According to the dictionary Google uses, the word “trust” means a “firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Not to be confused with a “Living Trust,” which legally binds others to your wishes when you’re not around to check on them. Trusting another person is a big deal and full of risks. Trusting my F150 to pull the equipment trailer with the tractor on it is a lot easier.
But people aren’t things and how much trust we put into each other is tricky business.
I once had a mentor who told me that he trusts nearly everyone — to do what comes naturally. Of course, this assumption means my mentor trusted some persons not to be trustworthy. I think what he trusted most was his intuition. And this works for some of us.
In addition to finding the definition of trust, my Google search suggested numerous websites where I could learn more about the legal aspects of ensuring that your wishes get done in your absence. A legal Trust sounds like the opposite of trust.
Perhaps my mentor was on to something. Trust comes much easier with a legal contract. That is, provided you have an enforceable contract, a good lawyer, and the temperament to litigate. When did trusting become so expensive?
This week’s theme is about trust that doesn’t involve lawyers. We’re talking about a trust that doesn’t have to go to court for resolution. A level of trust that even when all indications are that our trust was in vain, we trust nonetheless. Is this even possible?
Charles Feldman, a community mediator and business consultant, defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” 2 Okay, now I see the reason a legally binding contract is so important. The flip side of trust is distrust, where we believe that what we hold as valuable in terms of our vulnerability is not safe with another. Ouch!
So what does it take to build a level of trust where I’m willing to give someone the kryptonite that could destroy me?
Dr. Brené Brown, in an episode of one of Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul sessions, offered an acronym for the foundations of trust — BRAVING. Her acronym required a lot of letters because building and holding trust is hard work. It’s more complicated than sticking to a diet but like dieting, gaining trust requires developing healthy habits. 3
Boundaries — Reliability — Accountability — Vault — Integrity — Non-judgment — Generosity
For us to trust each other, we need to set and keep boundaries. We must reliably do what we say we’re going to do. We hold ourselves accountable. We keep secrets — not just the secrets between us, but we do the same for others as well. We demonstrate integrity through our courage in making choices that reflect our values. We don’t judge each other when we’re struggling. And grace is a given, so we always presume the best by generously giving grace.
Trust reminds me of the simple requirement that God gave humankind — love each other. Trust, like eating healthy, is not complicated unless we’re trying to cheat on our diet. Trust is easy unless we’re trying to be untrustworthy while hoping that others will still trust us.
Since trusting each other is so tricky, let’s shift our attention to trusting God. What might it look like to trust God? How well does God do on Brené Brown’s BRAVING test of trustworthiness?
Scripture answers this question with stories.
One of my favorite stories is about a nameless widow who lived in the village of Zarephath. This single mother was near her wits-end, making a life for herself and her son out of nothing. The cupboard was nearly empty thanks to persistent drought.
According to the events leading up to this story, God caused this drought as punishment for the people breaking their promises to remain faithful to God. The Prophet Elijah predicted the drought in the form of a curse.
Elijah has troubles of his own. His primary worry was that king Ahah and queen Jezebel sent soldiers after Elijah to capture him, dead or alive. So God sent Elijah to Zarephath to hide out at the home of the nameless widow.
The widow went and did as Elijah had told her, and all of them had enough food for many days.
1 Kings 17:15
Elijah arrived hungry and tired from his trip. Aware of the extreme importance of hospitality in their culture, Elijah doesn’t think twice about asking to be fed. But even Elijah’s modest request was too much for a nearly empty pantry. “Sure, I can feed you our last meal,” was the widow’s response. “We’re going to starve anyway. So why not finish the job!”
At first, Elijah surely thought he had the wrong widow. Except that Elijah was accustomed to a mysterious God who creates abundance from scarcity. So without hesitation, Elijah assures the widow not to worry.
The worried mom prepares a meal for Elijah, herself, and her son with what she had left in her pantry. Afterward, God restocks her pantry with enough for another meal. And promises that grocery delivery will continue for as long as necessary. No subscription necessary, no contract, and no need to resubscribe month-to-month.
But what did it take for this single mom to trust Elijah enough that she would share all that she had left with him based on an absurd promise that God takes care of her needs? According to Dr. Brown, it takes BRAVING.
God, in the widow’s experience, always kept healthy boundaries. God was reliable — not just once, but time after time. Perhaps the widow knew the stories of God keeping divine promises to Abraham and his ancestors.
God holds people accountable and seemed to have no problem with us doing the same. God hears and knows all of our secrets along with everyone else’s secrets but doesn’t divulge them. And God wrote the book on integrity, demonstrating courage in the face of resistance and insults.
And while God alone is the judge of divine justice, we know that God later lived among us, not to judge us, but to save us from ourselves. Fortunately, God does not judge us for our actions but generously offers each of us grace to repent and try again.
The widow didn’t trust Elijah. He hadn’t demonstrated the braving that would build such trust. But fortunately, the widow trusted the One who sent him.
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1 Much of the content of this series is based on the book: Danielle Bean. You are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You about Your Mission and Worth. West Chester, PA: Ascension Publishing, 2018.
2 Charles Feldman, The Thin Book of Trust. Bend, OR: Thin Book Publishing Company, 2008.
3 Dr. Brené Brown. “Anatomy of Trust.” © Oprah Winfrey SuperSoul Sessions, April 27, 2020.