This past Sunday, we talked about the ways in which trust can get broken, and how to work toward rebuilding it, or reconciling it. We noted that, at the heart of broken trust is always a breech in the truth, whether real or imagined.
The foundation of trust is truth. I trust you to do what you say you will, or refrain from doing what you say you won’t do. I trust you to be honest with me about what you’re thinking and feeling. As Jesus put it, I trust that your “yeses” mean “yes,” and your “noes” mean “no.” I trust you to tell the truth. And, in a reciprocal relationship, I want you to expect that you can trust the same from me.
Breakdowns in trust, then, are the result of someone having not told the truth. Even if it started with the best of intentions – I fully intended to keep my promise to you; I didn’t share what I really thought or felt because I was afraid it would hurt your feelings; Something unexpected happened and caused me to go back on my word – when the truth is broken, trust breaks.
Sometimes the challenge with broken trust is that not everyone agrees that a truth has been broken. There is a disagreement as to what was promised, if anything. Or, one person assumed they could expect something specific of the other, but never actually checked (we call this an, “untested expectation”).
In reconciling trust then, those in the damaged relationship need to begin by going back (together, if possible), and identifying what truth has been broken. Was it intentional? Do both people agree on what the expectation was? If not, there is likely a communication problem to be addressed, instead of broken trust. (Though the imagined broken trust can feel just as powerful as a real and intentionally broken trust. It can take a lot of letting go for a relationship to refocus on communication, instead of trust, when needed.)
When truth is broken, it’s difficult to know how to trust that, the next time a “truth” is spoken, it really is the truth this time. It becomes the love we have for the other, and the desires to offer grace and forgiveness, that allow us to give someone another opportunity to speak and keep their truth – this, along with the humility of remembering that all of us have broken another’s trust at some time. Reconciling broken trust is a slow process of building on what trust does still exist, from intact truths. The more opportunities I have to share new truths with you, and keep them, and the more inviting I am to honoring your truths and seeing you keep them, the more the trust between us is restored.
Being consistently truthful, especially about our thoughts and feelings, can be difficult. But, retaining trust is also a lot easier than reconciling it. As Krasner and Joyce say below, trust is built when, “I care enough about you to risk my truth in full knowledge that I may wound or be wounded. You care enough about me to receive my truth in its own context and risk joining your truth to mine.” Perhaps this centrality of being able to speak and hear truths, in order to build trust, is why truth seems to be so central to the teachings of the Christ. And thanks be to God that we are so fully and truly known by our Creator!
We practiced our abilities to be truthful with one another, check untested expectations, and identify opportunities to rebuild trust by role-playing conversations that were open to hiding our true thoughts and feelings, or could easily lead to making assumptions of what to expect from the other person. This can be very powerful when the role-play is based on a real life experience of one of the participants, where they had trouble speaking their truth, or know that trust got broken, but can’t figure out how.