Saturday, March 23, 2013

The audacity of trust

When I was in graduate school, there was a theology professor that I credit with my "re-birth" as a human being after years of growing up haunted by the dogmatism of fundamentalist christianity that seemed aimed at crushing my spirit. His name was Ray Anderson and he passed away about 4 years ago.

Anyone who knows me in real life has heard stories about the interactions I had with this man and how he woke up the cowed little girl inside of me. I've often summarized it all by saying that the healing came because he trusted me fearlessly.

I wasn't the only one he touched. A friend of mine spent time with him too. When she first started to interact with him, she told him that she feared she was about to jump off a cliff. His response..."can I go with you?"

Since those days I've often thought about the healing power of trust. It is a powerful elixir that most of us are too fearful to extend to others - much less ourselves. We are so broken inside from our disappointments that we spend enormous amounts of energy protecting our vulnerability.

I have also come to believe that much of the fearless soul-searching work that Barack Obama did in his young adulthood (as was written about in Dreams From My Father) must have involved a reckoning with this brokenness and vulnerability because he reminds me of Professor Anderson in his willingness to trust people so fearlessly.

I was reminded of all that in President Obama's speech to the people of Israel.
Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people -- politically, religiously, they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want. They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning. The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.

That's where peace begins -- not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people. Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections -- that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.

And let me say this as a politician -- I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.

I know this is possible. Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today. Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope. Your hopes must light the way forward.

Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Believe in that. And most of all, look to the future that you want for your own children -- a future in which a Jewish, democratic, vibrant state is protected and accepted for this time and for all time...

Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change.
Imagine that...going into the most conflict-ridden part of the world today and talking about the fact that Jews and Muslims and Palestinians "hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart." Now THAT's audacious! He championed hope in a place that is plagued by fear because he trusts the audience he was speaking to.

I believe that's why they responded so powerfully to what he had to say - because that was my own personal response to a trust so fearlessly extended. That kind of gift from another person wakes up your soul.

And so I was reminded once again that we are privileged to be living in an era with this man as our leader. People like him don't come around very often...I've run into 2 during my 50+ years on this earth. Both of them were human with all of the limitations that ensures. But having wrestled with their own inadequacies, they also had the strength and courage to extend the audacity of trust.


  1. Thank you again for sustaining my hopes for peace.

  2. YESSSSSSSSS.......

    I affirm all that you have said...

    esp this....

    Since those days I've often thought about the healing power of trust. It is a powerful elixir that most of us are too fearful to extend to others - much less ourselves. We are so broken inside from our disappointments that we spend enormous amounts of energy protecting our vulnerability.

    Often folks mistake this quality to trust that PBO exhibits as weakness and naivete but actually it is a sign of his strength of spirit..

    This trip has showcased just how extraordinary is the man Barack Obama.

  3. Have always admired your insights and cogent writing, SP. But, this essay deserves special recognition. You have extended to all of us the very trust that you eloquently describe being extended to you by Professor Anderson, and to all of us by President Obama.

    Thank you.

    #TrustBarack ... He's Earned It

  4. Wow, what a powerful post. Thank you so much SP.

  5. My sentiments exactly.

    In regards to peace, it is important to look at what we all have in common. Keeping this in mind while working out the differences is so important.

    In regards to this President, although I don't agree with everything he does, I trust him, especially when it comes to foreign policy. I trust him to have the best intentions. It's been awhile since I've been able to say that about an American President. Intentions are important because they can influence the outcome significantly. It's no coincidence that the Iraq War turned out to be the disaster it was. Our intentions with that war were murky, false, and deceptive. The same could be said about the Afghan War, too.

    Trust is a very tricky thing. It can make you vulnerable, but at the same time, if you don't place it in something, you're just as vulnerable. It's all about not just trusting the first person who yells the loudest. It's about placing it in those who deserve it. And as, Bobfr states, Obama deserves it! It should be understood that not all trust is blind and not all mistrust is based on clarity and reason. Blind mistrust (which is normally based on ignorance and prejudice) is just as bad.

    Thanks, Smartypants! As always, you're in top form.