“It’s important for you to know that you are going to have to earn my trust.” Standing in front of the gathering, I was taken aback by this opening proclamation from a participant. In a moment of grace I responded, “Thanks for sharing that with me. How does someone earn your trust?”
Trust is tricky. I’ve yet to encounter a human who doesn’t have trust history. These experiences predispose us to how we will respond to others. Our family of origin, friendships, romantic relationships, professional or religious experiences all can shape how we engage with others.
As I drove home from that gathering I was fixated on the word “earn”. I realized that I had a very limited experience of having to earn another’s trust. And the real learning was that my perspective was a place of privilege. I was raised in a family that was surrounded by friends in the context of a community that was safe, which made trust feel normative. I became acutely aware not everyone has this same experience of trust.
If I had been raised in a family where my emotional or physical health were not safe, if my friends would have mistreated or taken advantage of me, if I had lived in a community where those charged with taking care of me or protecting me did not do so, I’m certain my perspective on trust would be significantly different.
Trust is a critical component of any healthy individual or communal relationship. In fact, I would suggest that the level of trust in any given relationship is commensurate with one’s capacity to be vulnerable in relationships. And as we all know, it is very challenging to open ourselves if we have been wounded by a betrayal of trust.
So how do we build trust? It’s different for each of us. I have learned two key ingredients are respect and time. The more we treat one another with dignity, the more willing we are to open ourselves to trust. We earn trust by building trust. We build trust by consistently respecting the dignity of the other person as a Beloved child of God.
We have much work to build trust in our world. Many individuals and segments of the population have been disregarded rather than treated with the respect every human being deserves. It will take consistent work by all of us in demanding respect for all God’s children.
“Only when enough adults practice and teach children love and respect at home, in schools, religious congregations, and in our political and civic life will racial, gender, and religious intolerance and hate crimes subside in America and the world.” Marian Wright Edelman