• J. Woken

Trust: Condition or Action?

What does trust look like?

People are always talking about “trust”, but I’m not sure they really know what they’re saying.

Not that I consider myself a solid authority on anything, but I’ve thought on trust often in a philosophical sense. There are, in fact, many things that I trust. I trust that the sun will come up tomorrow. I trust that my cat will wake me at midnight by racing through the living room and that my rabbit, Whiskey, will demand breakfast sharply at 8 AM by scratching noisily on her hutch door.

These are things I know because I can sense them physically: I hear, see, or feel these things and, therefore, I know they are true.

But what about less tactile trusts? When I say “I trust my husband with my life,” what does that mean? When I declare “I trust my sisters”, can I see that somehow?

It’s time we discussed trust in a proactive instead of a passive way.

Most recently the topic came up in a church gathering hubby and I hosted at our house. It was an informal affair; nobody had Bibles open, there was no note taking, no “verse if the day”. Just some jovial bonding time and chitter chatter between folks with like beliefs. We talked about any number of things — the hunting season, kids, pets, hobbies, and, generally, what was going on in our lives — but concluded the night discussing trust and how having or not having it affected our relationship with the Almighty.

Now, I have no intention of starting a spiritual debate, but I felt the discussion directed toward our Heavenly relationship(s) was also applicable to people’s lives in a very practical way, in a way that could be applied in a very non-spiritual sense.

During our study group, two questions popped into my head which had presented themselves to me long ago, but to which I hadn’t given any recent thought. I didn’t bring it up to the group, but, as I’ve continued to ponder, the questions (and answers) have become important to me.

The first question is…

If Trust is a condition, what does that look like?

Conditions are funny things. They can be temporary or permanent, acute or mild, obvious or ambiguous, or even fluctuate between degrees of all these things. Usually, when we hear someone say they have a condition, we think in medical terms: an illness, sickness, disease, etc.

For instance, I have a spinal condition common to many people — scoliosis — which is somewhat permanent, generally mild in its effects upon me, and unnoticeable unless you’re looking at my x-ray films. But when I suffer a cold, that’s a pretty obvious, unquestionable condition: sniffles, sneezes, disgusting levels of phlegm happening. Ick. No thanks.

So, if we could say trust is a condition, what is it a condition of: the heart, the mind, the body? Is it something that manifests itself visually, or something that is more or less hidden to our bodily senses?

My hubby often repeats a funny quote from one of his favorite movies, The Cowboy Way, when his curiosity has been perked by something out of the ordinary. I’ll not make an attempt at ruining the scene, but the quote itself is as follows:

“Hell, I’d do it just to see what it looked like.”

It’s a great quote, and applicable in so many ways to the random weirdness life offers up. (Putting felt boots on a cat? Sure. Playing Dizzy Bat with someone athletically challenged? If they’re up to it, why not?)

But, in talking about trust, most of us can say that, yes, we have done that. But, if so, can we say what it looks like when we did it?

Perhaps we might consider these as examples of what trust, the condition, looks like:

  1. Someone who doesn’t whine or nag, but uncomplainingly “goes with the flow”…

  2. A person who is collected in all manner of situations, even when things don’t go their way or when situations take unexpected turns.

  3. Ultimately, a person who has a consistently positive attitude (i.e. an attitude that shows trust despite circumstances, that “everything is going to be alright”).

So, basically, in my mind, a person who has a condition of trust doesn’t just talk the talk, they make an outward effort to show, even radiate, that “trust existence” to other people.

For those types, trust is an attitude, with no acts of trust independent from the rest of their lives. It IS their life; it is their condition.

This leads to the second question, namely:

If Trust is an action, what does that look like?

In contrast to the previous type, trust as an action can be separated from the personality. In essence, it isn’t always there, but comes and goes depending on the situation. Trust as action isn’t habitual — not merely the result of “how a person is” — but rather a conscious decision of expression and effort.

Examples of trust as action could be…

  1. …when someone goes quietly along with questionable plans without ranting about how “this isn’t a good idea” (i.e. their act of silence is showing trust in the other person).

  2. …a child who follows their parents’ instructions without having to know the reason behind said instructions.

  3. …a friend who doesn’t check, re-check, and re-re-check to make sure you’re going to show up for your dinner date (how annoying), because they trust that you’ll be there when you said you’ll be there.

Action trust is a whole other animal than condition trust. It’s voluntary and picky-choosey and, because of it’s selective nature, you have to really encourage it to come out and play nice when the time comes.

Like our happiness, trust is a muscle we ought to use, and use often, lest it shrivel and atrophy until we become grumpy, distrustful Grinches without any friends because we don’t trust anyone enough to let them that close into our lives. Except the dog, who is OK. Sometimes.

Grinches who have no trust muscle can only rely on their dogs for companionship. Except when their dogs disappoint. Then it’s all over.

So all this to say… what?

That trust as an action is great, but trust as a condition is POWERFUL. Why are we taught to treat others as we want to be treated? Or kill our enemies with kindness? Or love those seemingly undeserving of it?

Because the way we act upon other people has the power to change them, and, therefore, CHANGE THE WORLD. Treat an enemy as a friend and chances are that, eventually, they’ll become a friend, thus the enemy is no more (“killed”). Treat others with kindness and love and acceptance and you’ll likely cause them to feel guilty when they treat you poorly, thus changing their attitude toward you. Love those who aren’t lovable and, soon, they’ll realize they can be lovable, that they are worthy of love, and they’ll come to act lovable, thus ending the destructive cycle.

Blah, blah, blah… That’s all a bunch of positive, fancy-talk, right? Annoying? Perhaps. But positivity procreates positivity, and I’d rather be a wheel of change than the rock beneath it.

Fake it ’til you make it: acting in trust until it becomes a condition.

There’s a saying in the film industry between actors, actresses, and anyone looking to take to stage: “Fake it ’til you make it”.

I, myself, practiced this when I was starting to play guitar and sing publicly as Paisley Bishop. Granted it wasn’t a real professional gig, but I took it seriously. I didn’t know anything about playing music publicly, but there were three things that I did know that I learned from a few brief weeks of study at The Actor’s Scene:

  1. Don’t let the audience know that you don’t know what you’re doing.

  2. Never apologize for messing up (see #1).

  3. If you pretend to know what you’re doing, eventually you will know what you’re doing.

That last one is what really seals the attitude deal. 

In my pre-teen years, I was a generally quiet, subdued, passive girl. I followed, never led. I spoke up last, never first. I had no opinion (or, at least, none that I felt were worthy of sharing). Then I read my now-favorite book, The Fountainhead, which involves a bold, powerful female heroine who inspired me to be more like her. When I finished the book, I started thinking…

“What would Dominique do?”

I first changed how I perceived myself. “If I were Dominique,” I thought, “I’d take charge of my world.” So I did, making slight adjustments to hold firmly to those things I could effect and release those I couldn’t (sound like a 12-step program prayer to you?).

Then I changed how I acted. “If I were Dominique,” I decided, “I’d not be ashamed of me; I’d walk taller, prouder, and boldly.” So I did.

Finally, I changed how I reacted. “If I were Dominique,” I declared, “I would take my inevitable mistakes and fight back intelligently, not rashly or childishly.”

Then something magical happened without me even knowing it: I started becoming who I envisioned being. I was no longer shy, embarrassed, or quiet. I became more myself. I walked tall and in front instead of slouched and behind; became more of a leader and less of a follower; began to take under my responsibility mistakes I’d made and took hold of the responsibility of righting them, or apologizing for them, and then moving on with more TRUST in myself to do it better next time.

This all didn’t happen overnight — and still to this day I’m learning and working at it — but certainly had I not “faked it” I never would have “made it”, so to speak, into the person I am today.

And, dag nabbit, I think the person I am today is pretty darn awesome.

All that to say that acting in trust in moments when you don’t feel like trusting serves to strengthen your trust muscle and move you from action into condition.

Trust me, it’s a super happy place. 🙂

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