Trust can be thorny concept and difficult for a large group of people to embrace. I know at times I struggle with this very difficult and emotional issue. Many have good reasons not to trust. At some point in our lives, most of us experience some form of betrayal from friends, organizations, be it secular or religious, governmental and yes even from family. Trust is given on loan, and if that trust is broken, it may be difficult or impossible to regain. Trust is not unconditional; it does have to be earned and may take years to come to full maturity.
Most likely the majority of people have failed in living up to the trust that others have put on them. There is actual betrayal, wherein the act is thought out and used to harm another. Then there are those times when the failure is unintentional, perhaps most of the time, causing a great deal of suffering on both sides.
Fear of trusting can shrink ones relational world to nothing. It is easy to do, since it is used to block out further pain, it is a form of protection that can become an armor so thick that any kind of deep sharing becomes impossible and there is only isolation. It becomes a way of life and can often lead to a cynical world view that is masked as sophistication.
I believe that anything that leads to overcoming this fear of pain and betrayal and allows the gates to reopen is in fact life giving and healing. Anything that leads to the opposite is a crutch of the worst kind. In the end, it is a choice on some level. I believe that most people overcome the desire to run from relationships and seek to reenter the world of friendship and trust. Even if it is tentative and may take years to heal, yet to begin the journey is also on some level to arrive at the destination.
Sartre once said that “Hell is other people”. This can become a self-fullfilling prophecy; for in believing that, allows it to become the tyrannical overseer of our lives. I don’t believe that people wish to devour others in a futile attempt to fill their inner abyss. Though this of course can happen, there are those who seem to sap up everyone’s energy when they are around. In Sartre’s play “No exit”, this is shown how it is played out. In case you have not read the play, the story takes place in hell. I found the last sentence in the play to be especially chilling: “Well we may as well get started”.
Faith in God is not a way to run from reality. I believe it allows us to go inward and to discover that God actually exist and calls us to a deeper, fuller and more loving life. It allows us to overcome our fears of actually growing in self knowledge and in doing so, to understand that what we fear in others and possibly condemn, is also within us. The only bridge to forgiving acts of betrayal, is to understand how we perhaps have done it in the past as well and to see how human weakness and childish self centeredness is more often than not, at play. This is not denying that some acts of betrayal are actually thought out and deeply evil.
When thinking about our own failures, we may seek mercy for we experience factors in ourselves that lead to acting in ways that are unintentional, or perhaps just based on lack of experience or misunderstanding. Even when we see how we actually did know what we were doing, we may still desire forgiveness and understanding. Once this is understood and embraced no matter how painful this self-knowledge is, it can lead to compassion towards others. It is easy seeking mercy for our selves and justice for others. Harder to understand that mercy is the way to inner freedom and a loosening of the power we allow human weakness and yes human evil to have over us. To become like those who betray, to become bitter and cynical, is actually staying under the power of that which wounded.
Death to self is in reality a death to an inner prison, a small world that is ruled by fear and anxiety that can be manifested in many ways. Withdrawing, bragging, putting others down through gossip or intimidation, running from commitments and simply using others are just some of the ways that in reality is a form of self protection.
On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows the way to this freedom. It is not about non-violence and being a pacifist, but about placing the importance on how we relate to those who are before us, with those we interact with on a daily basis, one person at a time. Each encounter asks from us a response. One of openness or one of fear towards others; be it friend, stranger or foe.
We can’t give trust to everyone, at least on level of friendship. There are many that are not capable of it, and at times perhaps we all fail. There is however a deeper form of trust and that is based on the belief that the one before us, is worthy of our attention, especially the ones we consider lowly. I would presume we all have those people in our lives, those we meet and those with whom we work. It is about seeing that the person overlooked or mocked, may in fact have a great deal to offer, has depth that we can’t see, or may not have the language or education to express what they believe or feel, yet none-the-less have much to share, if only we would listen and learn to see on a different level.
Our thoughts about others, and yes, about ourselves, can never see to the bottom of things, or to put it better, to the depths of the human heart. Both that which seeks love, union and healing, as well as the more self destructive aspects of our inner lives that I believe that we all share. To know that all is observed, seen and loved, can give courage to enter into our inner domains and allow grace’s healing work to continue. To simply desire growth and healing is to begin the process. To seek to hide from it at all cost is also a choice, the more we understand this, the sooner we can begin that decent or accent; it depends on how you look at it.