September 10, 2012
This past week a friend was asked, “Trust is a state of mind, isn’t it?” I thought the subject was worth exploration because we use the word freely in conversation, but do we really understand what it means? Does everybody see trust the same way? Considering trust during my meditation time and considering it from the Catholic perspective, I concluded that trust isn’t a state of mind at all; trust is an act of the will.
Trust also isn’t a feeling. If it were, it would not be a matter of choice governed by the intellect but something that could arise and dissipate for no apparent reason as feelings often do. Acts of will are renewed and reflect a deliberate intention on our part. That’s why, even when we don’t feel like trusting God, we will ourselves to trust in Him. The more we submit to God’s will, saying “Yes” to Him even in disagreeable circumstances, the more we practice the choice of trust, knowing that the all-good and all-loving God has our best interests at heart – our salvation.
Trusting in people
Willing to trust in people is another matter altogether. Jesus is the only Person (and here I imply the Holy Trinity as well since they are distinct but inseparable persons) who will never disappoint us. He is the only one who is perfect and can fulfill the needs of our restless hearts. So it follows that others will, from time to time and to some degree, disappoint us because they are not perfect. Yet it is possible to will to trust another based on that person’s track record in relationship with us. The best litmus test of trustworthiness is the extent to which a person acts according to the teachings of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn. 14:6)
Trust is earned by another’s sincerity, honesty, willingness to sacrifice getting one’s own way for the good of another, following through on promises, and accepting another person as he is without trying to control him. Readers might identify additional behaviors that contribute to inspiring trust in others. Being Christlike as Jesus revealed Himself to us makes us trustworthy. Actions rather than words are the chief instigators of trust from others. Actions are how we live the Gospel.
Provisional acts of the will
Great saints always give us the example of giving another person the benefit of the doubt. When we do that, our act of will to trust is provisional. We are in a “wait and see” mode, refraining from the deadliness of rash judgment and continuing to relate to another person normally but watchfully. After a period of time and observation we will be able to say unequivocally that we trust that person or we don’t, based on his actions. If we trust, we will proceed in our relationship based on the belief that the person, although fallible, is fundamentally trustworthy. We will also be ready to forgive occasional breaches of trust, understanding that none of us is perfect.
It is difficult if not impossible to trust someone who does not act based on Christian principles because all other bases lack truth to some degree. Repeated breaches of trust, which are typically seen by us as betrayals, signify deep problems in a relationship and often become the justification for breaking off or drastically reducing interactions.
It is not rational to attempt to have a close relationship with people who consistently betray us, most especially when we have made our feelings known, because the betrayer has no incentive to amend his behavior. Betrayal is an abuse of trust and allowing someone to continually betray us at one level or another enables that individual to continue acting uncharitably towards us. That makes us complicit in his sin.
Forgiveness and charity
Often the greatest act of charity towards someone as well as ourselves is to refuse to continue the relationship as is or break it off entirely. These actions on our part in and of themselves don’t signify a refusal to forgive. Our intentions are what count. We can forgive and move on, and most importantly, pray for the person who has betrayed us and desire his salvation. That is true charity.
Remaining mired in a relationship where one cannot will to trust drags us down physically, mentally, morally, emotionally, and spiritually. And we must understand that we can’t “fix” somebody else. Only God, with the person’s cooperation, can bring someone closer in conformity to the example of Christ.
Peace of heart/soul
If there is one universal desire in the heart of man, it is peace. The end result of choosing to trust others who are trustworthy, is peace of heart. Some would call it peace of soul. Genuine peace of heart/soul in its highest degree comes from our relationship with God.
We pray for the faithful departed, “May they rest in peace.” We have perfect peace when we get to heaven. There all relationships are perfect. Earth is not heaven. We will always have various levels of disruption in relationships and various breaches of trust we must deal with in this life. But being able to trust others brings us a certain amount of peace of heart/soul in this life, freeing us to fulfill our duties to God and our neighbor with greater joy.
We can, then, consider that trust is an act of will aimed at our desired state of peace of heart/soul in relationships, beginning first with God and then extending to others. Anything that disturbs that peace is cause to examine our will to trust and take appropriate action.
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R. Now and forever!
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