Can I Trust You?

Can I trust you? This question with just four words often occupies our minds to one degree or another, consciously or unconsciously. Whether we are talking about money, fidelity, social support, business dealings or secret-keeping, trust is needed. It is not restricted to the big things like major financial transactions or marital infidelity; it also plays a role in the seemingly mundane.

Trust in teachers and parents affects how well children learn their lessons. Trust in relationships affects day-to-day feelings of well-being. And trust in technology determines the quality of information we can access and how secure we can feel in doing so. If we ignore issues of trust – if we are not attentive to cultivating it where warranted and limiting it where it’s not – we’re not optimizing the experiences of our daily lives.

For most people, the thought of trust brings to mind the image of a handshake – a promise that each person will be loyal to the other with respect to some promise or monetary exchange. Although this focus on integrity certainly captures an important aspect of trust, it is more than this. Trust isn’t only about integrity; it’s about competence as well.

The success of depending on someone for assistance isn’t only a function of whether he or she intends to provide it; it also depends on whether he or she is capable of providing it. As much as many of you are well-intentioned, if and when I do develop some medical problems, say in my heart or my brain, I wouldn’t be seeking or trusting you unless you are a specialist in that area. Intent matters little if ability is absent.

So, whether it is health, money or technology, trust is necessary, and it includes both integrity and competence. The heart of the matter though, in trust, is that of relationships, and that’s what I’d like to elaborate most in this reflection.

Individual breaches of trust are both unwelcome and disturbing, as well as hurtful. But that which is most painful and makes us most vulnerable is that of love (in deep friendship, romantic and marital relationship). In such relationships, the desire and commitment to share, merge, depend on, bare our souls are deep and intense. As a result of these desires, it can often be exceedingly difficult to just “move on” when such a valued relationship fails.

Few events cause the level of emotional turmoil and searing pain as the betrayal of a trusted spouse or significant other. The losses, real and emotional, that accompany knowing the person you love has decided to leave you – or at least wants to leave you – can make almost any other loss seem trivial by comparison.

The main reason for this emotional turmoil stems from the magnitude of the cost and benefits attached to significant relationship. Love builds ties between two people. Study after study have shown the physical and psychological health of people in satisfying long-term relationships outstrips that of those who are single.

Whether it is economic, social, psychological, or otherwise, being in a long-term relationship serves as a plus. It provides you loyal support across many domains of life. As such, a good relationship serves as a buffer for challenges due to stress, finances, social dilemmas, and anything else that has potential to darken your future.

The question remains as to how we can cultivate trust. My main answer – by learning to be trustworthy. We can do this by honoring our word, making good our promises and letting our “yea be yea”. We can do so by cultivating honesty and integrity. And as noted above, we also do so by developing competence, being good (or, excelling) in what we do.

That’s all well and good, but we also know something else about ourselves and our (good) intentions and willpower: That we can’t always trust ourselves! Because of our sinfulness (depravity) and selfishness (in favoring short-term gains, without cost and sacrifice, and at others’ expense), intentions and willpower can and will fail. We truly need to trust God for His grace and strength to be empowered to be faithful (in marriage, to keep our vows), to honor our promises and to do His will.

Can I trust you? Certainly, we can when we learn to be trustworthy and lean on Him (God) who is faithful.