The Trust Paradox - May 2nd, 2020
What is it? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary contains two entries for trust...the noun and the verb:
Trust. Noun. Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something. One in which confidence is placed.
Hear that? Confidence...to confide in.
Trust. Verb. To rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of: BELIEVE. To place confidence in.
What are some synonyms of trust? Confidence, expectation, faith, hope, certainty.
So understand that when we talk about trusting something or someone as a human being, whether it’s the seat belt we’ve buckled to keep us inside of a vehicle or a person to hold our deepest secret in privacy...we’re talking about having faith, having hope in the certainty of our expectations.
Now what kind of trust are we talking about? If you’re listening right now it’s safe to say that you want to talk about trusting other human beings, in particular, trusting other human beings in romantic, family, and social relationships.
Why is trust so important in these relationships? Why is it so necessary for us to trust those closest to us?
Could it be that the act of trusting, of having or establishing trust, requires us to be vulnerable? That, in a way, we are exposing ourselves to the potential to feel pain when we place confidence in someone. It’s important here to remember that we are dealing with expectations.
Let’s talk for a second about expecting. What is it to expect?
We return to Merriam-Webster: Expect. Noun. to consider probable or certain.
What can we say is certain? Throughout history we’ve studied ourselves and our surroundings, and many things could be said to remain as “certain outcomes”...the passing of time, the life cycle of an organism or perhaps a battery cell.
But we’re humans...we have free will, and we’re immersed in a world that contains millions of other humans, each unique in physical and emotional form. Even as well as we think we can decipher the persona of those we allow into our lives, we never truly have certainty in what someone will feel, say, or do. And that is the underlying problem with trust.
We are literally trying to live with confidence in the expectations that we place on others. We are basing our confidence on the certainty of something that is uncertain.
This, is the trust paradox.
The trust paradox is not constrained to relationships. We do this with many other things in life: The expectation of a career advance; the expectation of recognition upon the completion of an academic program; the expectation that your $65 entree will taste good enough to offset the fact that you just spent $65 on $15 worth of food, or perhaps simply the expectation that a family vacation will go according to plan, without interruption.
Understand, I’m not saying that we can’t have expectations...the problem here isn’t really trust...it’s that most of us aren’t living a life in which we have so much confidence in ourselves...so much faith and hope that we will meet our expectations, that we live in serenity completely independent of the actions of others.
Is this easy? Not at all.
The need for connection with another life form seems to fall in quick succession to the basic needs for survival. We are social creatures. Even those with highly introverted personalities have a need to be loved. We want love. We crave it, even. It’s truly the only thing that can soothe the human spirit in those moments when the incredibly vast possibilities of this world seem to only result in pain and suffering.
This goes for love from others as well as self-love: Love has been, and will always be sought after by humans, because it quells the underlying fear and anxiety of existence, and it offers validation.
It says that we are worthy of someone’s affection, whether it be a parent, best friend, or love interest.
So when I tell you that the key to coming to terms with trust is to quit trusting...here’s what I mean:
Quit basing your confidence on the hope that what you expect from someone is certain.
What I do not mean, is that you can’t be vulnerable with someone. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t love with every inch of your heart, and hope for a fairy tale when you let someone into your life.
What I a saying is: You can’t base your gratitude for a relationship or experience on whether the person or experience meets your expectations. Every single experience in this life is a blessing, because it is a stimulus that requires our brain to adapt.
We grow from everything, if we can be strong enough to trust in ourselves. To have confidence in our value and worth as a human being, regardless of how anyone else chooses to perceive us. Your perception is truly the only thing over which you have complete control. It can be shaped and influenced by the outside world, but you ultimately choose how to frame the events of your life.
I want to say this again, because I think it’s a powerful statement, and one that I suggest all of you come to live by: Do not base your gratitude for the relationship or experience on that person/thing meeting your expectations.
Everything is a blessing, it’s a chance to shape who you are and the mark you leave on this world, no matter how small that mark may be. The smallest stitch in a quilt still serves a purpose, don’t ever forget that.
So, I’ve given you my perspective on why we seem to struggle with trust, or develop “trust issues”. Now I want to zoom in on that subject for a second and tell you why I think trust issues are bullshit.
When I say that, understand that I am referring specifically to trust issues, not to people who have issues with trust. I’m not speaking negatively about anyone, I am simply saying that I think the subject itself is a fabrication in which we frequently indulge.
Again, we established that trust, when it comes to humans, is essentially a paradox...we’re expecting certainty from what is not certain. So I don’t think we have trust issues...I think people suck.
Believe me, I include myself in that statement. I’ve done some shitty things in the past and there are probably still days to come where I will say or do something that will fall entirely short of someone’s expectations for me.
People suck. We get too comfortable in our skin, and fall into the depths of greed and lust. It’s much easier to live with ourselves when we don’t have to be held accountable for the expectations we crush when we do this.
Whether it's literal, verbal dishonesty in a relationship, or acting in a way that we would never want to be held accountable for, when we lie, we’re really just scrambling back towards that confidence. We are desperate for confidence in ourselves and our own worth or goodness, because we have done or said something that would describe us as quite the opposite.
Inconsiderate. Selfish. Disrespectful. Careless. Disgusting.
When we lie to someone, we are fleeing the consequence or experience resulting from our actions, in search of the assurance that we are still a good human being. Outside of human committed to an act of pure evil, I don't believe that we ever lie or deceive others in order to hurt them. Even in petty tit-for-tat retaliations within a relationship, I believe that the emotional inspiration for deception arises as a result of pain felt by the individuals in the relationship. For example: "You hurt me when you did that, so now I'm going to do this, etc".
This is the key right here...when you make the choice to live with confidence in yourself...to have faith and hope that you are enough...you are worthy, unique, and a blessing to those around you, you establish a foundation, an emotional center that is not jarred or set off course by the actions of others.
The injury in an insult seems to dissolve. The pain in learning you've been lied to is easier to shrug off. Nothing that this person said or did actually changed anything about you. And now you've refused to allow their perception to supersede your own perception of yourself.
This is confidence. This is shifting the expectation of certainty in how others will see you to a lens of perspective that is completely within your control. You.
We must all take this journey of development. We all choose different times.
I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, but some very magical things happen when you develop the strength to let go of the need to take offense.
It’s been said that it is impossible to embarrass or offend a truly humble man.
When you find peace in your life - trust in yourself, you start to see life differently. Shitty people seem to fade just a little further into the distance. Insults or failures don’t sting so badly. You discover that failing with one method just helps you to narrow down the path to the one that works, or redirects you to something even better.
Purpose becomes more apparent in even the smallest events, and you grow to realize that you can learn something from everyone. Sometimes you simply learn that you never want to be like that person!
But so much more often, you learn something of value. Something that shapes who you are.
When you shift your sensitivity from the opinions of others to the opinion of yourself, you broaden your ability to live life to the fullest. Your mind opens to a broader range of information, and now you've developed emotional filters to protect what you assimilate as truth about yourself.
So, in short, you can’t trust people.
Te concept is trash to begin with. It’s a paradox.
Get over it, and get on with your life. You can still love people, you can still be loved.
If anything, now that you understand that you can either gain new information and a find way to make it serve you, or let it go, you should be excited to develop relationships and give someone a chance to show you who they are. You don’t have to divulge information that could harm you, but you also don’t have to lie.
If there are things that you’re not comfortable gambling on when getting to know someone, you have every right to be honest and simply explain to them that you need to be at a certain point in your path with them before you’re comfortable discussing that subject, and that point has not yet been reached.
So to solve the trust paradox, we must have confidence in ourselves. We must rest in the faith that our spirit is worthy of existence. That we serve a purpose that cannot be shaken by the opinions of others. We can have hope that we'll find more beauty than pain in the world around us, but we have to be strong enough to trust that we can still be beautiful spirits.