Social Inventories

An inventory of your social instincts can be completed by listing your painful social connections in the first column, then answering the following questions:

1. What happened to make this an inventory item?

2. How did this affect you? What do you perceive it cost you?

3. How did you react? What shortcomings of yours were revealed in this situation?

Our social instincts are super important because we are created to be part of community. How are you doing on that front? Have a community? Are you helping your community thrive? Are you allowing your community to help you thrive?

Relational Inventories

How about an inventory of your relationships? Your columns for this inventory include:

1. List all your personal relationships in which there have been recurring problems.

2. Next, list the primary feeling/s you experience when this person’s name comes to your mind

(pain, fear, guilt, joy, sadness, anger, resentment, etc.).

3. How has this relationship affected you? What has it cost you?

4. What shortcomings does this situation reveal about you?

Remember - do not filter yourself! If a person’s name comes to mind - write it down. Just write!

Suggestions for rebuilding trust

I’ve learned a few things from watching others rebuild trust, here are a couple of suggestions:

1. If you are the person who threw away trust, then find others (a trust spiritual advisor or a therapist) to talk about your frustrations with the yukky space of broken trust. Don’t complain to the person you broke trust with. Don’t ask them to make YOU feel better.

2. Over accommodate the person whose trust you lost. Ask for feedback as to how to regain trust. FInancial issues? Be so transparent in all your financial dealings that the other person cannot help but notice your change of heart. Cheating? Again. Over-comply with their desires for transparency. Give them the code to your phone. Hide nothing about your daily doings. As long as what they ask of you is not illegal, immoral or fattening, help them learn to trust you.

3. If you are the person who lost trust, be clear and specific about your needs. You deserve to have your wishes granted as trust is re-established.

4. Do NOT rush to say you have forgiven, although of course forgiveness is a thing. Demanding that you be a forgiving person before you have actually forgiving erodes trust in a different way.

5. If you and your partner/friend/business associate, cannot agree as to whether trust has or has not been broken, go to a trusted third party to hash out the details.

6. Finally - small acts of kindness and grace go a long way to rebuild trust on both people’s part. Try not to seek revenge; try not to burn bridges; try to seek compassionate ways to deal with your conflict.

Remember, we all break trust at one point or another. Let’s try to be gentle with one another.

Demanding trustworthiness does not work

I once knew a family that was dealing with infidelity. And the offender eventually grew weary of being the untrustworthy one. She wanted to know why her husband wasn’t being held to his Christian duty of forgiveness. Wasn’t he a Christian after all? Shouldn’t he forgive her like the good Christian man he is?

To which he replied - “I’m wondering the same thing about you. I’m wondering how you, a good Christian woman, cheated on me with my friend.”

Yikes. That’s a good question. Notice how easy it is for us to avoid talking about the issue at hand simply by pointing out each other’s hypocrisy.

This conversation is a trust eroder. Once trust is lost, it is very hard to re-establish.

So here’s a thought - could we work hard to build and maintain trust, rather than demanding others give it back when we throw it away?

Trust and grace

Love covers a multitude of sins. The Bible says so. But I think trust can certainly be helpful too, especially when we make a mistake, even a big one, in relationships. Am I the only person who has been inattentive in a relationship? Unkind? Selfish? I didn’t think so!!

Everyone has bad days, even horrible ones, that can cause deep cracks in the integrity of a relationship. Sort of like my friends who are having trouble feeling love for one another in their marriage. Both have made some mistakes. Trust has eroded.

If trust is in place, we have some wriggle room. Some grace.

Last weekend I made a mistake in a family relationship. I knew I was making the mistake even as I was making it, but we were in a group, and there was nothing to be done but carry on. I meant to talk about it as soon as the event was over, but I forgot. Later that day, one of my kids brought up the incident.

I was so grateful. What if I had forgotten to circle back and address the issue? I IMMEDIATELY agreed that I had messed up - because I had! This kid quickly extended me grace. We moved on to the next topic at hand.

Now, I think the reason my BIG mistake did not become a horrible relationship conflict was because there was some trust that this is not a pattern. If I keep making this same mistake, it will erode trust. See how that works? Trust helped.

How do we build trust? One teeny tiny step at a time. We can erode it that same way. What we cannot do is grand gestures that restore trust.

Are you building trust in your relationships by being trustworthy a reasonable percentage of the time?

Rebuilding trust

I have friends who are struggling with trusting one another. There is no reason for this, as far as I can see. There has been no infidelity; they share the same core values; they have a common and strong faith; they have a similar vision for family life and both desperately desire to build a strong family.

But they aren’t feeling the love.

Lately we’ve been talking about building trust. And they both are very confused about why this is the topic of conversation. Instead, they want to talk about conflict resolution or communication or maybe how I should get the OTHER spouse to change in this way or that. I’m not willing to play.

I am sticking to my guns. We need to talk about trust.

Realizing I am stubborn they stopped asking for 5 easy steps for communicating without conflict and chose a new path: can we please, please talk about intimacy? What they meant, we figured out, was vulnerability. They wanted to be able to be honest with one another without feeling like they were just providing ammunition for the other one to use in the next argument.

Nope. Trust. We are going to talk about trust.

“But we do trust each other!” they say. It turns out that they can agree on things if it means they are both united in disagreeing with me!!

If I’ve learned anything from the work of Brene Brown it is this: trust and vulnerability go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you do not have one, you lose the other.

Trust. It’s the antidote that can help with a lot of issues that might cause a relationship to end. Because let’s face it - we can all be knuckleheads when it comes to relationships.

To be continued…

Pay attention in your relationships

Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.

~ Proverbs 18:24 The Message

How do we develop trust in relationships? Well, for sure it is NOT being perfect. In fact, it might just be the opposite of perfection. It probably isn’t grand gestures or heroic acts - because, come on, how often is that even necessary?

But it might include: paying attention.

A while back I had an extremely stressful event happen. And my friend noticed. How do I know this? Because if her response. She was paying attention. In her attentiveness, she did a few things that were so supportive, helpful and encouraging - at a time when she herself was certainly busier than a one-armed paper hanger.

Over the course of a number of months, a number of people in our community lost people they loved. So when we gathered the week after Thanksgiving for one of our regular meetings, we took time to ask each of those people about their holiday in light of their loss. Afterwards, one of the mourners came up and said to me, “I cannot believe that you remembered.”

Due to my advancing age, I need to be honest, I am grateful I remembered too!! Paying attention to what is important helps us remember. A gracious community that takes into account memory loss certainly helps on the days when we forget.

Are you paying attention to what really matters? There are so many benefits, including a propensity to feel less self-pity, loneliness and depression. When we pay attention, we realize that we are not alone, in fact, we are usually in the company of others who are going through the exact same thing we are!

How you build relationship matters

How we cultivate relationships has wide reaching effects. My daughter is as (or more) likely to my friend when she needs help as she is me. A few of my own children’s friends have turned to me over the years when they were heartbroken or burdened with a weighty decision rather than their parents. My husband, Pete, has had a couple of “lunch and lectures” with kids who had their own parents but had spent enough time in our home that we had permission to have a crucial conversation over an issue that needed addressing.

I always felt when my children were younger that if something happened to Pete and I, my children would continue to be well loved. I hope my friends thought the same in reverse.

This does not happen in a vacuum. We do not accidentally create a village to support the nurturing and growing of the next generation. This is hard work and requires intentionality.

I think this commitment to working hard at maintaining relationships deserves our attention. It makes our lives richer; it improves the community; it makes it easier for the outcasts and the suffering to find a safe harbor. The weight of suffering can be born easier by the community than just one person.

I challenge us all to keep tending to the village. Our lives depend on it.