Learning How to Trust

Why Don’t People Trust?

I’m dedicating this month’s blog posts to a series called, Learning How to Trust.  Over the upcoming weeks I’ll break down learning how to trust into smaller, easier to absorb pieces.  Earlier this week, we kicked off the series with a post entitled, “The First Step in Trusting.  Can It Really Be that Simple?”  Today, as we continue with the second post, our focus is on understanding why people don’t trust (and ultimately, what we can do about it).

In order to understand why many don’t naturally trust, it’s important to first share a commonly held belief of how trust is formed in our lives.  (Regular TLT readers know where trust begins — Inside Us — but here, I’m referring to where our beliefs on trust come from.)

How are our beliefs on trust shaped?  By our environment.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to be raised in a household where our parents, teachers, and other influential people in our lives:

  • spoke openly about life
  • taught us healthy boundaries
  • nurtured and loved us…

…even when we screwed up…

Well, trust, from a very early age, was shaped accordingly.

However, others of us were raised in families and taught to believe:

  • trust must be earned
  • we must prove ourselves in order to gain others’ trust
  • trust can be taken away if you mess up, often with no explanation offered to the child

If you were raised in this sort of environment, it’s understandable that you grew up trusting no one.  (More importantly, you grew up not trusting yourself.  You were never taught how.)

This is where the notion of believing trust is external to us, that is doesn’t originate inside of us, begins.

A few weeks ago I was writing a speech on trust, and in my attempt to drive home this point, this idea that many believe trust is external to us, I decided to go to my Twitter account and do a word search on the word Trust.

Without sorting out the “good” trust tweets, just reading the first five, here’s what I found:

  • “You never know what people say or do when you’re not around.  That’s why I rarely trust people.”
  • “It’s hard to trust someone, especially when the ones you trusted the most were the ones that betrayed you.”
  • “I’ve learned that it takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it.”
  • “Trust shouldn’t be handed out just because you like someone…it’s something you make someone earn and build from the ground up.”
  • “Trust will get you killed, love will get you hurt and being real will get you hated.”

You can imagine the inner shudder I felt as I read these.  However, I wasn’t surprised.  I’ve run into enough people in hospital elevators, at the grocery store, wherever, who ask me what I do, and after I explain that I write about trust, well, let’s just say, it’s apparent which ones are thinking, “Yeah, good luck with that, Sister!”  (Fortunately, many are very supportive.  And no, I don’t think they’re just being polite, well, maybe a few.)

Back to the tweets….  In each instance, the trust they wrote of was external to them.  There was nothing about trust coming from within you, being based in love, leading to peace.  If you go back and read each of  them, they all share something:

A martyr mentality.  In each one, the person writing is choosing to give all of their power away.

Let me be clear here, I’m not faulting them.  Their beliefs are their beliefs, and their beliefs are based primarily on how they were raised to view trust.  If we all take a moment to think back to our childhood, how many of us can agree that we were raised that way, too?

I was.

And it wasn’t because my parents were bad parents.  It’s because that’s what they were taught.  Then they passed it down to us.  And by the way, no one ever sits a child down and says, “Okay Billy, today we’re going to learn about trust.”  [Unless, of course, your mother’s name is Leslie and she happens to write a blog about trust.]  No, these lessons are the subtle type, the ones we pick up purely by living among people, by being human.

And that, my friends, is why people don’t trust.

But here’s the thing.  Although this idea of trust being external to us, that we must earn it, and prove ourselves to others — although it’s a belief system that’s held by many, that doesn’t mean that it’s true.

So, what is true?  In order to trust, you must start by trusting yourself first.  Trust is knowing that you are able to handle any situation that comes your way.  Trust begins inside of you.