When You Lose Trust You May never Regain it But When You Withdraw it you can Rebuild it

I received an email from a teenage member of a family asking me to define trust. She said that she no longer trusted her brother, the one person she had shared a deep secret with. He had revealed it to her parents and she was in trouble.  She was the one sneaking out of the house at night and hanging out with her friends when their parents were gone. She was the one who had tried pot and cigarettes. She told her older brother because she wanted him to see how cool she was. But he told their parents about her escapades when he was being accused of coming in through the back window and leaving it open.  The one person she had counted on betrayed her. How could she ever trust anyone again?

When she asked me what she should do, I thought it timely that she was asking me about trust. Trust is the word and concept I have chosen to study this year, really gain an understanding of what it is, what it is not, how it is breached and how it can be restored.

The first question I asked myself about trust was: “How do people talk about trust?”  I immediately thought of people using the phrase “I lost trust” in or “I will never trust” so and so. I pondered about that. I started thinking about the act of losing something. When I lose something it is more of a passive action. I don’t actively lose something. I lose something because I am casual about it or take my attention away from it and poof, it’s gone.  Is that how trust works? I don’t think so, at least not completely.

I started thinking: trust is more active. When someone betrays my trust, I can feel a sense of loss. But loss is a passive feeling, something about which I have little control. Did I have to feel so out of control about something so important as trust?  Am I merely a passive participant in its gain and loss?  I decided to observe my behavior with trust. Indeed, I did behave like someone who had been victimized and had to feel this way. I stopped myself and asked: do I have to feel like this? I was shocked at my answer which was: “No, I did not.” It was at that moment I became an active participant with trust.

I no longer lose trust, I withdraw it. What a difference that makes. First, it brings trust into my control. Second, it gives me the opportunity to look at what I am withdrawing. Third it gives me the opportunity to examine what it is I knowingly or unknowingly gave to the other person that produced trust by me that they could then dishonor.

This breakthrough has allowed me to return to the other person and tell them what I gave them. I am surprised that sometimes they are unaware of the expectation or standard I put on them. In other words, the trust was all in my head and not in theirs. It had not been agreed to.

I remember, as a kid, bring an ice cream cone home to my brother because, for one reason or another, he couldn’t join us. I also remember, due to my tennis match taking longer than expected, I couldn’t go with him to get an ice cream cone. I fully expected, no, I trusted that he would bring one back to me. He didn’t. I lost trust in him. I became the victim. In actuality he never knew he was supposed to bring me a cone.

Trust is too big an element to leave to quiet assumptions and personal standards. Trust really is something to be talked about and agree to rather than assumed.

Trust is very personal in that it caters to those most precious values we live by. One family I worked with were upset by one member’s decision to talk to the media about family matters. The media was pleased as they had information to give to its readers. The family was upset because, for them, this individual had violated unspoken tenets, unspoken trust.  The individual decided that their own individual objectives were more valid than unspoken binds. He wanted to break those binds. He did so very publicly.

Trust is a great family conversation. Merely to begin the question of “What is trust to you?” can deepen connections in families.  It is important to hear what trust encapsulates from all family members.  It is important to talk about what tenets could be violated that would break trust. Doing so deepens bonds.

Trust is a bridge to deep connection between people and within a community. It must be nurtured and fostered together, rather than isolated.

Let me know how you define and foster trust in your life? I’d love to hear from you. As I study more and learn more about trust, I’ll share more with you.

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