A husband who was kicked out after he had an affair begs his wife to let him back home, saying, “The affair is over. Trust me.”
A mom whose alcohol misuse embarrasses her kids at their sporting events protests when they don’t want her to attend anymore. “I won’t embarrass you again, trust me.”
A friend who frequently asks to borrow some money asks once more, promising, “I’ll pay you back, trust me.”
A teenage daughter wants to go with her friends to the all-night “after-prom” party at the hotel. The parents resist and she adamantly asserts that nothing bad will happen, “Just trust me.”
Each of these scenarios demonstrates a misunderstanding and a misusing of the word trust. We should never say “Trust me” because that’s simply not the way trust works.
Trust is not a choice. Love is a choice. Forgiveness is a choice. Transparency is a choice. Compassion is a choice. Blogging is a choice. Trust is NOT a choice; it’s something else. Trust is actually a feeling.
Trust is a feeling.
- Of safety.
- Of confidence.
- Of certainty.
- Of comfortability.
- Of a lack of apprehension.
- Of a lack of worry.
- Of a lack of skepticism or cynicism.
- Of a lack of anxiety.
Since trust is a feeling, commanding someone to “Trust me,” is about as senseless as telling someone to “feel nauseous,” “feel sentimental,” or “feel lonely.” Trust is not something one simply decides to do. Like all feelings, it’s merely a description of what is. We don’t change feelings by imploring people to feel otherwise. Healthy people don’t tell others to feel–or not feel–a certain way. We shouldn’t minimize feelings or encourage others to stuff their feelings. Feelings just are.
It’s true that feelings, including trust, can change, but we don’t change them by begging someone to change their feelings. We change feelings by changing the conditions that caused the feelings.
Here are some tips if you want someone to trust you
1. Be consistently dependable, principled, wise, honest, and safe–in other words, be trustworthy! This is the best way to gain and maintain trust. Since no one is completely consistent, when you do fail –and you will!–be sure to quickly accept responsibility and make things right. That’ll restore trust promptly.
2. If someone feels unsafe due to the magnitude or duration of your past hurtful behavior, this is a sad situation. Trust is easy to lose and hard to regain, and it’s entirely possible that trust will never be restored. But if you care about the relationship, you will do whatever it takes to attempt to restore trust. And, be assured, it will not be easy. Here are some thoughts for you…
- Trust is yours to earn, not the other’s to grant. The onus is entirely on you to prove you are worth trusting.
- Restoring trust involves the past, present, and future. It is possible only after 1.) owning and repairing the damage already done in the past and 2.) acting significantly differently in the present and 3.) consistently showing safe, changed behavior from here on.
- How much time will it take? No one knows how long it will take, not even the distrustful person. The longer the harmful behavior lasted and the more serious its nature, the longer it will take to restore trust. Since trust is a feeling, it’s impossible for anyone to predict when that person will feel safe–it could take a week, a month, or more than a year. We can’t put “Trust will arrive here!” on the calendar. But, the more aggressively you take responsibility for past mistakes and make noticeable changes from here on out, the better your chances will be. Focus on showing consistent, improved behavior over time, while waiting, hoping, and praying for trust to someday return.
3. Sometimes the lack of trust isn’t about you directly, but about issues pertaining to the other person (past abuse, assumptions, stereotypes, anxieties, awareness of human nature, etc.). If this is the case, it would be wise to spend time getting to understand the distrustful person’s hurts, fears, prejudices, or anxieties. Then you can work together on alleviating those that can be overcome. By showing empathy, sensitivity, and care, you will be increasing the chances that you will overcome the disadvantages and be trusted in spite of them.
Two Final Thoughts
It’s ok to say, “I want you to trust me” just as it would be ok to say, “I want you to feel safe with me.” This is a statement about a desired outcome, not a demand for the person to feel a certain way.
Only God can truly say, “Trust Me!” Because of his faithfulness, holiness, and perfection, he alone has the right to tell us to feel safe with Him!
Proverbs 3:5-6 (The “life verses” of my dad, Jim Forstrom, who died exactly five years ago today)