Trust can mean anything from faith in a relationship to a monetary promise endowed to the generationally wealthy. It’s one of those words where we all kind of just assume we’re operating from the same definition, which, in my opinion, is not a generative example of trust as a practice. The nuances matter. People can be together for years before realizing that fundamental relationship values, such as trust, are actually places of creative tension instead of a presumed common ground.
Most of the people I know consider themselves as someone with general trust issues. We are born trusting our guardians, who are responsible for nurturing us. When that trust is inevitably broken through oversight, neglect, and/or abuse, it sets the tone for an insidious precarity for future relationships. making trust a slippery slope. But the urge to trust is evergreen, retaining its color through inclement weather. We make false promises of devout self-protection just moments before taking yet another emotional risk. We yearn to trust deeply, so deeply that we will mistake ourselves as evergreen, enduring unnecessary inclement weather in the form of tolerating unsavory behaviors from ourselves and our loved ones. We will do almost anything to experience trust. Why is this?
We are wired for belonging.1 The desire for our depths to be recognized and celebrated is inherently human. Trying to deny the desire to trust is like trying to deny your personhood. We are meant to belong to one another, but we are also the source of each other’s pain. I see trust like a spiritual umbilical cord that connects us all, and right now that cord is ruptured in many places by trauma and oppression. We want an easy fix, we want a place to project all of our unspoken needs, formidable desires, and boundaries that escape the tongue. We need a place to project our autonomy and need to control. So we project onto trust, and our expectations are systemic. But we know the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.2
We’re taught that comfort and ease are symbols of progression and wealth. We’re taught to want progression and wealth. These prescriptive definitions are templates rooted in institutionalized pursuits at understanding and preserving the capitalistic structure. We’re taught that the ease and comfort within this structure will sustain us all. We’re taught to wait to be defined vis-à-vis the commodification of our gifts, or what we call purpose. A term embedded in ableism that suggests our bodies and our spirits are merely objective; appendages in our quest to achieve goals.
It’s no wonder we struggle with trust. The fears we deem irrational may only exist to the extent in which they are happening in real-time and on a much larger scale. We are constantly positioned back at square one, experiencing the abandonment of our childhoods and ancestors through state-sanctioned disposability, and made to exist in a perpetual state of dysregulation from an institution with whom we share capitalistic terms with like trust and value and worth and boundaries and tolerance and partnerships. When we use their language without intention to convey our desires for a reality abundant with intimate, vulnerable, and authentic relationships, our values and principles begin to blur and merge with the said institution. We have to either develop new words or be clear on how we’re using the ones we have.
If we allow institutions and other extensions of capitalism to define for us what trust means to the individual and to the greater collective, it will mirror what trust would mean if we were white, middle-class, heteronormative, and monogamous. And there will never be enough of it. And the rationing of it is heavily surveilled. Like food, money, and natural resources, trust has become a commodity. The language around it is embellished in a facade of quantification. We speak casually of trust running out and earning trust back. And when someone acts out of our framework of trust, the decision is made without establishing a mutual baseline for trust. A typical consequence of a breach of trust is to impoverish the individual of connection by way of cancellation. We use the punishment we work to abolish to prove that we do not deserve punishment. Make this make sense
Try as we might, trust is not a currency, it cannot be earned, and it does not run out. You can extend trust externally only as deep as that cord runs internally. You can assert boundaries to protect your trusting instincts, but you can’t remove it from the shelf because trust is not a product. We need to create new definitions of trust that don’t endorse the shenanigans of white supremacy, capitalism, or anything associated with it, i.e. purity, perfection, cleanliness.
It gets messy y’all. That mess isn’t always a sign of dysfunction, sometimes it’s just a sign that we live in an oppressive paradigm. But that paradigm is ending, and we still carry the old paradigm in our minds and in our hearts. Trust is an interdependent practice, not a codependent behavior. In the courage it takes to make our own meanings, radical trust as praxis, or the commitment to get to the root of trust, rewards our earnest pursuits of love through integrity. It endows us with emotionally and creatively wealthy connections. It invites the possibility of longevity and elasticity to our existing relationships. It bestows upon us an energy so profound that there are no words for it…yet; we can weave worlds with our words. Additionally, our ability to trust others is an expression of actual self-care. Our wellness increases holistically when we feel trustworthy and when we know we can depend on those around us.
I don’t know about you, but I desire to trust and to be trusted in a way that makes room for our histories, cultures, and futures; to trust and be trusted in a way that fortifies what makes us human. I commit to generative life and love practices, perspectives and decisions rooted in transforming the world, one relationship at a time.
- I trust with the expectation of imperfection in myself and others.
- The speed of trust is always the right pace for me.3
- People become trustworthy when I choose to trust them. (also from emergent strategy)
- I choose to believe my loved ones do not wish to cause me harm.4
- I am trustworthy. I am reliable. I always bounce back from my mistakes.
- The Power of Vulnerability – Brene Brown (TED talk)
- The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House – Audre Lorde
- Trust the people – Adrienne Maree Brown
- Relationship Anarchy Manifesto – Andie Nordgren