How do you pinpoint trust in a relationship? How do you pinpoint people? Is this even possible to do?
Recently, I was wrestling with these questions. I was at a place in my life where my heart was finally ready to bump it up a notch when it came to trusting the people in my life. God had recently brought some new friendships into my life that had proved so rich and healing—so full of life—that I was beginning to bloom in the area of trust. And these healthy, mutually-trusting relationships caused me to examine the trust factor in my other close relationships. I had the hope and expectation that this new trust would multiply into my future. The more I healed, the more I was ready to trust again.
But trust is a difficult thing to measure. It isn’t cut-and-dried and it can’t be scientifically quantified. Yet it is something that each one of us wrestles with on a daily basis: Can I trust this person? All day long we encounter people, both new and known, and we are constantly weighing their differing measures of trustworthiness.
The other morning, I was in a more introspective mood, trying to quantify a certain friend of mine that I admire greatly but who is also a bit intimidating/ scary to me. Could I trust her? She is a strong personality and can appear abrasive at times in her delivery, yet she is also so full of love. It was a hard combination to reconcile in my mind and heart. I couldn’t pinpoint where she should go on my trust barometer. Safe? Sort of safe? Trustworthy? Sometimes trustworthy?
I was wondering if I was at that place in my heart where I could truly trust her. If I could finally pinpoint her as trustworthy. Everything that I had known about her in friendship and experience the last couple years caused my left-brain to answer: Yes! But my heart was not as settled. The pain of past trust betrayals hollered loudly: She isn’t safe yet!
Because at its core, trust is a vulnerability issue. It is opening your heart up widely to another person and trusting that they will be a loving steward of that trust. It is not a thing to be given away lightly or naively. Trust is a privilege and it is also a process. It is not something that someone can suddenly demand: Don’t you trust me? (That question itself is a red flag. If the person has to even ask that question, then the answer is probably NO.)
Trust is meant to be a beautiful seed that grows over time as we see a person’s character and dependability develop inside that relationship.
For me, my previous life experience with trust was a painful thing to examine. I realized that in years past I had often given trust to people who had not earned it, and I had been quick to forgive those who had betrayed it. Due to the childhood trauma I experienced and some resulting false belief systems, I had become like a loyal puppy in an abusive home. A puppy who after being kicked to the curb in betrayal, comes running back with love and loyalty to its abusers—and who is actually surprised when it is kicked some more. I experienced this in family relationships as well as friendships. No actual kicking was involved but emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse is just as devastating.
So my trust barometer had to go through a time of major recalibration. I went through a time where I had to put my trust on pause. I shelved the whole topic until I could get to a more-healed place where God could redefine my perspective. Sometimes we need to take those pauses and know that God will work on an issue in our lives when we are ready—when it is the right time. The words, “In the fullness of time…” (Galatians 4:4) often comfort me during such seasons of waiting.
My trust barometer is at a pretty healthy place now. It’s definitely way better than it used to be, though I still have some shelter-dog syndrome residue. Sometimes a person will reach forward and try to engage with me in a relationship and I will find myself pulling back. I am still trying to find that healthy middle ground. The two ditches of extremism on either side of the road sometimes still trip me up—to put up either a self-protective shield or to hotwire (a Brene Brownism) too quickly in a relationship.
Another important thing to highlight in the area of trust is that it will not look the same in every relationship. Trust really is like a barometer and some people will be higher up on the barometer than others. No two trust barometers will look the same. So to predetermine what one relationship will look like based on the experience you have had in another one is a recipe for either disappointment or limitations.
And what God highlighted to me on this morning of trying to pinpoint my friend’s trustworthiness was that we can’t pinpoint people and just stick them there—assuming we can always or never trust them. It isn’t that easy. Yes, there is that factor of time-provenness in the area of trust. But relationships continually evolve. Relationships are always in flux. The levels on the barometer of trust continue to shift. Some relationships will go up in trust and some will go down.
What I had wanted on that morning was a definitive answer. Just tell me if I can trust her. Just tell me if she’s safe. And what God had showed me instead was that we can’t put people in a box. We can’t forever pinpoint someone. The only one that will never change, never flux, is Him. God is the only constant—the only one we can truly pinpoint as forever and always trustworthy.
So I had come to Him looking for an answer about my friend—Just tell me what category to put her in! And instead, I had walked away with His answer about Himself: I am trustworthy. You can trust Me. I am the Way to trust. I am the Truth in trust. I am the Life in trust. And I will guide you through your journey of trust. I will help you navigate each and every relationship in your life. It is only through your trust in Me that you will be able to trust others.
My questions had inevitably lead me back to Him and His nature. And I am okay with that. Because I do trust Him. I trust Him to bring the right people into my life and edit out the wrong ones. I trust Him with my trust issues. I trust Him to lead me through the myriad of relationships that I will have in my lifetime.
We all try to do it.
Let God redefine your trust.
He is the only one who will never fluctuate on you.
“I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2).
“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).