Home > advice -- not that you asked, giving thanks where it's due, Random Musings > The Fine Art of Trusting and Being Trusted

The Fine Art of Trusting and Being Trusted

When I was in second grade, I told a couple of friends a joke I’d heard. It had a curse word in it. It was a BIG deal in my world. I wasn’t going to tell them, since I’d only known that gaggle of girls a short while, but I did. They asked again and again. So, I caved in, and I trusted them. I told the joke (which, by the way, I still remember).

One of the girls, whose name is etched upon my mind, promptly went and told the teacher. Mrs. Disapproving Face sauntered over, gave me the Look of Shame – and told me if I told another joke like that, she’d tell my parents. I nodded. She left. Looking at Judas, I felt an odd mixture of anger and grief. Here was a girl I *thought* I could trust, and she shat all over my fine judgment. Or, as it turned out, not so fine. Needless to say, I did not trust her again, because once broken in so deft a way, it is hard to put your faith BACK into a person.

Learning who to trust, who to trust partially, and who not to trust at all – it is a lifelong pursuit, shaded by mistakes and unfortunate instances where hindsight is twenty-twenty. There are times where I still trust the wrong people, but the instances are rarer than when I was seven or eight – and I thought the world was made of rainbows, goodness, and CareBear hugs.

I’ll be honest: I love that moment in a relationship (any relationship) where you suddenly realize, “Holy shit, that other person really trusts me. And I trust them. And…this is so good.” Because there is something heartwarming and wonderful about realizing that, about knowing it down to your marrow. In a world where we are constantly reminded that people can be shitty just for the hell of it, really trusting someone – and being trusted in return – is a kind of everyday magic. It’s the kind of thing that makes me happy, that makes me smile and sing.

Trust is a kind of love. It’s a leap of faith. It’s a small bit of brilliance, unasked for. Trust, of course, is earned. Most of the time, it happens slowly. You don’t meet someone for the first time, shake their hand, and say, “Hey! Want to hear about the time I [insert deep, dark secret here]?” Because…no. That’d be crazier than a barrel full of rabid monkeys wearing tutus and sword fighting with bananas.

People trust at different speeds, with varying degrees, based on a indiscernible combination of personal fears and worthiness. You don’t trust the mail person with your feelings, just like you don’t offer a man named Buffalo Bill a bottle of lotion and a basket: it wouldn’t make sense. And it could end poorly.

Every day, I strive to be the most trustworthy person I can be. Then once I know I’ve earned your trust, I work very hard to keep it. It’s not like a prize you stick on the shelf and forget about. It’s something you cherish and respect. It’s nothing short of an honor. Because once someone trusts you, they have faith in who you are as a person – that they will listen without judgment and protect the things you tell them. I can count, on one hand, the number of people I trust, completely. The people I call up when I am sad, having a bad day, or I have absolutely good news that I cannot wait to share. The people who I know will love me, even if I’m being a total idiot – or maybe BECAUSE I’m being a total idiot. The people who can listen to my thoughts, feelings, and mistakes…and it doesn’t alter how they see me.

No one is perfect. No one. I’m not. You’re not. Perfection is a myth that someone stitched out of stars and bullshit. I don’t want to be judged by my bad days or my mistakes. I don’t want to be weighed only by those painfully squicky moments – so, why would I judge anyone else by them? (Rhetorical question, folks.) If we go into any relationship with the moon in our eyes, assuming that no one leaves the seat up, farts, says the occasionally stupid thing, or wears sweatpants around the house (not heels and pearls!) – then reality has fled, and things are based on impossible fantasy. Personally, in any relationship, I do not want perfection. I want the messy moments. I want the arguments, the bad days, the confessions, the confidences, the unvarnished truths, and the comfort in secret-sharing. It is easy to handle the good days, because they’re GOOD. But it’s how you handle the uncomfortable moments, the difficult times, and the ugly truths that matter the most.

I remember the first time I realized that I completely trusted my best friend. In a moment of total panic, I confessed something to her and asked her advice. It was the kind of thing that you don’t TELL anyone. And I told her. Not only did she still love me anyway (unless these 15 years have all been a LIE. Hehe), but she gave me advice. She still does She sees me face-deep in Kleenx, wearing bleached out yoga pants, hair wild and twelve feet high – and she loves me anyway. I ask her for the MOST AWKWARD favor EVER, and she doesn’t hesitate. The reverse is also true. She has my back. I have her back. End of story.

But, again: I love that feeling when you realize someone totally trusts you, and you trust them. It makes me want to hug unicorns. It makes me want to burst into song. (I do that a lot. I’m a human Disney character. Not kidding. “There goes the baker with his tray like always…”) People reveal themselves to be trustworthy, and the best way to be trusted is to show trust yourself. It is a thing of courage. It is something that makes the world a little better, a little brighter. And a brighter world is a wonderful place of possibility. J.M. Barrie once wrote, “All you need is trust and a little bit of pixie dust.” And I couldn’t agree more. This is the ordinary magic of life that leads to extraordinary things.

“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.”― E.E. Cummings

“It is not true that women cannot keep secrets. Where they love, they can be trusted to death and beyond, against all sense and reason.” – Mary Stewart, The Hollow Hills

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  1. September 25, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Of course, 12-year-old me wants to know what the joke was. Also, I love the image of you in bleached out yoga pants with “hair wild and twelve feet high.”

  2. September 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I know it sounds trite since The X-Files uses this tagline, but I’ve learned to trust no one over the years and I mean no one. Every time I have trusted, people have used that information to hurt me. Example: my dad and I have a distant relationship. We see each other maybe once a year. He never acknowledges birthdays and even forgets my kids’ names. When I was younger, his attitude wounded me deeply. A dear friend at the time told me “The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s apathy. No wonder you’re hurt. You feel unloved.” Because of my dad issues, I’m very sensitive to being ignored or left out – perhaps over-sensitive.

    And of course, that’s EXACTLY what this friend did. We have not spoken in years and even so, I sent a birthday email in August that was ignored, as others had been – including the one about my mother’s death. I have no words to describe how much it hurts for a friend who knows what my Kryptonite is to actually use that knowledge to wound me more deeply.

  3. Lucy
    September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I want to know what the joke was too. I won’t tell! lol

    Great entry.

  4. September 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    This -> “But it’s how you handle the uncomfortable moments, the difficult times, and the ugly truths that matter the most.” = YES!

    Great post Belle, I mean Ali. *wink* xo

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