Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rebuilding Trust

Of the many challenges I have experienced I think the most difficult has been that of rebuilding trust after it has been broken. For me trust was a characteristic built into my core from an early age. Unfortunately, it had also already begun to break down. My first recollection, in retrospect, was the divorce of my parents when I was eleven. I didn’t think of it as a trust issue then, but I realize now that it was. I had trusted in the security of my home and of the love of my parents. Would I still be loved? Would we be okay?

For a child a nurturing home is one of the most important aspects of his or her development. My memories are of a nurturing home. I remember the things I did with my dad, like watching him when I was five years old work for hours on the wood lathe creating his own set of chessman. The necks on the pawns were less than an eighth of an inch thick. Turning them on the lathe meant a great many were broken before he completed the set. He hand carved the horse head knights. I still have that cherished set today. I remember on “allowance day” when he would come home from work and give me the change from his pocket.

My mother was the one who watched and consoled me when I brought home dead birds so I could give them a proper burial in the cigar boxes she would bring home from her restaurant job. It was my mother and sister who taught me “manners,” an important characteristic for relating to others. Sadly, today, so few children seem to have that learning opportunity.

These and many more were the childhood experiences that provided security and happy memories. They inconspicuously built the trust that I only now realize was my childhood environment. Through the years as an adult I was still basically a trusting person. I did not expect people to give me any reason not to trust them. Of course, like most of you, there have been people who did let me down and there have been people that I know I have also let down.

Once we break a trust or have someone we trusted turn on us, the road to restoring trust in that person is often difficult. Not only is it difficult to regain trust in that person, but also our ability to trust in general is shaken. If we are not careful we become skeptical about the intentions of others. We may isolate ourselves from social interaction so we will not be disappointed again. I recently had a phone call that brought up the trust issue again for me. It was from a person who I felt had seriously broken my ability to trust him. I found myself wondering as I spoke with him, “Why is he calling me now? What does he really want?” After completing the call I found I continued to be disturbed. What bothered me most was the fact that I was asking myself these questions rather than simply respecting the reengagement after a long separation. Even if there might have been ulterior motives, I did not know that. It was simply a suspicion, a fear.

Regaining our ability to be trusting requires that we look to a higher level of engagement rather than what our human fears provide. As we build our trust in the spiritual energy in which we live, move and have our being, we will be secure enough to be loving and forgiving rather than skeptical and overly cautious. We will be able to give someone a second, or even a third chance. I have proven this in my life many times. It is still disappointing when it appears a trust is abused, but my recovery time becomes shorter and shorter as I concentrate on the essence of each of us that knows our oneness and the value of the lessons we provide to each other.

I am reminded of a favorite Biblical quote of one of my professors in seminary.

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -- II Tim.2:15

“Rightly” dividing the word of truth has always meant to me attempting to carefully use my understanding in such a way as to improve my “workmanship” in building healthy, supportive, and forgiving relationships. This has not always been easy, but I believe this is a key to rebuilding trust.

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