“Trust but verify.” We understood these words, even applauded them, when Ronald Reagan used them to refer to his position on the Soviet Union. But in our personal relationships in family, church, or work, we seem to think that the phrase involves a contradiction. If I trust, I shouldn’t have to verify. Right?
I will be honest. There are people I will not trust again, primarily because I will not give them the chance to be trusted. I will be kind to them, perhaps even friendly, but I won’t trust them. At least I won’t trust them in the way they want or expect to be trusted. I know too much now.
But that knowledge allows me to continue a relationship with them, changed but still active, in spite of what they did. In fact, my expectations of them now factor in what I have experienced. And that is how we begin to move forward to trust again.
You see, trust is opening your heart to another person. It is placing certain expectations in the relationship. When you tell someone a secret, you expect they will respect you and keep what you have told them to themselves. When you learn that your secret has been shared, perhaps in a cruel way, you learn something about that other person. You learn that the other person either does not respect you or is not able to keep your secrets. That information is good to know.
You also learn something about yourself. You have a need to share, a need to connect with someone, a need for love and care. But when you beat yourself up and think of yourself as stupid or weak for sharing, you deny the need of your heart and you hurt only yourself. Just because that other person was untrustworthy does not mean that you are foolish or pathetic. Put the sin and weakness where it ought to be.
We say, “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.” But that lesson is limited to that one person. There are others who won’t try to fool you. There are people who will love you. You can trust them, but trust them in an educated way.
One of the little known facts in the Bible is that Jesus did not trust the people He loved. In John 2:24, Jesus is in Jerusalem during the Passover. There are people all around Him. They have seen His miracles and they claim to love Him. They say they believe in Him. But, the passage says, He did not trust them.
Well, the text actually says that “He did not trust Himself to them,” or “He did not entrust Himself to them.” Why? “…because He knew them.” Think about that. He loved them enough to go to the Cross for them, but He did not trust them because He knew them too well.
Two things: First, you are never called or expected to entrust yourself to another person. There is nothing I can find in the Bible that suggests that we should place our hope or our expectations in another regular human. The problem, of course, is that others are like us. They sin, they lie, they maneuver for advantage, they hurt the people closest to them. The flesh is incredibly self-serving and others are expendable from its perspective. Anyone can hurt you. The only One who loves purely is the Lord Himself. Entrust yourself to Him and not others.
Second, educate your trust. See others truthfully. When you tell a secret, know that holding a secret is hard for almost anyone and the right circumstances can compromise the tightest lips. When you want to place your hope in a person, know that he or she will probably fail you. See people as they are, not as you want them to be. You can’t really expect anything consistent or pure from them. That’s not a statement of despair or anger, but a statement of reality.
So, friends will fail you. That does not mean that you shouldn’t have friends. It means that you should let them be regular people. Some will be mean and maybe you should stay away from them. Others will just be weak or foolish. Love others and receive love from others, but never expect that love to be unconditional or pure.
I said yesterday that trust is a gift you give to yourself. Entrust yourself to the Lord, who loves perfectly and completely. Then trust others in the way they should be trusted—as friends and family members with weaknesses and fears and compromises just like you. Don’t be afraid to receive the imperfect love others offer. It’s all they have.