Building Trust

“Building and Rebuilding Trust,” Susan Ryder

 As we continue our discussion of what it means to be a people of trust, we’ll begin by listening to a story told by BrenéBrown in a video on “The Anatomy of Trust.” I will link the video online and on Facebook so you can watch the whole thing – it’s about 20 minutes long, and worth the watch. For now we’ll just watch the first five minutes.

In the part of the video you heard, BrenéBrown says that trust is built in very small moments, like adding marbles to a jar. Whenever you share those hard stories with your friends and they are there for you, or whenever someone shows up for you, it fills up your marble jar. Someone has done thing after thing after thing for you, so you know you can trust this person. I invite you to consider these a few questions as we reflect on trust this morning. What are some of the little things you’ve done to add to someone’s marble jar? Or, what are some little things others have done to add to your marble jar? Think about those questions as I share a few words about trust.

Charles Feltman:“Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else. Distrust is what I’ve shared with you that is important to me is not safe with you.”

Online blogger named Beth:“I was noticing that trust and truth share the first three letters ‘tru.’  I went searching for the origins and etymology of both words, trust and truth, and found that they share in common one word — faithful.  I began to explore then how trust and truth might be linked and to what and whom is it that I am faithful.”

How many of you sometimes struggle with trust in your relationships with others? I certainly do at times. I tend to give most people a clean slate when we first meet – generally speaking I tend to trust people somewhat at first, and over time my trust will grow, or not, as marbles are added or taken away to the jar of our relationship. And hopefully over time I will earn your trust as well. But wow, when someone betrays my trust, I really struggle with that. I experience anger and disappointment; I feel deeply hurt. If it’s possible to have a conversation with them about the betrayal, and if the person apologizes and seeks to make amends, I can usually forgive and move on. Sometimes that reconciliation isn’t possible for any number of reasons, which makes it harder to let go of. But either way – whether there is closure or not – I don’t forget. Depending on what the betrayal was, it will be probably be very difficult for me to trust that person again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

That’s why BrenéBrown’s “Anatomy of Trust” lecture was so helpful for me. She goes on in her video to break trust down into core components, which better equips us to articulate and address specific areas where we feel betrayed or mistrustful in our relationships, AND to consider how trustworthy WE are in our relationships with others. A couple of weeks ago when Bob shared about trust in the midst of adversity, something that really stayed with me was when he said, “The only thing I can think to say or aspire to about trust is to strive for being trustworthy myself.” In other words, it’s not just about whether or not other people are trustworthy – it’s about whether or not WE are trustworthy. Breaking downtrust into parts that are helpful in terms of how trust is earned and broken, Brown asserts thatwhen we trust, we are “braving” a connection with someone, for which she offers a helpful acronym:

“B”– BOUNDARIES: We respect each other’s boundaries, and when we are not clear about what’s okay and not okay, we ask. We are willing to say no.

“R”– RELIABILITY: We do what we say we’ll do.

“A”– ACCOUNTABILITY: We own our mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

“V”– VAULT: We don’t share information or experiences that are not ours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.

“I”– INTEGRITY: We choose courage over comfort. We choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And we choose to practice our values rather than simply professing them.

“N”– NON-JUDGMENT: We can ask for what we need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

“G”– GENEROSITY: We extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

It’s certainly a helpful acronym, as it makes it easier to think about what it means to trust, or to be “braving trust,” and how to measure the trustworthiness of others. But when it comes to our own trustworthiness, wow, it’s not so easy to do all that, is it? Let’s show hands –

How many of you do well at setting and maintaining boundaries, most of the time? And respecting the boundaries of others?

How many of you are reliable most of the time – you do what you say you’ll do?

How many of you do well with accountability – you are able to own your mistakes, apologize, make amends, most of the time?

How about the vault – most of the time do you do well not sharing what is not yours to share?

How many of you feel good about your integrity – you practice your values; you don’t just speak them, you act on them, most of the time? You practice what you preach, you walk the walk?

What about non-judgment? How well do you do asking for help when you need it?

And generosity – how well do you do at making the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others?

While it may be a challenge and seem overwhelming to succeed in all of the aspects of the “braving” acronym, the benefit of breaking down trust in this way is that it gives us something to strive for. We can look at the list and say – well I do a pretty good job with the B-R-V-I, but could use some work on A-N-G. It also gives us words to say to someone we feel wronged by. Instead of just saying a blanket, “I don’t trust you,” we can say, “Here’s my struggle – you told someone else something I asked you to keep confidential.” You can break it down, talk about it, and ask for what you need. You can say, “Here’s what is not working for me – here is where I feel betrayed.” Of course, how things go from there depends on the other person, but at least we have had a chance to share from our experience, and perhaps also gain perspective when someone feels betrayed by us.

One of the most helpful things I took away from watching this video is the idea that trust is built in the small moments, not in the grand gestures. BrenéBrown says that when people do things to build trust, it’s like putting marbles in a jar. Conversely, when people do things to betray our trust, it’s like taking marbles out of the jar. We might think that trust is built with momentous actions, but, according to research, it’s the smallest, simplest things that build trust in one another: remembering a name, showing up for a funeral, doing what we say we will do. Of course, trust can be broken through the same mechanisms.

What are some of the little things you’ve done to add to someone’s marble jar? Or, what are some little things others have done to add to your marble jar? Or maybe choose the more difficult question – what are some things you have done to remove marbles from someone else’s jar?