5 Things I've Learned About Trust
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1. It starts with us
Trust is like love. If we can't trust ourselves, we can't trust others.At a meta level: if we can't trust our judgement and intuition, then we're never going to be able to trust our trust of others.I've learned that my trust-dar is usually pretty accurate. Whenever I feel funny about someone, however undefinable those feelings are, I feel funny for a reason. Our feelings are not irrational.By paying attention to the gut reactions to people and situations, we learn more about ourselves, we become more trusting of ourselves, and we become more trusting in our ability to navigate the world around us.
2. It's earned
By everyone. No-one has an automatic right to our trust because of their biological relationship to us, the fact we happen to work in the same office, or because we've been friends for 10/20/30 years.People earn our trust through their actions.In very simple terms, it's like a bank account: good behaviour adds credit to the account, bad behaviour takes credit out of the account. When you have a lot of credit in the account, you can afford a few withdrawals here and there. When you're already pretty low on credit, those withdrawals become more noticeable.In my experience, the right people will get that. They'll share this perspective around earning trust and they'll be willing to talk about it. When people think they are automatically entitled to your trust, they are far more likely to abuse that trust (after all, if they believe they're entitled to your trust whatever happens, then they have nothing to lose).When someone breaks our trust, it's their responsibility to earn that trust back, not our responsibility to suck it up and move on. Equally, when we break someone's trust, it's our responsibility to do whatever we can to earn it back and make amends. As hard as it is to say "I'm sorry, what I did was wrong", taking responsibility where it's due is in itself one of the most important ways to add credit back into that relationship's account.
3. It's hard, and that's OK
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." - ProverbTrust is hard. It leaves us vulnerable. When we trust, we relinquish a certain amount of control over our feelings. We open up ourselves to the potential to feel very hurt, and the potential to feel extreme joy and closeness.To be our full, real, and authentic selves around someone is a big deal. Most of us have spent our whole lives finely honing our external armour - our defences, our reactions, and our distance - so that the outside world cannot see the vulnerable, human parts of us that lie underneath.Removing that armour takes us time. It happens piece by piece as a person earns our trust. And it's hard: we put that armour on in the first place for a good reason. Learning how to relate to someone without its protection can feel uncomfortable and challenging but, in the long run, it's a liberating and life-affirming process.
4. It has a point of no return
I've been to that point and it's devastating. When someone does something that violates our boundaries, needs and values so deeply, it's basic self-protection not to trust them again.The point of no return is not a popular or generally accepted concept in our society. We're told that it's better to forgive and forget, that blood is thicker than water, to be 'the bigger person', that everyone deserves a 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 99th chance, etc.But sometimes that's not true.The point of no return exists in all of us, whether we like to admit it or not. It exists in situations that are deal-breakers for us, it exists in behaviours and actions that are so disrespectful, betraying and painful that we don't know where to go from there.Reaching our point of no return is not a crime. Being able to accept and acknowledge this point gives us the gift of closure. It sends ourselves the message: "I am worth more than this", and is ultimately one of the most self-loving acts we can possibly commit.
5. It is possible and it's worth it
Even when we think we're never going to trust again. Even when we go through a day, a week, a month, a year, when it feels like our trust is being broken left, right and centre, trusting again is possible. It all goes back to number one and number two: starting with ourselves and keeping that bank account in mind.Trust is like a fine thread running between ourselves and others. When we trust ourselves, we are connected to our own sense of what is right for us, and what isn't, wherever we are and whatever we're doing. We trust ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. We trust ourselves to be OK and come out the other end in one piece.The more we trust ourselves, the more we want the best for ourselves. The more we act on wanting the best for ourselves, the more we trust ourselves: it' a positive, self-reinforcing cycle.A relationship between two people with reciprocal, earned trust based on shared experience, shared respect and shared values is an amazing experience. Trust isn't a lone entity. It's a gateway to safety, security, stability, community, joy, fulfilment, and so many more essential human needs that we all share.Whether we're aware of it or not, trusting that we'll get to where we want to be going is what keeps us going day after day.