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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Who Do You Trust?


I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about the subject of trust. The conditions under which trust prospers are delicate to say the least. In the early stages of any relationship, even a slight misstep can be cause for suspicion, hesitation, or even pulling apart. Our self-protective guard comes up when we feel that we are not on solid ground and that can lead to a spiral of negativity—and eventually, a foundational crack that can undermine our relationships now and throughout our lives.

We have a tendency as humans to carry around the memory of trust ‘betrayals’ in what some psychologists refer to as our emotional gunnysack. When something happens down the road—however slight or seemingly unrelated; even if it involves someone other than the person who originally broke faith with us —we reach into our gunnysack and bring out the memory. Our memories of such pain are very long lasting.

If you’ve lived long enough—say past your twenties, there is a pretty good chance you have accumulated some of these memories. They are part of the experience of being a human, of being vulnerable. We are not unique in this regard. Unfortunately, trust violations and the memories we have of them have a tendency to reinforce one another, setting up a pattern of belief that what is happening in the present and what happened in the past are certain to repeat throughout our lives.

As an example, when we hear people say things like “all men are….., or all women do….., we can be reasonably certain there is a just such a pattern of belief at work. On the face of it, these are ridiculous assertions. How could ALL men or women be anything in common? To suggest a widespread conspiracy of behavior simply does not make sense. But we aren’t talking about making sense here—we are talking about those squishy things we call feelings—our emotions.

If we suffer a breach of trust—even a slight one—rebuilding trust can be very hard. We often set ourselves up for disappointment—without even realizing we are doing so. We do this by assuming patterns where they may not exist—by seeing every interaction through the lens of the past—and by acting out of guardedness and not faith.

Our memories of betrayal trigger an echo. Even before we know what has really occurred, we may view a present situation through the filter of the past and see it as a validation of our suspicions—here we go again. From there it is all down-hill. Our guard comes up—we are defensive, maybe accusative—and, through our reaction, we may actually cause the very breach of trust we are concerned about. Emotions can escalate in the blink of an eye and we can find ourselves in a runaway situation before we are even aware we ourselves are the cause.

Now I am not saying that we don’t suffer betrayals of trust—they happen, and as I said earlier they are part of the human experience. Learning to differentiate what is a true and intentional violation from a misstep is the tricky part—and it is no place to let emotions get in the way. As we have seen, our memories will lead us in one direction only—down the dark road of the past.

What is the antidote? I mentioned it is passing just a minute ago; it is faith. I am using that particular word because as always my point is about more than our relationships with one another but also about our relationship with our higher self, with God.

So what exactly is faith? One way to describe it might be – believing in something that we cannot prove beyond all reasonable doubt. If we could prove it of course—then it would be fact—we would need no faith to believe it. As it applies to the subject of trust, faith is the willingness to step away from our own experience, extending to others what we would want from them—unconditional love and forgiveness.

Yes, you heard me correctly, love without condition and forgiveness. How you ask, can we do that when our trust has been broken? Think about it—if the tables were turned isn’t that what we would be seeking? Isn’t that what we ask from God when we break trust with him? Again, I am not speaking of those few individuals we may meet in our lives that are so hurt, bitter and twisted inside that they manipulate, seduce or misrepresent themselves to cause intentional harm. Such people exist, but in my experience, they are the exception not the rule.

In almost every other situation, breaches of trust occur not out of intention, but out of human weakness. We mess up, make mistakes say or do things we should not and we almost always regret it. God knows this about us, he knows that it is impossibly difficult being human, and he loves us so much that he is ready to forgive us at once. He sees and feels our contrite heart even before we put ourselves before him. If he can do that for us—why is it so very difficult for us to treat each other that way?

I want to take up this question of faith in more depth in another post, but here I will add only that to keep faith with one another is to operate out of faith or trust in one another. We do that by being slow to respond to real or imagined slights, by extending the benefit of doubt to one another, and by acting with love in our hearts and genuine compassion for each other. When we keep faith, we wear a nearly impervious shield to pain, doubt and hurt. We are fearless—literally without fear, because we cannot be injured even though we remain vulnerable and open to life and to each other.

We know in our innermost hearts that we cannot go through our lives wanting and seeking love, trust, and forgiveness for ourselves without extending it to others. We cannot hide behind a barricade of pain and hurt, and expect our lives to blossom outward. So, take that leap of faith my friends, trust. Trust Him, trust yourselves and learn to trust those whose trust and love you seek.


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