After watching Lisa express her anger at Paul, her husband, for several minutes, I interrupted. "You don't trust him."
"Sure I do," she said. "I just don't like many of the choices he makes."
"You mean most of his choices."
Her silence eloquently expressed her assent.
"People who don't trust each other," I said, "can't have loving relationships, and yet that's exactly the kind of relationship you keep saying you want."
"But I do trust him."
"When he does what you want, then you 'trust' him. But that's not trust."
"How am I supposed to trust him when he's unkind? Or selfish?"
"Which, of course, you define as doing anything you don't like."
People are fond of saying that they trust others, but they really don't. It's easy to trust someone who always does what you want and who doesn't make mistakes. That's not trust; it's just enjoyment. Real trust--another word for faith--is a choice we make. Real trust is something we give, rather than demanding that our partners earn it.
Before making a decision to trust someone, it might be helpful to understand not only who to trust but what to trust. How can you trust your spouse while he's making mistakes, being selfish, and not loving you? Easy. Make a decision to trust that your partner is doing the best he can to be loving. Almost without exception, your partner does not get up in the morning and decide to be a jerk. His "jerkish" behaviors are just reactions to emptiness and fear, so when he feels more loved, his behavior improves considerably. Surely you've noticed that.
If you trust that your partner is doing the best he can, you fully expect that he will make mistakes, behave selfishly, and fail to love you on occasion. We all do that. It's the human condition. Then, when he does make mistakes, it's no great surprise, and your trust--in the right thing, that he's doing his best to learn--is not betrayed. If you trust your partner not to make mistakes and not to hurt you, you'll feel betrayed each time one of those mistakes occurs, and you'll be inclined to withdraw your trust.
Our partners can feel our trusting them. When give our trust, they feel like they've received a gift. They want to do the best they can to be deserving of it. Trust is the great bridge that spans our differences and our flaws and brings us together in love. A failure to trust guarantees that such a bridge will never be built, much less used.
Many people wait for trust to be proven, like a bridge that is proven by the successful transit of a heavy train. In life, such bridges take a long time to build. They begin with a strand that is freely extended from you to your partner. When that holds, you can use it to pull across larger and larger ropes, and then even stronger structural supports can be added--much like the building of a real bridge across a canyon. In other words, even the building of a bridge takes trust.
Choose to trust. Be patient with those who receive your gift. Don't expect too much of them, and you'll be richly rewarded by your faith.