Finding trustworthy people these days can be difficult. I believe this is not because fewer trustworthy people exist than in previous generations, but because many of our relationships are transitory. People move around, switch jobs, and live at a furious pace. Trust takes time to incubate. Trust requires a certain amount of intimacy and transparency.
To make matters more difficult, nearly everyone has made the mistake of judging the wrong person trustworthy. Betrayal can hinder our ability or willingness to make the leap. But the fruits of being a person worthy of trust far outweigh the difficulties.
If we ourselves can be trusted, then we will draw others whose characters match our own.
To determine whether you can be trusted takes a bit of self-examination. Measure yourself against some of these signs to figure out if you are as trustworthy as you think you are. After all, we all have a tendency to overestimate our integrity. Studies show that we tend to use a harsher measuring stick against others than we do ourselves.
Signs You Can Be Trusted
- You are not paranoid. Why does this matter? We project onto others our knowledge of ourselves. People who regularly lie accuse others of lying far more often than those who are truthful. Proverbs says that we speak from our own hearts. This means that our words and actions show who we are. Do you live in fear of betrayal or being rejected? If so, then studies show you are more likely to be unsafe yourself. After all, people who fear rejection, reject others out of a perceived need for self-protection.
Fear betrayal? Adulterous spouses top the list for those who are paranoid about being cheated on. The reason is obvious. They fear it because they know themselves to be capable of it and are in fact, guilty of serious betrayal.
This is not to minimize the fact that many people who are trustworthy have experienced harm at the hands of others. But the next sign makes a big difference between those who grow from painful experiences and those who do not.
- You learn from your past mistakes. Being betrayed can sometimes make us terrified to trust again. However, no one who seeks to be trustworthy is perfect at bestowing their own trust on others. In fact, being seriously betrayed can really hone your character. You begin to realize how valuable trust and loyalty really are. You become much more discerning not only of others but also of yourself. You want to avoid becoming like those who hurt you at all costs.
- You do not see the world in black and white. The truth about trust is that it is both organic and specific. By organic, I mean that it grows. We have a tendency to think that trust is an all or nothing proposition. Not so. A couple who have treated each other with fidelity and kindness for fifteen years have fifteen years of trust. But the couple celebrating their golden anniversary have a treasure chest of fifty years worth of trust.
Additionally, trust is specific. Some people can be trusted with some things. This includes you. Chances are you have areas in which you can be trusted more than others. I can be trusted to be safe emotionally. I cannot yet be trusted to be perfectly organized. I am better than I used to be, however, I would still make a lousy secretary.
- You are reasonably transparent. I have been to enough parties in my life to know that so many adults live behind an image of themselves. If you have an image to keep up, then you are not living authentically. My mother calls this having a center versus having a mask. When people approach you, are they seeing the real you or are they separated from you by a mask?
- You do not gossip. Ever. This one is difficult for everyone, I believe. I remember visiting a church where we had to go to little Bible studies before worship. In this little group, we stood in a circle while we put forward our prayer requests. The problem was no one put forth their own requests. Instead, they would reveal intimate details about the lives of people everyone in the group apparently knew. Then when it came time to pray, the prayer was generic and brief. It was a gossip session. I knew I could consider no one in that group trustworthy.
- You are not secretive. Being private about certain things is generally just good boundaries. Privacy protects confidences and preserves intimacy. But if you are secretive, you leave everyone wondering what it is you are hiding. I have often found that as I get to know secretive people that they do have something to hide.
At any rate, if you harbor a lot of secrets, then it will not be possible for people to know you deeply. It is through knowing and being known that trust grows.
- You are scrupulously honest. As a wife who handles the money, it is tempting to minimize the details of what things cost. In fact, coming from a financially abusive first marriage, I was terrified of my current husband’s reaction. But I told the truth in two ways. I told him our budget and expenses, but I also told him about my fear. He listened. This means we can discuss money honestly. Money is a hot button for most marriages, but we have learned to be gracious and communicative.
- You are emotionally safe. If you want people to trust you, then you need to be safe. That means you do not attack, criticize, or throw tantrums. Expressing our anger honestly without viciousness or emotional manipulation is a skill that can take a lifetime to acquire. If you are a rager or the frozen fury type, you aren’t safe.
The trustworthy test we take over and over again is with our spouse and children. They have special ways of ticking us off. We have plenty of opportunities to learn to express our anger well, but we are often hampered by the examples set before us by our parents as well as our genetic predisposition. Can your child make a mistake, confess it to you, receive a consequence, express their sorrow, and sincerely repent? If they can be that open with you, never fearing the loss of your love and approval, then you are an incredibly trustworthy parent.
In fact, because I valued intimacy over conformity, I made a rule that if a child confessed, there would be no punishment. They might have to make restitution, but they were rewarded for their honesty.
The wonderful thing about being trustworthy is that others who are trustworthy will gravitate towards you. There is no guarantee that you will never be betrayed or that your trust will never be misplaced. In fact, I guarantee you will be taken advantage of or lied to. But in the end, you are not responsible for their wrongs. You are only responsible for who you are.
The reason being trustworthy and find others who are is important for this reason. Without trust, peace cannot exist nor love grow. If you want to love and be loved, if you want to live in peace, you must start with yourself. You must be someone who is a safe refuge for your friends and family. The best part of being trustworthy is that the peace you have within yourself begins to spread to your circle of influence.
Lastly, if you fail in any of these arenas, we have a Savior who is faithful to forgive our faults. The most important thing I know about Jesus is that I can approach Him in utter safety, in utter honesty, knowing that He will never reject me. If you are unsure about what a trustworthy person looks like, you have no further to look than Jesus.
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Some interesting perspectives: