When I was young, I often heard from older and wiser adults that it’s hard to find people to trust and that the number of people who could be trusted would be an amount you could count on one hand. This went for all types of people: friends, family, bosses, employees, etc. The implication was that if we do find people to have a successful relationship with, it is because these people are “trustworthy.” But today, I would like to propose another perspective.
In my own experience, after getting burned over and over in the quest to find the magical human who is as trustworthy as myself**, I realized something: there are no trustworthy people so much as trustworthy relationships which are built with the time and effort of both people. Trust is built, not given.
Have relationships become a disposable commodity? Materialism and consumerism seem to have birthed prevailing and non-sustainable constructs that are not at all congruous with the nature of the human animal and how it properly bonds to another. With our modern cultural values, we have to ask ourselves, are we truly seeking out honest relationships which enable us to grow? Or are we looking for an entourage like P. Diddy has? A group of people who will be our yes-men, make it all about us, and look the other way from the destructive tendencies that arise in our blind spots. People tend to desire relationships built on their own terms. Despite all the facebook memes about tolerance, we are still intolerant around each other’s idiosyncrasies.
Perhaps because we are so good at consuming, we forget what goes into creating something in terms of the time and patience that is required. We are asked to trust people when we shouldn’t (especially in the medical industry) and we ask people to trust us when we shouldn’t because we “gotta have it now.”
It doesn’t matter if both people think they are trustworthy. If the relationship that is the bridge between the two humans isn’t a trustworthy one, then both are headed for a crash when the flimsy bridge breaks. It also explains why one person is seen one way by someone and another way by someone else. The schoolyard bully’s victim and his best friend see him very differently, but it’s the same person. What is different? The relationship. I think Rumi breaks it down best:
Sometimes you look at a person and see a cynical snake.
Someone else sees a joyful lover,
and you’re both right.
Everyone is half and half,
like the black and white ox.
Joseph looked ugly to his brothers
and most handsome to his father.
I get feedback from different people that their boss is untrustworthy, their spouse, their brother, their neighbor, their friend, their doctor. Are we dealing with an untrustworthy-human epidemic? If so, then what? That puts an awful lot of pressure on us to find “trustworthy” people to relate with or work for. It leaves room for a lot of disappointment. This perspective doesn’t dial into anything that makes us feel empowered.
What we could possibly do, is pay attention to the scaffolding of the relationships with the people who are in our lives. Don’t keep investing time and energy with a friend who feels threatened simply because you communicate your feelings. Don’t advance with a business plan with someone who is asking for trust based solely on their words. Don’t keep seeing the holistic doctor who makes you swallow his whole menu without letting you have any input.
Anyone asking for implicit trust off the bat, when we live in a society that has the problems it has, should raise a red flag with us immediately. A person who is capable of building a trustworthy relationship knows that it takes shared experience to show who we really are with each other and they have the wisdom to let their actions speak louder than their words when it comes to gaining your trust.
The idea is to look for, and encourage, balanced organic growth in any relationship between two people. Sustainable relationships are built on equality even if it’s just a relationship with your gardener. Small gestures of give and take can make all the difference toward building something trustworthy.
So we can switch from analyzing whether a given person who we have no control over is trustworthy, to keeping an eye on the relationship of which we at least have 50-50 control. We can transform the need to be a human x-ray machine, scanning for people’s untrustworthy intentions when we feel a pang of paranoia, to someone with a builder’s eye who can calmly take stock of what we are creating with anyone as we go along.
This takes an honest eye and vigilance. We may have to back off from plans with someone who seems like an easy person to deal with, or from someone who says all the right things. We may have to approach our relationships with less attachments, bias and prejudices for the shinier prospects. We may have to give when the receiving thing was getting pretty comfortable or vice versa. Or we may have to reconsider the person who has a different worldview than us, but upon further thought is more reliable than we first took note of.
We need to challenge through neutral observation all the things which are tucked away nice and neat in our minds that make us go on autopilot in relationships. It seems we would rather deal with a lot of suffering in life just to be able to go on autopilot. Remember, the autopilot curriculum for life is for those who end up saying, “Life goes by so fast, where did it go?”
**I am making fun of myself here. We always think of ourselves as the “trustworthy” one.