Building trust is a long process

We have a mechanic whom we trust. If he says our car needs a major repair we thank him for finding the problem. We do not get second or third opinions - although I do not think he would be particularly offended if we did seek outside input. We do not waffle about whether or not to take his advice. We do not curse our misfortune at his hands or blame him for finding a problem. Why? Because we trust him.

Why do we trust him? Because we have built a solid relationship over the years that has made trust possible. He has never let us down, although there was that one time he forgot to tighten a new tire fully and that resulted in an interesting ride back to the shop. Did we stop going to him because he made a mistake? No. He immediately acknowledged his error and made amends. Our long history gave us context to chalk it up to a fluke and we did not allow it to overly influence our capacity to trust him.

Trust is built over the long haul. This is true in all relationships, including our faith in God. But today

does not have to bear the weight of total trust building. Today is a step not the entire journey. But it does require taking a step. We have to keep a steady pace, we need to keep actively engaging in our faith journey. We have to allow for confusions and even doubts. We have to “turn” and keep “turning”, one day at a time (as the Third Step points out so clearly when it asks us to turn our live and will over to the care of God).

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

~Ephesians 4:15-16, The Message

Are you actively pursuing spiritual maturity? Is there anything you need to change in order to continue your faith journey?

Trust is work

My husband’s willingness to trust me with his color choices seems like a silly, small matter. But his struggle was real and I often think about how hard it was for him to admit this one true thing about himself - he mixes up black and blue. How hard should that be? It isn’t like he was copping to being a serial killer! If I think a bit longer, I realize that I too have trouble with small truths.

Is it any wonder that, if we struggle with realistically assessing ourselves in areas where the results really are no big deal, we will struggle in the arena of trusting God with our WILL and our LIFE? For decades I did not have much hope that I would ever understand God enough to trust him. My vision of who God is was impaired. One day I came across these verses:

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

~ James 1:16-18, The Message

I had a moment of receiving “light cascading down” as a series of new thoughts. (I did not realize at the time that this was my experience; it is only in hindsight that I understand that this is what happened to me.) Here is a list of what eventually became a new way of seeing for me. (Kind of like having my own spiritual form of color blindness taken from me.)

* I am off course; how much more off course can I get? I’m dying from my disease.

* What if I am off course in part because I have been wrong and blinded by my own faulty way of seeing and understanding the world?

* What if the book of James is right, and I am wrong?

* What do I have to lose?

* What if I choose to believe in this God who is not deceitful, not two-faced, not fickle?

* What if God really believes that we humans are the crown of all his creatures?

* What if God believes in me?

In the AA Big Book, and in meeting rooms, there are talks about having a moment of clarity. This was one of mine. In some ways it felt like I had been in a dark, airless, windowless room for a long, long time and someone had swept in, turned on a light, thrown back the curtains and opened the windows. Fresh air blew in and cleared away the stench of stagnation. I do not believe I could have “done this” on my own. I believe that God was doing for me what I absolutely could not do for myself - giving me, a blind beggar, sight. How about you? Is it time for a good Spring cleaning of old ways?

What is distracting you?

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

~ Romans 1:23

Take a pause and journal or make a list or consult with your sponsor or spiritual director. Ask for feedback. Give yourself time to really think about this:

In what ways are you chasing after free cheesecake?

What distracts you from living with more intention?

How can you find the peace that comes when our resolutions align with our core values and intentions for life?

I remember a conversation I had many years ago with a young woman who was having a devil of a time stringing sobriety days together. She was extremely frustrated with her family’s reaction to her relapses. She felt they had turned cold toward her. They no longer were willing to “share in her suffering” after a relapse. They were done talking about it and they were unwilling to act as if she was sustaining long term recovery. They stopped counting on her; they stopped expressing sorrow when she didn’t show up for a family event. She was livid. She felt this showed a lack of Christian love. She felt they were not working a solid recovery program. She talked about all her experience in treatment, and waxed eloquent about what everyone around her was doing to ruin her recovery experience.

She had no clue how foolish her words sounded. Although she had access to a strong recovery support network, she exchanged that opportunity (privilege really) for the chance to blame others.

Are there any exchanges that you are making? At what cost?

Caring for yourself helps your relationships

When it comes to maintaining relationships or ending them, can we all acknowledge that it is very hard and often tricky? May I suggest that we all need to be doing our own work - self-care, accountability for our stuff, finding moments of respite, on and on.

This kind of focus on ourselves is not selfish, it is restorative. It is awfully hard to have healthy relationships with others if we do not have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

How are you doing with your own responsible living? Need to make any adjustments?

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.

Trust is not the same as being like-minded

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

~ Proverbs 18:24 The Message

Even as a child, I learned one particular non-negotiable relationship issue. It was trust. I learned that the difference between someone my grandparents were friendly with and someone for whom they counted on was predicated on trust. My grandmother was wicked smart; she watched people; she let people have the time it took to teach her whether or not she could trust them. I’m not sure if others necessarily knew which list they were on, but my grandmother was crystal clear. She could be friendly with everyone, but she trusted only those that taught her they could be trusted. She was patient; she waited for people to teach her who they were and if they could be trusted with her most vulnerable realities. For her, trust was NOT about total agreement on all subjects, it was about whether or not a person had the capacity to care and be cared for as circumstances dictated.

My grandmother maintained a certain amount of watchful but kind distance in some relationships, she even had a couple of notable compassionate endings to relationships that proved incompatible with the community she was part of. Many benefited from her quiet ability to be a good friend to others and choose her own friends wisely.

A Prayer for Wednesday

Last week we talked about change, bravery, trust, receiving feedback and the skill set of relational reciprocity.  Can we pause to admit that change is not easy?  Can we agree with Brene’ that it often requires us to challenge long held perspectives and rules which our family system has propagated for generations? 

 

In their book Rooted In God’s Love, Dale and Juanita Ryan speak to this very topic (pp.134-135) and offer a prayer, here it is:

 

Lord, it isn’t just me

that I am trying to change.

I am up against

generations of dysfunction.

An empty way of life

has dominated my family for a long time.

It has been passed down to me.

No wonder it seems so hard to change.

I need your help, Lord.

Help me to find hope

in your understanding of my struggle.

Help me to find hope in your gift of redemption.

AMEN

 

I pray this for you; I ask you to pray this for me.  Together, we carry on. 

Learning to be Reciprocal

Here are some things I have learned about reciprocity.  As a review, reciprocity can happen when folks are in relationship with one another AND they have worked out respectful, reasonably safe, and helpful ways of giving one another feedback.  This feedback, in theory, can help all parties learn and grow.  In reciprocal relationships either party is in a position to learn at all times.

 

To return to an earlier example.  Perhaps I write something on our blog and someone I have a reciprocal relationship with reads it and says, “Wow, I don’t think Teresa loves Jesus.”  In reciprocity, they come over to my house or office with a latte and say, “When I read your blog post, I thought to myself - I don’t think Teresa loves Jesus.” 

 

This gives me the PRIVILEGE of saying, “Well, this is so great to hear.  What did I say that gave you that impression?”  And they tell me. And then they get the privilege of hearing my reasoning behind what I said and my thoughts on my love for Jesus.  It’s a big win win.  The air is cleared.  We move forward.

 

Now, there are some important principles to consider:

  1.  It is not ok to tell someone else what they feel or think or believe.  This is huge.  So if my friend asks me if I love Jesus, and I say yes, my friend is free to tell me why I confused her with my blog post on that point, but she is NOT free to tell me I do not love Jesus.  See the difference?
  2. This works best if there is trust and respect in a relationship.  Honestly, I will have a different response depending on who brings the feedback.  If my son tells me I do not love Jesus, seeing as how we work together and live as a close knit family - Geez, I am going to be inclined to believe him!  And then I, being a person who wants to love Jesus with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, will ask for help in learning how to love Jesus more.  See how that works?  He has CREDIBILITY. 
  3. Even if someone does not have a large repository of trust in my relationship bank gives me unsolicited feedback (because I won’t go asking for feedback from someone I fundamentally do not trust, because that would just be silly), I can still treat them with respect.  I will probably respond quite differently to the feedback, but my core values invite me to treat everyone respectfully.  Make sense?

 

How do these ideas impact the way you relate to others?  Any insights?