Monday, October 8, 2007

Smartypants meets the real world

Every once in a while I get blasted with the reality that I am, at heart, naive and entirely too trusting of people. Today is one of those days. I'm not bragging about being trusting, it has been a real problem for me on more than one occassion.

I expect that I've had the luxury of trust in that while growing up it was clear that I had all of the priviledges associated with whiteness and money. Every day of my young life, it looked to me like I could expect that the world was a just and honest place. Now, as I've grown up, I've learned that isn't true - but not usually in a real personal sense. So I continue to approach people thinking the best of them until I'm proven to be wrong.

I won't go into the gorry details, but today I learned that some people are not who I thought they were. It looks like their deception was calculated and not merely a misunderstanding. Lots of people are used to this kind of thing. I'm not. So it tends to rock my world a bit. But the old expectations are more deeply rooted than the few instances where they are proven wrong. So I know I'll go on trusting the best about people...til the next time.

It wasn't until I was in my 40's that I began to learn that this issue of whether or not you approach people with trust was something that played out very differently with different people. As we usually do, I thought everyone was just like me. As I began to understand the differences, it helped me tackle some of the relationship and communication barriers I had experienced along the way. For example, as I try to get to know a young African American man I work with who grew up in New Orleans, I don't take his occassional reluctance to engage with me personally. He learned VERY different lessons growing up. And since my line of work takes me in contact with police officers quite often, I can say with assurance that is NOT a profession I would have been suited to. Their profession and sometimes their lives depend on being skeptical and untrusting of what's on the surface. These are just examples of some of the lessons I've learned as I became aware of how we are all different in this one area.

Part of my commitment to trust is that the most beautiful gift anyone has ever given to me was to trust me with abandon. This gift came from a graduate school professor who helped me "re-birth" from my condition of trusting everyone but the one person I could rely on - myself. And it was his complete trust of everything that was core in me, and the invitation for me to do the same, that opened a new path in my life. Sometimes I toy with thinking about the courage it took for him to do that. He knew he might be disappointed the way I have occassionally been. And yet he gave it freely. It meant the world to me and I'd like to think that someday I'd have his courage and be able to "pay it forward."

Anyway, its hard for me to imagine approaching people with an eye towards how they might be deceiving me. Since it doesn't come naturally, it would take a lot of work. And its not as if the world is nicely divided up into those who are trustworty and those who aren't. We're all much more complex than that. The idea that there are "good" and "evil" folks is a big part of what's wrong with our culture these days. I think Alexander Solzhenitsyn summed it up very well:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

I'm certainly not willing to destroy my heart...or anyone else's. So I suppose you can just call me a "naive smartypants." Those are my true colors.


  1. Good topic, Nanc

    That trust thing has been an issue with me through most of my life as well. I think most of is learn it very young. What I learned was not to trust. . .but my nature is as yours, I will be open to you until you show me I shouldn't be. Yes, lots of folks call that naive.

    Actually, after years of digging around in that sink pit of self discovery I found that my trust of anyone (and I thought it was of everyone) only went up to that cement bunker wall I had built around my heart. "Sure, I'll let you in. . .but only so far."

    The strangest thing happened when I tore down those barriers and opened all of it up. I found that I had a new found wisdom of who and how and why was safe. It seems so counter intuitive, but that is how it worked for me. When I stopped having expectations of others I stopped getting hurt by them. I learned to accept each one in front of me in that moment for what they were giving me, for what they were showing me, for what their intentions seemed to be and it has worked wonders in my life.

    Not suggesting this is for others, just sharing that this is what worked for me.


  2. Thanks Shirls, your wisdom is always so much appreciated. And yes, there are different levels of trust - the old "I'll only let you in so far" is something that I know only too well.

    Hope you're doing well, nice to hear your "voice."

  3. I am doing very well, thank you. It is good to be able to find your always interesting and informative words out here in cyberland.

    Keep up the good work.

    Hugs and loves

  4. What a treat to find Shirl's words here as well!

    I often check your postings NL for a "thought for the day." I went to check the meaning of "trust" in the dictionary. As a verb: to BELIEVE in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of

    I consider "belief" systems very interesting and very powerful. It seems very difficult to change them - even when given factual evidence which is contrary to the belief. On the other hand, we can hold contradictory beliefs!

    I heard a banker/business consultant from Switzerland (who was Indian-love the blending!), discussing the need for trust in business exchanges. He mentioned the importance of understanding cultural differences and the impracticality of US businesses attempting to do everything in legalese with contracts in a global economy.

    It is very painful to have trust broken. I find the resulting anger and self-doubt difficult to process. Shirl has an openness that I admire. Not sure how to get there from here ;)

  5. Hi Tam!

    I hear and understand what you are saying. Those beliefs can be pretty difficult to change. Regardless of how negative or positive they might be, we are awfully fond of our beliefs. I know for me, especially when I first started working on them, I had a difficult time imagining what would replace them, any of them, about anything or anyone.

    What I discovered is my own personal power resides in my perspective, my personal view of anything. I learned that I could change my perspective, about everything if I did it from the concept of taking a bigger view. When we are so close to the puzzle that we can't fully see how many pieces are missing, it is very difficult to even "believe" that any pieces could be missing.

    I learned over time that I could continually find a bigger view, a larger perspective. Even if it was in very small steps taken hesitantly. When I found a mentor and teacher that I learned to trust ultimately (although it took me 8 years of watching her every word, step and action) my life began to change dramatically. The next thing I knew I "magically" found a new friend nearby who trusted me so completely I found it easy to trust her. Wow! Was that ever an amazing experience. I tell her all the time that she is the ONE who finally taught ME how to trust.

    And that has only been the last 7 years of my life. Amazing. At the same time that I was gifted with this awesome friend, my inner guidance told me it was time to open up my heart totally to everyone. Shocking that was. I was highly doubtful that would ever happen.

    Step by step, in small increments, I set about to become an open, loving being, who was who I really am and always have been. It was like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders and I began to find joy in everyone and everything.

    As far as I'm concerned, it was/is flat out miraculous. It took some effort, but really, not nearly as much effort as it took to carry around those blockades that kept others out.

    It is very much available to all of us if we wish it. I would be happy to discuss more of the steps as I discovered and used them in email if anyone is interested. Not that whatever you or anyone is doing isn't just perfectly right for you.

    Didn't mean to ramble on so. . .thanks for the space Nanc and thanks Tam for your words.

    Great love and hugs
    Shirl. . .


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