How do we know whom to trust?

Aug 9, 2019

One of the most painful experiences is betrayal of trust. But how to ensure that someone – our colleague, our close friend, our beloved, or simply our next-door neighbour – is worthy of our trust? Or, putting it another way, how can we learn to develop the wisdom to know whom to trust and to what degree?

We need to start with ourselves. If, let’s say, we are full of neediness for our colleagues at work to like us, for someone to become our friend, for the new boyfriend to love us, we’re setting ourselves up to be let down. We won’t know how to choose wisely. Our own lack of self-worth will blind us from seeing others. Our expectations will be hugely exaggerated and, in fact, impossible to fulfill. We’ll spill out our heart, and then be devastated when things go wrong. And we’ll always blame the other person: we’ll feel, hurt, rejected, betrayed.

On the other hand, if we learn to know ourselves by delving in our own mind, knowing our own failings and taking responsibility for them, and being confident in our strengths, we’ll choose friends wisely. Just naturally, we’ll be more content and fulfilled, and won’t have such need for others to share our every thought and action.

And in turn, just naturally, we will have the wisdom to know how much to share with others, how much to entrust to them, how much to reasonably expect from them.

If your dearest friend asks you what’s wrong if you’re crying, let’s say, you’ll just naturally pour out your heart, knowing she’ll understand and, crucially, knowing you can trust her to respect your privacy. But it would be utterly inappropriate to do the same to a casual friend and then feel betrayed when they gossip about you! Trust is relative.

Clearly, we should learn from our experiences. If we agree to meet for a meal at 6 o’clock and I turn up late, it’s reasonable to forgive me. But if I keep turning up late, you need to think twice about whether the relationship is worthwhile. Only a victim would moan and complain about me to others, yet keep turning up for our 6 o’clock appointments, only to be let down! We need to take responsibility for our choices, our actions.

And the more together we are in ourselves, the more equal the relationship will be, and the more we’ll realize that it’s our job to be worthy of our friend’s trust. It’s not one-sided.

It’s a fantasy to expect never to be let down. Human beings are human beings. Even our beloved, whom we’ve trusted with our heart for forty years, can let us down badly. Then we need to decide whether the relationship is worth redeeming, not just close ourselves off to ensure we don’t get hurt again. And, again, the key to success in dealing with this is our own self-worth, our own inner awareness, our own wisdom.

The only way to grow mutual trust is to understand our own human nature, which gives us the wisdom and the humility to know others.

  • The more I know myself, the wiser I’ll be in my awareness of whom to trust.
  • Learn from my experiences: if I keep being let down by someone, think about the value of that relationship.
  • Take responsibility for my own choices: don’t keep blaming the other person for betraying my trust: perhaps I made the wrong choice.
  • The more needy I am for others to love me, the more I’ll be disappointed.
  • The more fulfilled I am, the less I’ll expect others to satisfy my needs.

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