“Trust me,” are the words of the infamous serial liar and whiz-kid, Stephen Glass standing in California ‘s highest court…but trust isn’t something we can ask for. Trust must be earned. Whether politician, doctor, lawyer or plumber-they all want our trust. So do our kids, our spouse, and the neighbor down the street. Sometimes we give it freely, often reluctantly and sometimes not at all. Sophocles said, “Trust dies but mistrust blossoms.” Why, we ask? What is trust anyway and how do we go about building trust in a relationship?
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To me, trust is pictured best as seen in the eyes of an infant who is contentedly safe and secure in the arms of its parent. Another totally different picture of trust is what you and I do regularly- we put our hard earned money in a bank; we entrust what is valuable to us into the care and safety of another. It’s something that is mine, that I deposit for safekeeping and I go about life confident it’s safe. A trusting infant, a trustworthy bank, a trusting friend–if this trust dies, for any reason, mistrust is born.
There is little more deadly to a developing relationship than broken trust. Broken promises and unmet needs cause something in us to die. Some third world countries have too many orphans and two few care givers. When I first learned this, I was surprised to also learn that there are no crying infants in these orphanages. Why, I asked? The answer startled me. The infants have learned that crying doesn’t help. Their instinctive cry for help is not answered and they stop crying. I’m told, this experience will affect them for life.
Disaster of Distrust
Past experiences of broken trust stunts the growth and developing relationship. Broken trust stifles closeness, confidence, and companionship. Several years ago my husband and I gave the use of a credit card to a trusted friend to be use for only one expense under specific circumstances. I can’t tell you the shock we felt when we learned of our misplaced trust. I felt almost physically ill for days. I grieved in the shadow of lost trust and although God gave us the grace to forgive and the debt has finally been paid in full, the glow of our friendship is gone. These kinds of experiences lead to an even greater consequence. Fear. Distrust is our automatic default when we are afraid.
Mind you, some fear is healthy. It alerts us to danger like, when kids, our hand was in the cookie jar a half hour before supper and Mom had said no. We need to be afraid of her then; or when God says, “Be sure your bad choices (sin) will be found out.” Some fear protects us from really stupid, impulsive choices we will later regret. This is not the kind of fear we’re talking about here.
Fear, the kind that erodes trust, comes from being taken advantage of, used, ignored, disrespected, walked on or rejected. We re-act. One choice is to isolate ourselves by taking each memory, like a stone, and building a safety wall around ourselves. The problems is that the only thing behind the wall with us, is our painful memories and the loneliness of isolation.
Another choice is to react by manipulating the offender with loud, explosive, threatening anger, seeking revenge or by playing the martyr role, eliciting pity and indulgences as we lick our wounds.
How To Build Relationships
An honest look our default mode is a place to start. How do we handle hurt and rejection, real or perceived? Does my way of responding to my fears and unmet expectations serve to develop or undermine my relationships? Am I throwing bricks at others with which to build walls of protection or am I responding in a way that makes me dependable and trustworthy, making it safe for them to take down their walls?
As you can see, we can build or break trust. We can enlarge our relationships or we can close them off. There are some additional things that we can do toward creating and developing trustworthy relationships.
First we must recognize we can change our message: the one we give and the one we receive. We can choose not to manipulate but be politely honest and speak truth from our perspective. And, we can choose to believe that perhaps we are misunderstanding or misinterpreting the messages we are receiving. We don’t have to draw negative conclusions based on our perceptions and feelings before we know the actual facts.
We can choose not to pass out bricks. What would our world of relationships look like if we each choose only to hand out patience, and kindness-that which is only good and useful. No innuendos, no snubs, no looks, no “piece” of our mind, nothing but kindness, whether we feel that other person deserves it or not.
A third choice is to recognize there is a spiritual element to building relationships. It involves building a relationship with the only One who is completely trustworthy, the One who thought up relationships in the first place. A personal relationship with our Creator God, through his Son, Jesus Christ.
I was quite surprised a few years ago when I read that because Jesus Christ knows us so well He didn’t entrust Himself to any of us. (John 2:24-25). Of course I wondered how I was to trust anyone when He didn’t–seemed strange to me. Then I began to realize that to trust in an individual only – only will end in disappointment. Because we are people, imperfect, forgetful, busy, we fail each other. Only God will never fail us. Only He is worthy of our full and complete trust. It is as we observe the Holy Spirit at work in another’s life, that our trust in them increases and closeness develops. Our trust then, is ultimately is in Christ . We have no legitimate reason to hand out bricks. Only blessings. Building trust in relationships starts with us. You and me.
A Christian Relationship Coach
For some of you reading this, a Christian relationship coach could well be your next best step in building trusting relationships. Lila has years of experience in working with people seeing to resolve relationship issues. God gifts each of us differently, but to Lila He has given those gifts well suited to her coaching. Her wisdom and discernment along with her sincere encouragement gives hope to clients that are deeply discouraged or simply wanting to increase awareness. She can assist you in identifying the roadblocks that get in your way of developing the closeness and love you so deeply desire.