Can you trust me?
Can I trust you?
Can you trust each other?
The word trust is one we toss around rather casually. In the US, money is imprinted with the words "In God we Trust." In what is one of the world's most materialistic cultures, the fact that God and money are connected in this way might explain a lot...
We talk about all of those we mistrust.
We have lost all trust in our politicians - we expect that they are only out to enrich themselves and stay in office, rather than actually to help the people.
We have lost trust in our teachers to a great deal - thinking they are not really dedicated to their work.
To a great extent, we've lost trust in everyone we meet. We know enough to think of everyone we meet as a potential paedophiles, rapists, or scam artist.
And this lack of trust pervades our living and our interactions. Trust is something that is hard to turn on and off like a light switch. Once we've taken on the armour of mistrust, it does not easily slip off at the door to our homes, in our communities, or even in our intimate relationships.
The truth is that we need trust. Trust is the lubricant that makes negotiation possible. It is the glue that makes community work. It is the warm refuge within which love can be allowed to grow.
As much as we might want to think that we are wisest and best off to trust no one, living without trust prevents us from living fully. It means we cannot readily learn from others. It means we cannot easily work with others. It means we cannot effectively lead others. It means we cannot really love others.
Trust is both an individual quality and a social one. Our whole societal mistrust leads to a lower level of trust for each of us - much like a general drought means that each of us has less water to use - but we also have our own individual control over how we trust. Unlike water, trust is not a limited resource. We can - if we choose and are deliberate - live in a more trusting way.
There are two parts to this individual level of trust. Next Sunday we will ask "who can you trust?"
Today, though, we ask "who can trust you?" In a culture where trust is not easily given, how can you be a person who is trusted, who people can approach, to whom people feel able to tell their truths, and with whom people feel increasingly able to be themselves?
We might immediately think of discretion as the most important factor in being someone people trust. It's certainly true that we recognise anyone who breaks the confidences of others as someone not trust. No matter how much we might enjoy the gossip they share [and face it, we find gossip pretty irresistible] we recognise very quickly that such people are not the right ones to be ourselves with. They are entertaining. They might be fun to be around, but they are never the people with whom we dare to be ourselves.
Discretion is a baseline requirement for being someone who others deeply trust. The most important quality though is the ability to listen in a special way. It is the ability, the willingness, the commitment, to take in every word and every feeling behind those words without doing anything else at all. We all want to do something else!
We all want to formulate our reply as we listen.
We all want to fix a problem if there is one.
We all want to form judgements about what is good, what is bad, what should have been done differently, and what illness or health is represented by what we're hearing.
We all want to tell about how something similar happened to our friend's cousin and blah blah blah.
We want to make it about doing and about evaluating and about us, but the most powerful thing we can do is to listen and do nothing else at all.
Listen to this poem by John Fox:
"When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you,
the room where you stay starts a new life
and the place where you wrote your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you,
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you."
The amazing thing is that you - each of you - have that gift to give. You can be the one who changes another's hour, day, or whole life. You can be the one they turn to and grow into themselves.
You already have everything you need to be that person - to be trusted - to be loved - to bring the deepest comfort and joy. Live it. May it be so.