Brankica Ljamić, PhD
Trust is not a given, it has to be built up.
Trust is not a given, it has to be built up. It is built up (or comes crashing down) especially at difficult times, when life sets us up for discovering something we did not know. When someone, for example, turns out to know a secret of ours, a secret we have shared with only one person. Or when our knowledge of someone’s whereabouts gets shaken up as we find out that the person was seen at a different place altogether. Or when a long-time client, to whom we gave a disproportionate discount, reveals some delicate details of our business practice to make a quick buck behind our backs. Etc. Etc.
How many times has something similar happened to us? And what did we do then?
We could have gotten angry, for example, and let the other party know about it; face them with what we had found out about the matter and demand an explanation. We could have expected to be told the truth, hoping that hearing the truth would have restored our shaken trust. We “corner” the person in order to find out if indeed they are worthy of our trust.
We could also have kept our exasperation to ourselves and shown by our keeping silent and unavailable that something was wrong, expecting “the culprit” would know the reason of our withdrawal and respond to it in the way we thought appropriate under the circumstances. Each of these reactions would go in support of the fact that our trust has been shaken.
We could have, on the other hand, just closed our eyes before the unexpected new information. And done so in similar cases in the future as well. Until a certain moment and a certain situation, when we reach our breaking point…
How useful was such behaviour to us?
Without any significant exaggeration, I maintain that these and similar challenges we face every so often are very important for the quality of our future lives. Situations like these can turn us into the “bitter” person that comes to evaluate all future experiences with his or her “bad” experiences in mind. A bad experience retains its foulness if it makes us become (in)visibly suspicious of everyone we come to meet or have relations with thereafter. A bad experience ends with our deciding that we have learned our lesson, that grieving time is over, and we can move on with our heart whole and open to building trust with other people.
Trust is not a given to be given away, it must be built up and remains a “work in progress”.
Gifts can be problematic in this regard, a frequent burden to relations when devotion is under scrutiny, as questions of the gift’s value get raised. Whose gift is more valuable? Or larger? Or more beautiful? What becomes evident then is what we were thinking in giving a certain gift to someone, i.e. what value we thought fit the occasion.
Trust is founded rather on the mutual understanding, dedication, and responsibility to each other, that in good times and in bad we would remain true to whatever we agreed upon. Therein lies our power of determination: not assuming that others are aware of the criteria of our trust. It is up to us to articulate them clearly. If something is in peril, we should point this out. We have not made a gift of anything. We are just checking how things stand with the work we have going together. We are sharing our view of the matter when someone’s having gone to a different place is made known to us. We say what our thoughts are on the matter of our business information ending up where it wasn’t supposed to. We present a situation as it seems from our point of view because we want to see if the foundations of our common endeavor are sound. We are having a conversation. We initiate an exchange in order to find out, based on the replies we get and future reactions, whether we want to continue to build in such a context. Or we decide that there are better investments to be made elsewhere.
The most important investment being the investment in ourselves. In our well-being, that will not be burdened by “bad” experiences from the past, which refuse to go away.