Trust and trusting: how to move out of blind faith
The more work I do on my personal growth, the more challenged I feel by patterns in my life that no longer serve me. In recent months, one of the patterns I’ve recognised is blind faith/trust in people — particularly in people undeserving of my trust.
Turn the other cheek may have been drummed into me in my upbringing, but it doesn’t always lead to healthy relationships. Just because you forgive someone for breaking your trust, that doesn’t mean you can’t draw a line in the sand.
But I have struggled with healthy boundaries.
Why do we choose blind faith in others?
If I’m honest, blind faith was a survival mechanism, and it allowed me to turn off my hypervigilance and slip into dissociation and apathy. I haven’t done well at keeping myself in a state of calm alertness.
A constant state of hypervigilance and distrust is so exhausting that it is a relief to turn to blind trust and just let it all go. As an adult, I still struggle with dealing with my anger, boundaries and injustices, and I shrink from standing up for myself, avoiding confrontations.
I get entrenched in hyper-independence through it all, which then swings round straight into hyper-dependence when I’m too tired to keep going. But I haven’t chosen the middle ground of trusting others — mainly because I couldn’t trust myself.
Choosing to be the victim
I can easily say, “that’s what I was taught to do” — and that would be true. It is what I was taught as a child:
- Do not dare to question those in authority;
- Do not speak up against others or be a tattle-tale;
- Rocking the boat will earn you a beating; and my all-time favourite
- God appointed those in authority, and if God wanted to remove them for wrong-doing, then God would do so, and it’s your responsibility to “pray about it” rather than taking action.
I could choose to sit in victimhood: “this is how I am, because of my childhood“.
But I choose not to.
I started to look at my patterns as generative learning — an opportunity to grow and change. And I share these learnings with you because I want you to recognise that you have options and choices available.
In noticing my patterns — pendulum swings — between distrust and blind trust, I noticed that “healthy trust” was sorely missing. Trust is not something we do from apathy, withdrawal or dissociation, and it is active and engaged: trust requires relaxed courage, curiosity, and calm presence.
The elements of trust
According to Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka, in their book mBraining, they identify the four elements of trust (learning to trust yourself):
To build trust, we have to voice our wants, needs, desires and motives. Trust is not built by ignoring your self-interest but rather by being open about your interests, values and what’s important to you.
Communication is also a two-way street: it’s both listening and sharing. As Covey said: “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”.
All communication leads to intimacy — a willingness to share pertinent information about the elements that really matter. It means that you are not withholding information or meaning from the conversation.
Compassion & Caring
We build trusted relationships when we have a heartfelt commitment to wellbeing: our own and that of others. Unless we recognise our own value and not just the other person's value, there is no genuine understanding.
Trust requires a sense of benevolence — caring for each other. It requires that we be open and transparent about what we care about — our values and importance.
Consistency of Action
There is so much I would like to say about consistency and character — being able to count on another person because they are reliable. Trusting is knowing that that they (and you) are predictable, and words like loyalty, honour and respect come to mind.
Of course, you might trust someone to be consistently self-interested. Even that level of consistency allows you to build a certain type of relationship. Perhaps it’s not a close one — but at least you can rely on them to be congruent in their actions.
The difficulty arises when people fail to align what they say with what they do: this is a pattern to notice. Can they be counted upon to keep their promises?
Perhaps, more importantly, I’ve learned that I have to trust myself — can I keep my promises? When I’ve established values and my vision, do I consistently choose in favour of these values or am I easily swayed and taken off track?
Consistency is not about constant selfless service: but rather that we build relationships of trust that are reliable and full of integrity.
Competency & Credibility
The final aspect of trust goes to mastery — being skilled and knowledgeable in what is asked of the other person or me. When I place my trust in a professional — are they truly professional in this area of expertise? Or are my expectations wrongly placed?
It’s more than the person being self-assured in their competence, but rather that they stay current and up to date, as well as speaking up and giving their opinion in moments when it matters.
In personal relationships, competency and credibility refer to playing their role in the relationship — managing expectations and then living up to them. It goes hand-in-hand with consistency — that they keep their promises and speak to unrealistic expectations.
I now recognise that I have a proactive role in building relationships: I listen to the desires of my heart and trust my gut. I stay engaged and curious, rather than withdrawing. Instead of seeing myself as helpless and needing to be rescued, I recognise that I must play a part in building my future.
I have to choose to be open and transparent; it doesn’t happen naturally. There are times I want to shut down, and I have to make a conscious choice to be vulnerable and compassionate.
When I commit to building relationships with myself, others, and the Divine, trusting relationships open up for me.
This is the short version of my personal blog post: Trust, Distrust and Blind Trust: rebuilding faith & hope