One of the most important factors in any relationship is trust. The closer the relationship the higher the level of trust required. Trust is a kind of glue in a relationship that strengthens it and holds it together. In the Bible we see both the value of giving trust and withholding trust in our personal relationships. Additionally, we see there are levels of trust, each based on certain dynamics of the relationship. In simple terms, when it comes to trust, one size nor amount fits all. To one group, we observe in scripture “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Yet in another place, we read the words of Jesus “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Trust is a sacred treasure that, like all things God gives us to share, should be stewarded carefully. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
Typically, most of us fall into one of two categories… we either withhold appropriate levels of trust even when it’s safe, or we give too much trust prematurely. To be sure, the giving of trust into a relationship is an art and balance that is forever learned. Regardless of which side you tend to err on, here are some principals that have served me well as I seek to be better at building trust in my relationships.
1) Give trust in steps– For those who are hyper-sensitive to giving trust, if you learn you don’t have to give all your trust at once, it will help you to feel safe in giving a little bit at a time. Instead of never trusting, warming up to the waters of trust one step at a time can be very helpful and healthy. God operates under this same principal as His word says, “Those who are faithful with a little will be faithful much.” God first starts with a “little” before He ever gets to “much.” In fact, people who expect you to quickly trust them and become offended when you don’t, are typically people who aren’t very trustworthy anyways. There are some who may want you to prematurely give them all your trust at once (or lots of it) because they know, if you don’t, you might figure it out that you probably shouldn’t give them any of it. People who pressure you for trust (especially early on) are typically people who won’t respect it when it is given. When it comes to giving trust, sometimes less is more. Small steps overtime are much better than no steps at all. Yet, small steps overtime are also better then one immediate big step. For those who are too free with your trust, taking steps will help you to have the self-control that doesn’t pile on more trust into the relationship than it can handle. This is contra-productive. The relationship could have handled a smaller amount of trust and grown to build more, but instead too much was given prematurely, the trust was not honored, you are disappointed, and the relationship is worse off than if trust had been allowed to grow over time. Giving too much trust too soon might feel like it builds relationships and makes you a loving person, but in fact, it can make the relationship into a house of cards that easily falls down in ruin.
2) Go out of your way to show yourself to be trustworthy- I am often amazed at how we expect people to trust us while at the same time we aren’t willing to earn it , intentionally show we are trustworthy, and give trust time to grow. Rather, sometimes we display behaviors and attitudes that erode trust and expect trust to be given in return. The Bible contradicts this thinking saying, “A man reaps what he sows.” It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect or demand trust from another while either untrustworthiness is being displayed or you are not extending yourself and showing yourself to be trustworthy. Don’t expect trust to be the outcome given from poor communication, withheld feelings, flattery, manipulation, violated boundaries, hidden agendas, selfishness, lies, gossip, or division. These are a few among the definite trust busters of relationships. Instead, if you want to build trust, take the initiative to do your part in preventing the person or group from having any real reason to withhold the giving of trust over time. If it’s with your boss, show up on time to work, go the extra mile, don’t participate in the office gossip. If it’s with your spouse, be open and honest, be emotionally available, communicate consistently and frequently, explain your decisions, resolve conflict promptly and completely, and communicate your activities. If it’s with a friend, show your devotion, communicate your heart, don’t let assumption go without clarification or confirmation. In all relationships, ask the trust building kind of questions, “How are we doing?” “Are we okay” “Anything we need to talk about?” “Are we on the same page?” “How are you feeling about things?” “Help me understand, why did you do ________?
3) Put your ultimate trust in Jesus- All our relationships with people are to be an extension from our relationship with Jesus. The trust we have with Jesus first and foremost is to be carefully extended into our relationships not replaced by our relationships. I find it staggeringly profound that Jesus entrusted himself to no one, that special level of trust was reserved for His heavenly Father. When people fail us, Jesus does not, will not, and cannot. With this anchor to our soul and well-being firmly secure, we are able to extend portions of that trust we have found in Christ into our relationships so that the work of God can be done in and through them.