keep them safe, Lord. Give them traveling mercies.” It’s not a bad prayer, per say. But why not pray for God’s glory to shine abundantly, for them to be bold and confident, for them to know Jesus? These are the things we long for.

    We say so many things, really, that have been stripped of their meaning.

  7. I’m reminded of an old song by Harry Connick Jr. It says “Safety is just danger out of place”
    I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around this, but I think your blog helps. I’ll have to dig up the song and listen to it again.

  8. Alise stole the words right out from under me! “Be well” conveys all kinds of things – our wishes and hopes for our friends that they indeed will be well. But also, I think, underneath whether or not they may or may not be physically okay is the desire that things would be well with their insides, their spirits. That happens whether or not you are sick or healthy, safe or taking a risk. So, yeah – I’d go with “Be well.” Good words, Shawn. Thanks.

  9. Love it Shawn. My folks always told me, “Remember who you are, where you are, have fun, and be home early. And not early in the morning.” ;-)

    Your post reminds me of my own endeavor to not tell my kids, “Be careful.” every time they venture out on the playground or wherever. I don’t want them full of cares, so I’ve pretty much made the switch to, “Be wise.” Which I hope leaves room for their innate kidness and a life of fun and adventure.

    Thanks for the post!

  10. Lately I’ve started saying “travel well” when parting ways with someone else. Just kinda stumbled from my mouth at a goodbye dinner for my summer camp this year, and I kinda like it. We’re all traveling one way or another, and I pray my friends do indeed travel their paths in such a way that’s pleasing to God and uplifting to others. To always travel well.

    PS: I’m new to your blog. Excited to follow you! Have heard lots of great things.

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