When we think of the word trust, most of us have a few people that immediately pop into our head because we either value how deeply we trust them or we recall an experience where we were deeply hurt, betrayed, or our trust was taken for granted. I know I do! Often the reason we feel hurt or betrayed by someone is because we have awarded them a level of trust they have not yet earned. Or because they are trustworthy in some of the qualities, we believe them to be trustworthy across the board, and our unrealistic projection of who they are makes us feel hurt when they don't live up to our expectations. The level of trust we show someone should directly reflect our experience with each individual. One lesson that I wish I had learned at a younger age (better now than never!!) is that you can learn more about a person's behaviors than their promises. We also have the tendency to associate trust with likability.
I love the quote from Maya Angelou "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."
Competence. When someone is competent it allows us to trust their opinions and recommendations.
Care. When we are putting our emotions into someone’s hands, we need to know they care and that they have your best interests in mind.
Character. We look to those with a strong moral compass and uncompromising values to trust. They help us when we feel uncertain or need wisdom and guidance.
Consistency – There are certain people you can count on who are reliable, present, and available when you need them. These people will stick with you through the highs and lows.
He also highlights 4 levels or stages of trust:
Neutral trust: When you first meet someone and hold a general sense of trust that they are able to offer a base level of trust.
Contractual trust: At this level, you trust that if you help them, they will most likely help you in some way. It also refers to the unspoken understanding that if you offer a favor or pay for dinner, you will be paid back or be offered an equal form of compensation within a timely manner. It can also mean that if you set an appointment or make a plan, you trust that they will follow through on the engagement. Someone may be able to show consistency and predictability but that doesn't mean they have earned the deeper more intimate level of trust. Jumping ahead at this level is common.
Mutual trust: This stage is derived from the mode of goodness, positivity and peace. this is the level that most good friendships and relationships fall into. It allows for a deeper more fluid level of trust that rather than a more rigid agreement both parties agree to ahead of time, like in Contractual trust, this is more fluid in the sense of knowing that if I pour into you, I trust and believe that you will pour into me and we deeply care about the other's well being.
Pure trust: This is the highest level of trust and pure goodness. You know, without a doubt, that no matter what happens, this person has your back and vise versa. These people are there for you through the good and the bad.
I recently heard the analogy of a tree. We have our root people, the pure and mutual trust people. The relationships help keep us grounded in solid earth, nourish us and grow deeper with time. Next are the branch people who are there when you are looking to be adventurous and playfully, swing from limb to limb. They can be pretty solid like the contractual trust knowing they are there and you can count on them but if you step too far out on the limb it will break and they will not be there to catch you. Then you have your leaf people. These are the people who float in and out of your life, they are trustworthy in the sense that they will respect you and you can count on basic human consideration and kindness but they come and go easily and float away when the conditions or seasons change.
In a poem by Brian A. "Drew" Chalker he said:
"People come into our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime."
These people all have a meaningful place and contribute to the richness and diversity of our lives but knowing that place in your life will help you navigate and enjoy each relationship more fully for what it actually is. In the same way, we can begin to look at ourselves and be honest with what WE have to offer those people as well. Knowing our strengths while understand and having compassion for our shortcomings can help us be more empathetic as well as show up in these relationships more authentically, rather than trying to be or offer something we are not. Know that the role we play in people's lives may not always match the role they play in ours.
No one person can fulfill all roles in our lives so getting to know what we value in each relationship we have is key! In my life, I tend to always give people the benefit of the doubt and I truly do believe that there is goodness in everyone and choose to see that good in all people. The struggle I have been faced with is that when we carry this perspective of seeing the goodness and potential in everyone, we can sometimes expect more from people than they have available to offer us.
How this new understanding of trust has helped me look at the relationships that I allow into my life is having the openness to love and see everyone for the beauty they hold and are, while taking my time to allow a relationship to unfold naturally and in addition, allowing those that prove to not fulfill trust, to naturally fall away with no judgement. In addition, not expecting all relationships to develop into pure trust and knowing the people I do trust can't and usually aren't capable of being trustworthy in ALL four qualities. I have begun to get better at seeing and meeting people where they are and choosing to offer trust as the relationship opens and allows space for it.
Learning when, where and how deep we can open ourselves up to trusting someone, creates a deeper and stronger connection with those we HAVE had the pleasure of walking the journey of trust with. That in turn, then creates a deeper, more intimate and meaningful relationship. Allowing the connection to evolve and richen over time. All the while, we have the pleasure of continuing to send and receive love in its truest form.
May we open our hearts to love, always and allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to take self-aware steps towards knowing each relationship's value while we watching them deepen in their time.
All the love,