“Trust is not something to be earned, but a gift to be given.” Those are my words over many years of ministry. I don’t know if they are original. I know others have said similar things. My concern is whether I still believe them.
I know that many of those who write to me or read this blog have difficulty trusting others. Some have been victims of manipulation, lies, or abuse. Some have been part of a system that taught people to judge and condemn others and have felt the betrayal of “friends” who turned against them for the sake of rising within that system.
Trust is not something that returns easily for those who experience abuse or betrayal. Nor should it. Suspicion and isolation serve an internal purpose of protecting ourselves against pain. The problem comes when we find ourselves living in that cave. Relationships become difficult. We see others through the glasses of fear.
Unhealthy mistrust is something that happens inside. It has less to do with the meanness of others than with our judgment of ourselves. We feel weak and vulnerable, somehow accountable for the fact that others have misused us. We become angry at ourselves for allowing the abuse, for not seeing the truth earlier, or for simply being so stupid. So we build walls with the idea that we might not have to suffer that again. But the walls do more to keep us imprisoned than to keep others from hurting us.
Many of us grew up trying to be nice. We were taught to think of others as better and more important than ourselves. In a good world, things like deference and openness are positives. For many people, the world is not good. It is filled with people who use and shame and hurt. Deference and openness are tools that can be turned against us.
Part of learning how to trust again is the willingness to lay the sins of others at their own feet. It is not un-Christian to understand that someone has hurt you and that what they have done is wrong. How can you sincerely forgive someone unless you accept that they did something wrong to you? When you reject the idea that it was all your fault, you begin to see the real world and you begin to heal. You can face the world again if you understand at the outset that others fail and sin and sometimes they will hurt you.
The one you give the gift of trust to is yourself.
Let’s think about this more…