The meaning and impact of trust

“I trust you.”

I have said it to children. I have *not* always said it to friends, in such friendships in which the words were not necessary, because the foundations of the friendships have been created and are renewed with mutual honesty, integrity, good will. I have said it in the sanctity of a bedroom with a beloved. I have offered it in the midst of emotional and challenging conversation, made it a gift entertwined with the feelings of love and generosity in my heart.

I have recently realized that when I say, “I trust you”, to men in a romantic context, it is not the gift my ego has taken it to be, but rather it is aspirational in nature, a wish to cast a transformational spell. It is a plea from my inner child who desperately wants to find a safe place, a nurturing place, with a guarantee that she will not be harmed, wounded. It is a tool, a way to bend reality and create that safe place, an attempt to bind one form of projection permanently into the soul of the person to whom those words are uttered, in order to prevent the other projection, fearful and destructive, from coming true/being revealed.

My trust has been focused on actions, whether bad or good. It hasn’t been trust at all, really, but a belief that a person will do things that are harmful to me or helpful to me. This belief is sometimes based in evidence from prior actions, and sometimes based in desire or fantasy. It is often tethered to projection instead of a solid understanding of who the person actually is, to the degree that such an understanding is really possible. We all project, all the time. It is part of our human nature and training.

Attempting to construct this belief about what people will do or not do is a dead-end road. It cannot succeed in its effort to make us safe. People are not predictable or controllable in that way, by themselves or by anyone else. However, using relationships in which there is a solid foundation like the ones I mentioned above as a model, it is clear to me that we can know and trust another person’s heart, their soul, their intentions, even while understanding that human beings hurt themselves and each other. It is part of our human condition.

When we say, “I trust you,” but we really mean, “Don’t hurt me,” or, “Don’t fail me,” or, “Don’t disappoint me”, or, “You owe me,” we aren’t really trusting, of course. When we say, “I trust myself,” but we really mean, “I’m counting on myself to get all the results I want and avoid all the results I consider harmful to me,” we aren’t really trusting ourselves.

With my kids, I think it’s a good thing to tell them I trust them, but only if how I treat them backs that up, and only if I’m not saying it in a subconscious effort to coerce them into good behavior by establishing an unwritten standard for their behavior. With myself, I think it’s a good thing to tell my inner child, but only as a genuine expression of true appreciation for my heart and soul and good intentions, and a recognition of my follow-through and integrity. With friends, I think it’s a good idea to express the trust I feel as a part of my expression of the love and appreciation I have for them and for our friendships.

In a romantic context? I am not sure. I think for me, at this point I can’t make global statements like that, because I am not fully aligned with them. So I think I have to get more granular and talk about circumstances, specific actions. “I appreciate that you consistently ask me if I’m done talking before responding to what I’ve said; it helps me feel more comfortable with you”, for example. Also, I want to express appreciation for a romantic partner’s heart & soul & good intentions, as I would with my friends or myself.

In addition to that, I need to have compassion for myself, for the fact that I have a hard time trusting men, and be an active advocate for myself and my well-being within the context of a romantic relationship. And I need to remember that in that kind of relationship especially, the person whom I need to rely upon and with whom build trust the most, is myself. It’s easier to truly trust others when we’re not depending on them to do the work we really need to do ourselves.

And of course, taking the risk of trusting someone is good and healthy, as long as we understand that no level of trust is a guarantee of any particular result. It’s an attitude, an extension. It can be a beautiful act of love when it is free of the weight of obligation. Essentially, I think trust, like forgiveness, is given for the benefit of oneself. It cannot be blind, and it must be free.

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