Building and Maintaining Trust

Trust…do you have it? 

Trust allows deeper and more meaningful relationships. 
Trust enables speed and reduces cost in the workplace. 
Trust empowers communities to come together and do seemingly impossible things for good. 
Trust is the bridge for each of us fulfilling our potential and bringing about a better world. 

Trust…do you believe it? 

Do you trust others? Do you trust yourself?

When I ask my clients the first question, I’m sad to say that if they are really honest the answer is usually “no.” I get it. When we look at the world around us, it’s easy to come to that conclusion. Attacks, division, selfishness…it’s rampant. Being vulnerable enough to trust someone means you open yourself up to being hurt or taken advantage of. Yet when we close down, we perpetuate the attacks, division and selfishness we wish we could get rid of. 

It’s easy to skirt responsibility and blame others for your closed heart and mind. “When they…” “If they would just…” “But what about when they…” We tell ourselves that when external circumstances change, then we will open ourselves back up. But it’s in opening up that external circumstances are allowed to change. When you go out on a limb to forgive someone for a wrongdoing. When you put your trust in someone and it works out. 

When my husband and I started dating, all I had ever known was dysfunctional relationships. At the time, I hadn’t realized that the root of the dysfunction was me. Yes, it takes two to create a toxic environment but I had been fueling the fires in all my relationships and making selfish choices. I had a closed heart and closed mind. Instead of attempting to build trust and respect, I was on the lookout for all the reasons I shouldn’t trust and respect the people I was in relationship with. I had my armor on and was ready to fight. Mitch graciously pointed out to me that our relationship could go no further because I would never trust him. I was devastated. 

Thus began my own personal battle with trust. Because of my experiences in childhood, I had closed down my heart and mind long ago. I wanted to avoid being hurt at all costs. I trusted no one and kept everyone at arm’s length. This kept me trapped in a prison of loneliness and fear. We think that armor is protecting us, when in reality it traps us in our own personal hell. As I worked to heal my heart, and face the experiences and issues at the root of my own trust issues, I came to learn another difficult truth. I didn’t trust myself. 

While I thought initially my trust issues stemmed from what happened to me, I realized in my healing journey the truth was that my trust issues were rooted in what I allowed to happen in me. When I got hurt by someone I trusted over and over, I started to tell myself that my judgment was off and I couldn’t trust myself. When we believe we can’t trust ourselves, there is no hope for building trust with someone else. This is what we need to explore. 

When I ask my clients if they trust themselves, most just sit there looking perplexed, not knowing how to answer. Most of us have never given thought to that question. Sit with it for a while. What thoughts come up? What feelings come up? What questions surface? Explore them. 

Experience tells me that most of us do not trust ourselves…in fact, most of us don’t know ourselves well enough to trust ourselves. We spend so much time focused on our external world and everything going on around us, blaming everyone else for our problems, that we don’t even realize there is an “us” inside waiting to be explored. We don’t understand the truth that no matter what is happening around us, we have control of what happens in us. We don’t believe the truth that love is the answer to all our issues and we can choose it everywhere and all the time if we are brave enough.

The first step toward these truths and re-establishing trust in ourselves is becoming aware of and being honest about where you are. Do you trust yourself? Why or why not? What do you believe about yourself? Others? The world? What thoughts regularly run through your mind? Take inventory of your answers. What do they say about who you are and what you believe? How do they align with who you want to be? 

Most of us are unaware of the lens through which we see the world. Once we answer the questions above, we create awareness and can move toward understanding. What experiences have created the thinking and beliefs we have? What behaviors and patterns in our lives have those thoughts and beliefs created? 

Once we have awareness and understanding, we can begin to challenge ourselves. What is truth and what isn’t? Where have we given up responsibility or power in blaming others? Where do we have authority and ability to take control of our thoughts, beliefs and actions to create a better life and world? What relationships are we compromising because of our own trust issues? 

Then we can step into empowered and intentional action. This is where the real work and the real change happens. We can make the choice to reopen our heart and mind, risk getting hurt and know that we will be OK no matter what happens. We just do it and see what the outcome is. In the doing, we begin to realize that the actions and reactions of others do not hold power over us. We get to choose. Even when they don’t go the way we want them to. 

I’m still practicing this in my own life and work. Challenging myself to lead with love, to trust myself and extend trust to others is a daily battle and will be until the day I die. There is someone in my life right now who challenges me in this area daily. I find it incredibly hard to trust this person because of their past behavior and actions. I see in their words and actions they do not trust me. 

So, I give myself space in this relationship. Space to prepare my heart and mind for interactions with this person so I can enter into conversations and situations with an open heart and open mind. Space to respond with curiosity and compassion in an open way when their words and actions make me want to shut down. Space to reflect and come to realize that their distrust is rooted in them not trusting themselves and that is their work to do. Space to pray for healing for that person, for my strength to continue to operate openly in this relationship, for wisdom on the right words and actions to guide how this relationship should evolve. 

Building and maintaining trust takes constant and consistent work. It fully depends on you. You trusting yourself and you extending trust to others. Keeping and open heart and open mind. Giving yourself time and space when you need it so you don’t close down. Take ownership of building trust and watch the positive impacts on your life, work, relationships and community! 

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