Trust: Granting Versus Earning
Maybe you’re familiar with the saying “trust is earned, not given.” Based on the number of clients that have shared this during a session over the last five years I would have to conclude that many of us subscribe to this theory.
In some ways and circumstances this serves us: it keeps us out of dangerous situations and abusive relationships. But when we assume this posture 24/7, outside of real threat, it begins to work against us.
The essential flaw with this way of operating is that it assumes that if we set up enough hoops for folks to jump through, or a high enough wall for them to climb, we will avoid being hurt and disappointed. It also places us in a position where we begin looking for people’s flaws instead of their strengths. We overlook where they are really coming through for us and over-emphasize where they fall short of our expectations. If you have ever been on the other end of a non-trusting relationship, you can quickly bring to mind how it feels to know that no matter what you do this person will not believe in your good intentions.
Oddly enough, we actually gain more control in the situation when we accept that times of hurt and both minor and major let-downs are just some of the realities of being in relationships. This then leaves some room for us to look for the good in our friends, partners, and families and ultimately, helps us build those close and loving connections we deeply desire.
When we grant people trust rather than forcing them to earn it we are practicing what spiritual director Michael Bernard Beckwith calls being “consciously naive,” and we’re calling it a practice for two important reasons…
First, this is not by any means a shortcut to happiness and healthier relationships. It requires a lot of work on our end, without expecting or anticipating validation from anyone outside of us. It is not about running up to everyone we meet, exclaiming “I trust you so much!!!” like a converted Mister Scrooge. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable and a consistent reminder to not pull away, lash out, or tear others down when they slip up.
Secondly, while granting trust will eventually become closer to second nature than throwing up our guard, it is an intentional posture we choose to take in a relationship and in many ways goes against our primal instincts of fight or flight. Because of this, the work of being consciously naive has to be an ongoing effort in the day-to-day and a continuing education throughout our life.
What do you think about this new way to view trust? Look inside of yourself and see what feelings arise when you think about granting trust versus gaining trust. Let this idea be a seed and see what grows from it over time!