I have given this idea of trust as existing on a spectrum quite a lot more thought since yesterday when my therapist asked me what trust looks like. Apparently, trust isn’t something I do well. It’s not something I have given much thought beyond: people can’t be trusted (this includes myself) and trust leads to hurt. But, then my therapist says, “why does it have to be all or nothing? Can you accept that trust exists on a spectrum?” And, so, here we are… contemplating how trust really does exist on a spectrum. Because, I was thinking how easy it is to take a leap of faith and trust things like the sketchy patch job on my tire from Tuesday (I ran over a giant piece of metal).
I have no reason to believe that the patch will hold. I saw the piece of metal lodged in the tire. I saw how flat the tire was. I did not witness the tire being mended. But, it’s convenient to just trust the tire until it gives me reason not to…
So why is it so hard to do this with people? Obviously trust in the case of the tire is merely expecting reliability, that the tire will continue to do the job it was made for, and that the sketchy guys at the tire shop did the job they were paid for. But really, there isn’t much risk there… the worst that happens is the tire goes kapoot. It isn’t like that with people. We are far messier, less predictable… more capable of causing pain. There are too many variables. But… still…
I guess trust in other people is similar to the smaller acts of trust we engage in every day. It’s built on a foundation of reliability; being able to believe that a person will do what they say or will fulfill the expectations of a certain role. And, I guess that means that how trust is defined varies based on how each person is cast, what role they’ve been given (or have accepted).
In relationships trust is being able to feel safe with a person and showing that person that they’re also safe with you. Because trust is reciprocal, something both people choose to continually work on and work toward. It is proving, through actions that neither party wishes to hurt the other, physically or emotionally. And having the courage to stick around, talk about, and repair the relationship when hurt inevitably occurs. Trust is taking responsibility, not placing blame where blame doesn’t belong.
It is honoring each other’s truth, even when that truth does not look like our own. Trust is showing respect for what is spoken with sincerity. Trust is a willingness to share, to communicate, to provide relevant information. Trust is having the desire to listen without preconceived notions. Trust is being open, vulnerable, transparent; it is not hidden agendas.
Trust is flexible; it is knowing when to talk and when to listen, knowing when to come close and when to stay away. It is having the courage to ask when we don’t know. It is the willingness to prioritize each other’s well-being. Trust is showing respect for boundaries; it is listening for consent. Trust is not self-serving; it creates a space for two people to thrive. It is symbiotic.
Trust is freedom, providing space for growth and exploration. It is acceptance, showing compassion and kindness for where each person has been and where they are at currently. It is showing genuine interest in the whole person, the shiny bits and the dark, hidden bits.
Sometimes trust is a leap of faith, a calculated risk, a willingness to open up and see what happens. Because humans are fallible and trustworthiness is fickle. But that’s okay; it doesn’t quite seem so bad in this moment. Knowing that every day I already engage in other acts of trust makes it easier to see that leap as something I’m capable of. I mean, every time I drive to Dallas, I put trust in myself and others (that we won’t collide). Already, I’ve made a series of choices that demonstrate varying degrees of trust in others, in myself, and in this process (growing, healing). So, I guess trust really isn’t all or nothing.