What is Trust?

Confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, reliance.

A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

In my personal experience of trusting or extending trust to another person I think first about trusting myself. Trusting my judgement, trusting my instinct, trusting my gut. In other words trusting starts with me. Can others count on me . Can I be trusted based on my track record. Do the people closest to me know me to be trustworthy? Does it matter if I do what I say I will do most of the time or some of the time? Can I trust myself to follow through with what I say I’m going to do? Do I use excuses to let myself off the hook if I choose not to honor my word or commitment to another person. What is my relationship with trust? How do I decide if I am willing to extend trust to another. What does it mean if they break that trust? What does it mean if they do it repeatedly? How does it impact my relationship with the other person. Is trust the foundation of a good relationship? Can I love another without trusting them first? Is trust held the same for women and men? What does it say about a person that can’t be trusted? Can a relationship remain healthy if trust has been broken? How do two people move forward when trust has been broken? If trust can be broken, what broke? Does trust need to be equally important between the two parties? Is trust the same thing as honoring your word?

Over the past ten or so years I have been on a quest for the answer to these and other questions regarding trust and my relationship to trust. What really brought it to the forefront were my kids. As their father how could I teach them to trust and to be trusted. I use the word trusted in place of trustworthy. To be trusted is a function of one’s intentions, choices and actions. Worthy of trust has two parts. First is the reputation one demonstrates over time to prove they are consistent in relationship to trust. Second is the willingness of others to extend trust. The first part one has the power to influence the perception of trust, the second part can not be controlled as to whether or not we measure up to worthy of another’s trust. That sits with the other person in the relationship.

Notice the word relationship in this conversation. Relationship is one of the key elements in trust between two people. In relation to one another is there an unspoken expectation that if I say I will do something or behave a certain way that you should trust I will do it? And if I fail to act upon what I said I would do does that mean I cannot be trusted? Or is there some things that are more important and hold more weight regarding trust than other things. Example. If I tell a friend I will meet them at 1:00 for lunch and I am ten minutes late does that mean I cannot be trusted? Or is that insignificant and doesn’t reflect on my trustworthiness. If I commit to another person in a monogamous relationship and I have sexual relations with another does that mean I cannot be trusted? Why are they so different? Why is one accepted and the other not. What is the distinction between the two examples? From what I have observed in my relationships with other people and in my life the difference is not whether the act of being late is more egregious than the act of promiscuity. It is the impact it has on the other person in the relationship. It is the perception that the breaking of trust is personal. One person in the relationship has been wronged, taken for granted, disrespected, betrayed! That is the difference. From the interpretation of making it personal trust is either given or taken away. In fact it can be given or taken away many times over depending on the severity of personal attack or grievance. Does this sound familiar? He said he was sorry so I will give him another chance. A chance to prove himself or regain trustworthy. Now the dynamic of the relationship has changed and the power has shifted. One is expected to prove themselves to the other that they are worthy of trust.

So I have my own version of this trustworthy story. It started with my son and my expectation that he would follow through with his word. My expectation was that if he agreed to something he would follow through with what he committed to. Wow! Was I in for disappointment.

Put in a more positive way, there was much work yet to be done. I had it in my head that all I had to do as his father was set the example and through assimilation he would learn the lesson of honor your word. As a young child we would play a game that taught the lesson of honor your word in a fun and engaging way. And of course through the years I would have one to one discussion on the importance of keeping your word. So in my mind I figured I had all the bases covered. WRONG! As he became a teenager and he grew into an independent life style it required me to give him the room to make his own choices. As he made those choices he would be confronted with keeping his word or not. Many times he chose not. It became so frequent that I could not rely on him to follow through . I became very disappointed and resentful toward my son for his unwillingness to do what he said he was going to do. I made it personal and felt he did not respect me as his father. I decided I would avoid putting him in a position of honoring his word so I wouldn’t feel let down. Notice my thinking here. I am making it personal and making his inability to keep his word a direct insult to me as his father. There lies the most common betrayal of trust. When it becomes personal. So you say, of course it’s personal! You can’t rely on what he is telling you!

This is what I have learned. Making it personal and feeling disrespected has nothing to do with my son’s inability to honor his word. They are two distinct and separate things. I decided that I didn’t have to react from a place of disrespected. Instead I chose to allow him the space to do what he was going to do and accept him on that premise. Now I relate to my son from a place of… who I know him to be is a young man that doesn’t always honor his word. And I plan my life according to my knowing of him. In other words I have learned to trust that he will at times follow through with his word and sometimes he won’t. As he became older we would talk about how I relate to him based on who I know him to be. The other piece to this is the consequences to him. He has to deal with me and others in his life discounting him when he says he will do something and isn’t taken seriously. It’s all up to him how he decides to show up in life and in his relationships. Being untrustworthy has it’s downside and over time he has learned this. Has it changed his behavior? To some degree yes. It’s a process and one I am willing to walk with him side by side.

Something I want to emphasis. As he became older we would talk about how I relate to him based on who I know him to be. That part right there. In other words I took the time to tell him MY truth about how I perceive him as a young man and as my son. My truth was I cannot rely on you. So I don’t plan on you when you say you will meet me somewhere or do something together. I know you to be someone who is unreliable. I also feel I failed in teaching you the importance of keeping your word. Now I love my son and he loves me. So having a frank yet honest conversation was exactly that. And it came from a place of love.

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