Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trust is Granted Not Earned

I really enjoyed this article by Mike Robbins on trust.  I tend to be very cautious to prevent getting hurt, but in the end, that makes for a very dull and fearful life.  I guess it's better to go for it and get burned every now and then rather than never feeling anything and staying so protected.


How easily do you grant your trust to other people?  What factors play into your ability or inability to trust certain individuals around you?  What do people need to do to earn your trust?

As I personally reflect on these questions, I'm reminded of both the importance and complexity of trust in our lives, our work, and our relationships.  Trust is one of the most critical elements of healthy relationships, families, teams, organizations, and communities.  However, many of us have an odd or disempowered relationship to trust - we've been taught that people must earn our trust, when, in fact, it's something we grant to others.

I learned early in my life that it wasn't always safe to trust people - my folks split up when I was three, I went to tough schools and found myself in some difficult situations, and part of my "street-smart, survival kit" was to be very suspicious of just about everyone I came into contact with. While this did serve me to a certain degree as a child and adolescent (at least in terms of survival), as I got older I noticed that my resistance to trusting others created some real issues in my life and my relationships.

No matter how many "tests" I put people through in order to have them "earn" my trust, at the end of that whole process, it was ultimately up to me to grant them my trust (or not) - and then to continue to trust them (or not).

We each have our own internal process about trust - much of which is based on past, negative experiences.  In other words, we get burned, disappointed, or hurt in life and then decide, "I'm not doing that again" and we put up barriers around ourselves to keep us "safe."

While this makes rational sense, it usually leaves us guarded, leery, and insecure - unable to easily create meaningful and fulfilling relationships with people.  The irony is that no matter how guarded we are, how thick the walls we put up, or what we do to try to keep ourselves from getting hurt and disappointed; it usually happens anyway.

One of my teachers said to me years ago, "Mike, you're living as though you’re trying to survive life.  You have to remember, no one ever has."

What if we granted our trust more easily?  What if we were willing to make ourselves vulnerable, to count on other people in a genuine and healthy way, and to expect the best from others authentically?  Michael Bernard Beckwith calls this being "consciously naïve," which may seem a little oxymoronic on the surface, but at a much deeper level is very wise and profound concept.

Will be get hurt?  Yes!  Will we be let down?  Most certainly.  Will people violate our trust?  Of course.  However, this will happen anyway - it's just part of life.  Ironically, the more we are willing to grant our trust consciously, the more likely we are to create a true sense of connection, cooperation, and collaboration in our lives, relationships, families, teams, and more - even if we feel scared to do so or it seems counter-intuitive at times.

We almost always get what we expect in life.  What if we start expecting people to be there for us, to do things that are trust-worthy, and to have our backs and our best interests in mind?  As with just about everything else in life, it's a choice.  As Albert Einstein so brilliantly stated, "The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe."

I choose "friendly," how about you?