Letters to my sons

A collection of thoughts and lessons I've learned along the way for my little men,
and anyone else that's interested.

My sons,

We’ve been talking about how to build effective relationships lately, and have spoken at length about being consistent in our relationships. Today I want to talk about trust, why it’s one of the most important elements in any relationship, and why without it every relationship will begin to corrode and fall apart.

We’ve all been there. Things are humming along smoothly and we’ve got satisfying and fulfilling relationships and experiences, when all of a sudden - WHAM. Something comes way out of left field that we never expected, and from someone whom we once believed was a trusted companion, a faithful ally, a friend of many years.

What happened?

The most likely culprit is that we weren’t discerning about those on whom we placed our trust. This is common when we’re young - we tend to trust those we simply spend time with. However, as we get older we ought to be learning discernment and ought to know that those who we’ve been with the longest may not in fact be the most trustworthy. And so we’re disappointed. We hurt. We cry silently and in the recesses of our own space. We begin to become callous to others, and have a much harder time trusting others. For if we were burned so painfully once, surely it could happen again with some other trusted companion right?

Sadly, many of us fall into this path, with the majority of our newfound adult relationships never achieving the same level of trust, the same type of deep connection, or the same vulnerability of shared experience as those from our childhood.

It does not have to be this way.

What is trust?

First, let’s start with a definition. What is trust?

Trust is many things to many people, but I think when we boil it all down, trust is simply having a firm belief that another person has strong character and has your best interests at heart.

The first half of that statement is something that we tend to have blindspots for in our adult lives. We tend to give the benefit of the doubt too much. Especially for those with whom we have had many shared experiences, we tend to fall into the mistake of not verifying that the other party is worthy of our trust. We overlook youthful indiscretions as simply that; youthful indiscretions and not an indicator of underlying character.

That last bit is important too. The other person must have your best interests at heart! This means that there’s an investment there, there’s a care and connection there. It’s not enough to know that someone has high moral character (although that is incredibly refreshing in our world today), but we need to know that they have our back, that they’re for us, that they are invested in us.

Discerned trust vs foolish faith

In my younger years, a preacher once shared an anecdote about faith that has stood with me over the years. He said that no matter how strong your faith is, if it’s in the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter. Similarly, no matter how weak your faith is, if it’s in the right thing, it makes a world of difference. For example, you could have an unwavering faith that a thin piece of ice will hold up your body weight. Or you could have a small amount of faith that a 30 foot sheet of ice will hold up that same weight. In these examples the object of your faith is of paramount importance.

So it is with trust; the object of our trust is incredibly important.

And yet many of us fail to do our due diligence when it comes to those upon whom we place our trust. We will inadvertently place our mental wellbeing, our day-to-day happiness, even our financial stability into the hands of people for whom we have not vetted their trustworthiness.

That is the definition of foolish faith.

The unfortunate reality is that we’ve all fallen into that trap. We’ve all foolishly given our trust to someone undeserving, and many of us have been burned by it. It therefore behooves us to ask the question of why. Why do we find ourselves in these situations when we surely ought to know better?

I’ll posit that it is because we are wired for relationship - deep, meaningful, strong connection. Deep down, we crave the benefits of trusted relationships so much that we take short cuts. We’re impatient. We skip our diligence. We ignore red flags. We tune out wise council. Each of us longs to belong, to have someone we can turn to where we know that they are for us. And that is a beautiful thing.

But we must apply discernment and critical thinking. We must keep our wits about us and determine objectively whether a person is truly trustworthy, is truly someone desiring high moral character, and is truly for us.

Becoming a trustworthy person

Somewhat counterintuitively, one of the best things we can do to find trustworthy people is to become a trustworthy person. This is because the more focus we put on traits of trustworthiness in ourselves, the more we’re able to see those traits in others. The more sensitive we get towards things like honesty, empathy, and integrity, the more we will develop a second nature that warns us when those traits are missing.

Being a trustworthy person means to desire the best for others, sometimes in spite of themselves. It means challenging those you care about, but with love. It means caring about their well-being above all else. Remember that it’s not about whether or not they like you; it’s about whether or not you are doing your best for them, and are doing it in a way that isn’t cruel but instead is thoughtful and kind while being honest and truthful. You are challenging them because you want the best for them, not because you want them to like you.

Being trustworthy also requires gentleness. It requires us to remember that when we are trusted, we have a strong ability to impact our relation’s emotional state, and indirectly their confidence in themselves. Especially when it comes to romantic relationships, we often under estimate the ability we have to build up or tear down others. We forget that we mean a lot to them, and that our words have great impact on them.

It is critically important for us to be gentle in our words to others. Challenge with love. Correct with care. Rebuke in private, with tenderness.

It is also important for us to reaffirm those we love in front of others. This allows them to feel special, and allows them to experience us being proud of them. Whether we’re talking about our children, our partners, our siblings, or simply our friends, we go a long way in earning their trust when we genuinely affirm them in the company of others.

This isn’t to say that we sit around blowing sunshine up people’s asses - no, our affirmations and praise must be truthful, honest, and well-deserved. People can detect bullshitters, and can detect what Kim Scott calls “manipulative insincerity” - people who pull their punches, who shower undeserved praise, and who ultimately care more about being liked than everything else.

Rather, when we reassure others, we hint that we see vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses, and we tell them that it will be fine, that we see them and believe in them. We tell them that we are in their corner. We assure them that we can separate the action from the person, that our care is for the well being of the person.

And so, my sons, I urge you not only to be discerning about those that you trust, but to also think about how you can be trustworthy to others. Be men of principle, but have grace to others that fall short. Have high standards, but love others through them. And above all else, be for others.



Appearances (2) Authenticity (1) Balance (18) Beauty (1) Books (4) Brotherhood (2) Celebrating (1) Changing the world (15) Character (75) Confidence (12) Conflict (1) Connection (15) Consistency (1) Content (2) Context (1) Courage (4) Creating (2) Curiosity (7) Decision making (1) Dedication (1) Discipline (8) Diversity (1) Dream (2) Empathy (5) Empowerment (4) Encouragement (2) Epic (10) Equity (2) Excellence (1) Faith (10) Family (2) Fear (5) Feelings (2) Focus (14) Forward (5) Fulfillment (3) Gentleness (1) Grace (2) Gratefulness (1) Grit (5) Habits (6) Hard choices (2) Harmony (1) Having Fun (3) Hope (1) Humility (4) Identity (1) Inclusion (3) Inspiration (1) Integrity (6) Intentional (29) Introspection (4) Joy (5) Laughter (2) Leadership (6) Learning (11) Listening (1) Little Things (1) Loss (1) Love (10) Loyalty (2) Meaning (2) Mentoring (2) Mercy (2) Mind (5) Mindfulness (1) Mindset (7) Movement (4) Music (2) Optimism (1) Ownership (1) Passion (2) Patience (1) Perseverance (2) Persistence (2) Personality (1) Perspective (21) Prayer (1) Prioritization (2) Productivity (4) Purposeful Living (67) Purposeful-living (1) Range (2) React (2) Reaction (1) Relationship (18) Relationships (1) Resilience (1) Respond (2) Responsibility (2) Rest (2) Reverence (4) Silence (1) Space (2) Storytelling (3) Strength (6) Struggle (1) Temperance (3) Thankfulness (2) Time (10) Tolerance (1) Tomorrow (2) Tradition (1) Trust (1) Truthfulness (1) Unity (2) Values (2) Vulnerability (1) Words (1) Writing (1)