Trust is a problematic concept to me. A requirement amongst humanity to safely steer each individual’s journey through life, yet more often than not, it’s never quite upheld by most around us. When push comes to shove, how often do we respect fully the obligation to the safety & care of others by preserving their right to complete sanctity within the confines of the shared relationship?

Real, unwavering trust in another human being is rare to find. I personally don’t know if I’m lucky enough to posses it. I’m not even sure I could claim that I am yet capable of fully providing it. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. 

With the ever-growing media popularity of health care professionals like Brene´ Brown, the general public are being treated to easy access on information and guides for topics that are deep & often unspoken about. Shame, vulnerability, self-appreciation, trust. Trust has been a subject I’ve often pondered. I lament over it, really. I wonder either why I am not worthy of receiving it, or why I am so remedial at preserving it! 

As each of us drive our human-shaped bumper cars around life, there’s no avoiding the many collisions this will unavoidably bring. We are meant to bend, break, err. It’s part of being human. An equally large part of our human experience is sharing it along side other humans, just as inept at keeping their bumper cars from bashing and scraping against us and each other, never quite mastering the wheel of their own vessel. The best we can hope for as we bungle along, is the idea that we can all work harder on self-improvement. Giving heavier weight to the attributes we are mostly neglecting, but make the biggest difference in the overall quality of our experiences while we’re here.

Many opt out of honouring faithful and unwavering trust in lieu of providing juicy treats of gossip & “you-heard-it-here-first” accounts of our painful & private experiences. There are lots who claim sanctuary for your grieving soul, you bear your open wounds to their soothing claims of privacy kept. Then without warning, they sink their teeth in to your neck & ask others to gather round & enjoy the entertainment of the bleed-out. Who are these people? Surprisingly, they’re all around. They’re planted in every corner of our individual cosmoses. Disguised even to themselves. 

There is a popular Native American anecdote, commonly peddled among my childhood Sunday school classes, that told the story of a young boy and a rattlesnake. The boy is on a journey & is descending a mountaintop where he finds an ailing rattlesnake. The snake asks the boy to carry him back down the mountain as he is unable to do it alone. The boy is skeptical he can maintain safety in this deed, and so declines. The snake promises to keep from harming the boy if he would only take him back down the mountain. The boy agrees and keeping the snake warm & protected on the journey, delivers him safely to the base of the mountain. Request fulfilled, the snake strikes & bites the boy, guaranteeing inevitable death. The boy is aghast & cries, “Why did you do that?! You promised you wouldn’t harm me!” The snake affirms, “You knew what I was when you picked me up!”

This is one of the most excruciating ideologies repeated to each generation. I bring it up here to illustrate that, sure, when faced with the rattlesnakes of the world, we know whose company we are in. Their intentions clearly marked from the start. When we get bitten by the not-so-competent-confidant we entrusted ourselves to, we feel foolish at ever being convinced they were capable of trust in the first place, and hopefully learn our lesson while moving on. But the more common fable we deal with is the wolf in sheep’s clothing idea. We’re mostly smart enough to avoid the rattlesnakes, but we are time & again hustled by that damn wolf. The one hiding in superficial friendship. The one coaxing false hope & security. The beast that lays in wait. Unfortunately, the most common wolf scenario is the kind where the wolf fully believes it’s a sheep until given an opportunity to change the narrative. People flip-flop between the 2 identities depending on how they can assert themselves further in whatever gains there are to be had by others private revelations.

The urge to partake in these practices seems irresistible to many. They don’t necessarily strategise to extract useful information (though some do), they’re just too concerned with their own internal high-stakes popularity to stop & comprehend the destruction they’re unleashing with every whisper & divulgence of confidences promised. So, what is to be done about it?

First, we hold ourselves to the same standards expected of those we’re asking trust of. Second – don’t be unwise. In this I mean, there are ways to allow the right candidates to make it through the filters needed to guaranty (as much as possible) our safety in sharing the intimacies of our experiences. We need to share as a requirement to further growth & safety, to allow appropriate aid and care of ourselves.

Brene´ Brown explains it best. There is a formula to effectively distribute trust to the trustworthy. Remember it by its acronym BRAVING;

B – Boundaries. You respect my boundaries and when you are not clear about what’s OK and what’s not OK, you ask. You are willing to say no.

R – Reliability. You do what you say you’ll do. At work this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so that you don’t over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.

A – Accountability. You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

V – Vault. You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you are not sharing with me information about other people that should be confidential.

I – Integrity. You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.

N – Non-judgment. I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

G – Generosity. You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others.

We can follow this type of guideline as we search out honourable companions and relationships, and use it as the formula we can measure our own worthiness by. For we cannot expect a noble exchange of trust if we aren’t first credible candidates ourselves.

** Brene´ Brown talks about The Anatomy of Trust here **


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