Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trust Me

TRUST: –noun
1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.

This morning I was reading something about the concept of trust, how hard it is in this dog-eat-dog world to know whom to trust. There are those who trust too much - i.e. they just assume the Pollyanna position, which is to say they give up too much of themselves to people who do not, after all, have their best interest at heart. I have done my fair share of that. It's a game that leaves me wishing I could go back and gather up all of the pieces of myself that were scattered like seeds in the wind.

Live and learn.

What I was most struck by, however, is that the writer believes one of the most detrimental things that can happen to us is that we lose the ability to trust ourselves. She mentioned that sometimes others try and convince us that our view of things is wrong, which, if we believe them, leads to self-doubt. Doing that is a pretty effective strategy if your aim is to control someone. When my oldest daughter was in high school she had a friend who had a two year-old brother. As is often the case in families that house both teenagers and toddlers, the teen was babysitting, and she and my daughter took him to the park. He fell off of a swing and hit is head really hard, and his sister's response was to rush in and authoritatively tell him, "That didn't hurt. That didn't hurt!" I understand not wanting to listen to him wail, but to keep him from erupting she tried to convince him of something that was the complete opposite of what his body was loudly telling him. I wasn't there, but I imagine that at the very least that kid was confused. What do you do when someone tells you that what's right in front of you doesn't really exist? It's sort of like the Emperor's New Clothes. I love that the kid in that story had the balls to shout out what everyone else was afraid to say. Sometimes we don't want to suffer the consequences of telling the truth, because the emperor may get furious and make our lives hell. And so to keep the peace, we stand by the side of the road and admire non-existent clothes.

I think it's extremely common for people to manipulate others by trying to convince them that their perspective is flawed. It's probably somewhat like brainwashing. If you tell someone something often enough they begin to believe it. I think that was largely true in my marriage, and I also think that was true in the religious circles I ran in. My ex-husband was a master at making me think I was crazy, using circular reasoning that always led back to his agenda, his beliefs, his ideas, his plans, and his superior ability to see what was really true. The problem was, however, that he was the one acting crazy. Of course, in the religious climate we were living in that was the setup. Men know. Women don't (remember Eve?) It is your job to support your husband's views and assist him in his plans. Nevermind that he may be walking down the street without a stitch of clothing on.

Likewise, I think a lot of my spiritual journey has been lived out in that type of environment. There's this idea that the people in power know better than you do. If you don't agree with them, you're not seeing clearly. Don't trust your feelings, they say. You'll be led astray by your lower nature, your lack of devotion, and - of course - the devil. I remember it being drilled into me that according to I Samuel 15:23, "rebelling" was just as bad as idolatry and getting involved in the occult. How convenient that when all else fails spiritual leaders can pull out the rebellion card to get their way. Of course I'm not saying that all spiritual leaders are guilty of that, but some are. I remember having a V-8 moment during my Western Civilization class last semester when I recognized a pattern. Over and over and over again I read about the role Christianity played in social and political structure. And what I found was that a great deal of the time leaders used the religious system to further their own political and financial advantage, or to feed their insatiable thirst for power.


I want to believe that people are considerate and humane. I want to believe leaders are selfless and have my best interests at heart. I want to believe that no one would take advantage of me in order to perpetuate their own aim. But that's not the world we live in. On the flip side I don't want to live as a suspicious, jaded, cynical person who doesn't trust anybody. I think the idea of trusting ourselves is a good middle ground. I might trust you. I might not. But I'm gonna stay in touch with what my Spidey-sense is telling me. I think Irish writer Emmett Fox said it best:

"You should gladly take advantage of helpful teaching wherever you may get it; go to churches or meetings that help you; listen to speakers, and read books that inspire you to find yourself; but do not surrender to anybody your own spiritual judgment."

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