Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trust and Haikus

A few weeks ago I wrote the longest post of all time about trust. If you don't have time to go back and read it, let me summarize it for you in this haiku:

Some people tell lies.
It is hard to trust again.
Tigers and dragons.

I realized after the second line that I had already completed the summary so I just went with "tigers and dragons" after that. And then I was like, "really? That was such a long post. Is that really all it said?" So I went back and read it just now and that wasn't all it said. And if I knew how to edit, I would go above and add a second part to the haiku:

How to find balance,
Between trusting and guarding?
And how do you keep yourself from strengthening without callousing when bad things happen?

I stopped counting syllables towards the end because of laziness. Sorry if the last line ended up exceeding seven.

But in that post I asked you guys for some thoughts on that question, because I have found myself wanting to trust less and less recently courtesy of some bad experiences. And I hate that that has happened. Not feeling open to trusting people and questioning other's motives is not a good feeling.

Your responses in the comments to that post and in the emails you sent to me were like holy scripture. So profound and helpful. And, actually, better than some of the Bible because they made sense and contained way less polygamy and incest.

If you don't have time to read that post, I strongly urge you to at least go back and read those comments. Because the Strangers of the world came through on that question in a big way and I can't tell you how much those words of advice have helped me since they were posted.

So if anyone is still interested in whatever conclusion I have come to about this whole mess, I'll tell you now, but with one disclaimer: I absolutely don't feel like I have a final answer on this. But I do feel like I've learned some things that have helped me recently, so here they are.

Usually when we feel anxious about being able to trust other people generally, the root of the problem is actually our refusal to trust ourselves. Because if we can believe in ourselves and our ability to be happy and find joy and stay strong no matter what comes our way, it almost doesn't matter what other people do or don't do around us.

I say "almost" because living in a state of constant emotional euphoria is unrealistic, and people can still find ways to hurt us and those around us even if we are determined to be happy. When someone has a bad track record with us, it's ok and good to protect ourselves by not trusting that person again. The problem is when we let that person's bad choices stop us from developing fulfilling relationships with other people. And if I'm having a hard time generally trusting people with my thoughts and needs, it's a lot more productive to look inward and find ways to encourage myself to be brave than to look outward at each individual and refuse to let them in until I can find reasons to believe they would never lie.

Because the truth is, refusing to trust until we are confident that someone is absolutely trustworthy is a losing game. Everybody lies. And it isn't pessimistic to accept that. It's realistic.

And while realism often just looks like disguised pessimism, in this case it actually paves the path towards productive optimism. Because the moment we can accept that nobody in this world is perfect and that that hasn't stopped us from feeling happiness and peace in our relationships before is the moment that we start focusing less on "how might this person hurt me" and more on "how might this person love me." From personal experience, I have to tell you that that is a better place to be in.

Everybody lies. But that doesn't mean that nobody should be trusted. Because there are plenty of wonderful people in this world for every single one of us who are ready to make our paths through life all the more worthwhile. And the only way we can find those people is by letting them in, without letting them have control of our happiness.

None of this is to say that I think we should unabashedly make ourselves vulnerable to any person who passes by, stranger or otherwise. It's just that, there is so much more joy in this life to be had if we decide to be happy rather than let our happiness depend upon the decisions of other people.

Trusting someone is fulfilling. And it's so much easier to trust someone when we don't attach so much personal stock to that trust's maintenance.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I find it amazing that one person can be so hilarious AND profound. You've really made me think, Eli.

  2. I've been giving this quite a bit of thought recently because a good friend of mine said something the other day that really hurt me. While hurting, I couldn't help but think, "Why did you let them become so important to you that they could say one sentence and cause this?" After resolving the whole mess, thinking back on that, it is so silly. There have been so many good memories, so many laugh-untill-you-cry moments, etc. that it is completely worth it to trust them with that kind of power. I guess the key is to place that trust in people who will not abuse it.

  3. So needed to hear this today. Thank you. Trust in yourself and it's easier to trust others.

  4. I, too, would like to thank you because I need to hear this as well--not just today but it seems like multiple times everyday. I completely agree with you, you say what I tell myself all the time, although you say it in an inspirational way--my inner voice tends to berate me with the negative aspects of not trusting myself and others.

    I was expecting a more humorous post because that seems to be your MO, but you are just as good with the sentimental & inspirational posts as you are with the comedic.

    Anyway, Thank you.

  5. Thanks, Eli. Always assume positive intent.

  6. Whenever I am faced with an issue of trusting someone, even someone who has hurt me before because, let's be honest, MOST people do not hurt us on purpose. I try and remind myself that I don't REALLY know their thought process. I don't REALLY know their motivation in acting that way.

    Yes, their behavior may seem intentionally unkind, but until I've spent some time in their head, which of course is impossible, then I have to remember that the alternate, less malign reasons for that behavior are also equally possible and I get to choose which one I believe. Do I choose to believe that person is secretly related to The Queen of Colors or that they are a person who also doesn't know MY thoughts and therefore, unknowingly, have hurt me in a deeper when then they could even know?

    It's my choice which theory I choose to think motivated them to that behavior. Even repeat offenders.

    There are very, very few people who wake up and say, "You know what? Today I feel like hurting this person in my life. How can I do the most damage?" The Queen of Colors and Leotrix excluded naturally...

    Think about when you've hurt someone. Most of the time, it's been completely on accident and something you would change if you could. Wouldn't you hope for someone to give you the benefit of the doubt when both true evil-ness and true human-ness have equal probabilities of being the cause?

    I would even argue that true human-ness has even more of a chance of being the truth.

  7. trusting you is eas
    y. unless you lie to the
    media. you know.

    1. You and I will go
      To prison one day I hope
      We'll be together.

  8. I'm the offender. I have messed up so many times that I don't even want to trust myself or my instincts, I wonder if God even can trust me anymore. After you are the multiple offencer, sometimes you just want to end it all. And by trying to do so, there is another niche on the belt of mistrust.

    1. I never reply, but Anon...I had to. I won't go all preachy on you, but everyone messes up...sometimes big, sometimes small. Everyone is worthy of God's forgiveness.

      All you have to do is ask, and it's given. Yes, it's that simple.

      The only 'end'-ing you need to do is whatever behaviors you are repeating to make the same mistakes.

      Sounds simple, but believe me I know it's not.

      Okay, I'm shutting up now.

      God Bless.

    2. Thank you! I'm on Happy Pills now and feel a lot better today then yesterday. Sorry for the "drama". I guess once a drama queen, always a drama queen.

  9. Sigh...too bad life has taught me that 'trust' is a valuable, and very scarce, commodity.

    It's something you learn through experience, and while you've trotted the globe, honey you're still just a 'baby'...and I mean that in a good way.

    I trust God, and His Son, implicitly. Humans are flawed, though, and even your bestest bestest pal on Earth may violate your trust.

    The trick is to learn when that violation is a deal-breaker and when it's just a smack-the-idiot-upside-the-head moment. And, heh..heh..'trust me'...you will learn the difference, and you will learn who your truly trustworthy friends and family are.

    But, that takes time...and some heartache...and sometimes you'll still fail to identify the weasels.

    Don't judge yourself too harshly when you do fail. It happens to everyone.

    Don't completely shut yourself off, but proceed with caution. It's kind of like making friends with your inner porcupine.

  10. Bravo, Eli! Bravo!

  11. Eli's a genius.
    I'm always looking forward,
    To the next great post.

  12. How about perfect? The penultimate paragraph was perfect! I came to the same conclusion yesterday. It was like finally seeing the light through the haze. A dark, murky haze that surrounded me for a really long time.
    I still don't know if I'll be able to trust people easily, I know I'll always be guarded. If someone really cares enough, and takes the time to get to know me, maybe I'll lower my defenses. People are going to be people. All sorts of them. I'll just have to make sure that their actions, words and attempts at influence don't affect me. But, till then, everybody gets the benefit of the doubt. I'm trying to be less guarded around my parents and siblings, but anybody else- I don't think I have the strength yet.
    I just have to remember that my state of mind doesn't have to depend on others.

  13. I love this:

    "Usually when we feel anxious about being able to trust other people generally, the root of the problem is actually our refusal to trust ourselves. Because if we can believe in ourselves and our ability to be happy and find joy and stay strong no matter what comes our way, it almost doesn't matter what other people do or don't do around us."

    That's the kind of happiness I am after. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. I remember your post about trust pretty clearly because after reading it I had a conversation with a friend who also follows your blog, about how I hadn't been hurt by anyone in this particular area yet.
    It wasn't more than 2 weeks later that I would find out that for over a year, someone who means so much to me had been lying to me about some really major things. I was devastated. I began to wonder if I'd ever be able to look at this person again without thinking of the pain that they caused me. Or if I'd be able to trust what they say again. But most of all what I still wonder, is if I'll ever come to a point where I'm not suspicious of the things that they might not be telling me. If that makes sense.
    While my experience with being lied to and hurt has been extremely painful, it's revealed a lot about my own heart, and where I'm at in my own walk with God. And for the first time, it's actually been encouraging to see some of it. I don't have the final answer on trust either, but one of the conclusions I've come to is that everyone is going to hurt you. You just have to find the ones worth suffering for. And while this process hasn't been enjoyable, I'm so thankful for the people in my life who are worth the pain.

  15. great post and profound insights but maybe you should re-read your post about VAGUE status updates. It's hard to relate, understand, or sympathize when everything you have to say about this is always so incredibly vague.

    1. Ah, Anonymous. This conversation between the two of us is starting to sound like a broken record. I am not looking for your sympathy, but I did hope you might be able to relate and understand. The context may help you digest the conclusions better. Maybe not. But it's not appropriate at this time for me to share the context in this forum. And while I often have a policy on Stranger of only talking about something if I'm ready to tell the whole story, I think these conclusions have been very helpful for me and others to share and discuss here. So I don't apologize for sharing them now, even with the limited context. But I promise, if ever I am ready to tell this whole story, I will dedicate that post to you!

    2. Hey! I was being polite! I want to know what happened too! Might even make the insights clearer to grasp! :P
      Anonymous 2

  16. Yes, its important to not let others determine our happiness, but thinking that everyone lies must be a Doctor and Lawyer thing. And probably because in your profession, people do lie quite often. But I think its more accurate to say that people protect themselves first and foremost, and occasionally (sometimes consistently for some) that means not telling the complete truth. Its not meant as a lie, and its definitely not meant to hurt anyone else, they are just avoiding hurting themselves.
    Also, if someone does or says something that is hurtful to you, and they are an important person in your life, that warrants a conversation. What may be discovered is that the thing said was not meant to be hurtful, or if it was then it was immediately regretted. Isn't a lie of omission if you don't confront someone who has hurt you?

    1. Great insights, Amanda. And I don't think we actually disagree. I think we are defining "lie" a little differently--I'm defining it more broadly than you. My point is that we can't expect absolute honestly and full disclosure from anyone all the time. Because if we do, we set ourselves up for unnecessary disappointment. Now identifying the intentional pain-causers from the others is a different story.

  17. Everybody? I don't lie!

    Oops. I guess I just did...

    But you're right. We can't let one person's actions dictate how we relate to others.

  18. This post struck me with irony because, as far as I'm aware, this blog was launched into increased popularity by the abuse of trust. That irony doesn't undermine the value of this or other posts; it's just ironic.

    Jane kept on texting,
    trusting etiquette even
    after cat snuggies

    1. Ha! Touche. We're exploring trust from every corner around here!