In recent years the word “trust” has been at the forefront of my mind in terms of relationships. As a therapist, I deal with relationships on a daily basis in a clinical sense. Every person I work with, has to develop a sense of trust in me as a clinician and also as a human being that I mean them no harm. That can be difficult to do whenever someone has been traumatized severely throughout most of their life. Trust can take many years to build but can be damaged over the span of a few seconds or over a few careless words or actions. I think the question on most of our minds is how do we develop or build trust with each other? If I’m going to be completely honest, this is a question that is not easily answered or simply done in ten easy steps. But I would like to explore what it means to build trust to hopefully bring some clarity to a rather complicated situation.
One of the most important characteristics of building a trusting relationship with someone is complete honesty. I know that many of you might be shaking after reading that last sentence. And the fear is not without a good reason. Honesty could potentially lead to someone looking at us negatively because we say something that they don’t like. Honesty could lead to a relational break down because we don’t go along with what someone says or wants. Honesty could even lead to someone attacking us in some way because we won’t cave into what they may want. But for trust to be built, we have to know that the person that we are investing that trust in will be someone that will be truthful with us at all times even when we may not want to hear it. Trust can’t be built on lies and deception without the after affects being far more damaging.
Transparency is another essential ingredient when it comes to trust. Now this trait is something that many people tend to run from in droves. Transparency involves not hiding anything from the people that we are hoping to form a relationship with. But this always comes with a risk. The risk involves someone knowing things that are closely intimate to you as well possibly using that information or material against you. But it can also lead to a closeness with that individual due to them safeguarding and treasuring the information that you give to them. That is why it is important that the person you are transparent with is someone who respects the information that you give them as well as respects you as a person.
RESPECT. Please note the emphasis that I put on that word. We live in a culture where disrespect is the norm rather than the exception. Additionally, many people think that using disrespect is the only way to get people’s attention and a lot of it. Sadly, this does not lead to trust being built at all. Many times, when disrespect is present people do not want to share their thoughts or feelings for fear that they will be subjected to some kind of abuse. Additionally, it stokes the fires of anger and animosity towards others for the sake of being right or for the sake of safety. Respect of other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and even their words is a necessity in order to help build trust. We must learn to master the art of learning to agree to disagree in order to build trust with others.
Our trust in others should be based in our love for them. I am reminded of the old Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. For the sake of this blog, I will not bore you will all the details of this particular story, but I will highlight some important points. The myth involves a young princess who is wed to the god Eros in the most unconventional way. Eros conceals his true identity to Psyche throughout their marriage and requires that she simply trust in him that he will treat her well. Psyche’s sisters, however, cast doubt on Eros’s intentions and tell her that she is being bewitched by an evil sorcerer. Psyche, blinded by the doubts of her sisters, attempts to kill Eros at night while he is asleep. It is then that she sees who he really is by shining the light of her candle on him. Eros awakens to find her standing over him with a knife in one hand and a candle in the other. In response to this, he vanishes from her sight entirely. Before vanishing, he tells Psyche, “Without trust, there is no love.” This is a very poignant statement, isn’t it? Many times, we can say that we love someone, but we don’t fully trust them with everything that we are. Real love requires an element of trust because trust fosters intimacy. Without the element of love, we cannot fully trust those that we have a connection with.
Trust is not an easy thing to cultivate. It takes time, intention, and perseverance. Sadly, it can be torn down completely with one stroke of foolishness, contempt, or even selfishness. Once we have the trust of another individual, we have to be willing to fight for it on a regular basis in order to keep it. We also must be willing continually work for it as we do with all of our other relationships. There are times when trust can be painful, but if it is placed on a healthy person our lives can be fuller and richer with relational intimacy that we so richly need.