Some say that your good name is the only thing you really have in this world. I was brought up on that understanding. As I grew older, it grew into a belief that trust is a near invaluable commodity.
I will never forget the day I had to call on close friends to deliver on the trust we’d built over a lifetime. The call went out — “Help! Now! It’s life or death!” There were some that cemented that trust, and there were some who let me know where I fell on the food chain. Although that moment wound up passing without incident, it brought about much reflection. Moments after the danger passed, I began to realize that the trust I had in some did not pass the test. It didn’t result in any lost friendships, but it caused me to notice that I’d given life-level trust to people who hadn’t followed through. That 100% trust in that area suddenly fell to 99%. 99% sounds good, but when you’re back’s up against a wall, it’s not enough. When you have time to call only 1 or 2 people, you’ve gotta call the ones who will show up!
In the years since that moment, I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering the odd nature of trust. Prior to that day, trust had been a black and white issue to me. I either trusted you or I didn’t. Life hadn’t taught me even my closest friends could and would fail me at some point in my life. I began to wonder if I really understood trust. It’s not as if I’d signed a contract with all of my friends, yet, somehow I just knew those that can be trusted in my time of need. I’d realized, yet not fully processed that a particular friend might be trustworthy in one situation, and completely unreliable in another. This might be elementary for some, but for me, I’d grown up with a very tight-knit group of friends who I’d primarily met at church. I was taught by most adults in my life that I was to be trustworthy above nearly anything else. Being untrustworthy was a pathway to distrust, dishonor, and the loss of that good name I’d been taught to cherish.
I began to wonder what it meant if a person wasn’t 100% trustworthy in all situations. I looked back on the trusts I’d broken: The loans I’d paid back late, the times I’d said “sure” when I should have said “no”. Deep inside, I desired to be trustworthy in all situations, but I knew I wasn’t in all areas. Surely I could earn that trust eventually. I began to wonder, how long I needed subdue my own shortcomings before I could fully trust myself.
Through all my desires to fully trust myself, substantial doubt remained that this goal was attainable. Instinctively, I knew the truth. I can’t be trusted to show up on time, I can’t be trusted not to procrastinate. One part of me still want’s to justify these things. “I’m just a little late, no big deal.” I worried that these “little issues” would grow worse if I let myself get away with it. I’m late to practice one day and before long, I’m late paying back a loan. Will that little tardy-tendency someday cause me to show up late to a life-and-death situation like I faced so many years ago? I sure never intend for that to happen, but how can I know what something so small could lead to?
In examining myself and realizing my shortcomings, I stop and wonder if it’s prudent to expect the same of others. Should I expect others to fall short in life-and-death situations because of small, but consistent areas of mistrust? Who could I ever count on as my last line of defense? This line of thinking leads me to the inevitable conclusion that nothing can be fully trusted, and I fear that conclusion leads to a life of doubt and second guessing everything: in short, a miserable existence.
How then, do I reconcile this inherent mistrust in everyone with the need to count on others? How could I ever count on my spouse 100%, when I know that I might not ever be able to completely trust myself?
In prayerful consideration of all the above, I’ve come to realize that the answer is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-9.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
There it is! Love is the answer. It says right there that when we love others, we need to be patient with them,trust them, not keep a record of wrongs, and to persevere. The trust that I was brought up to value above all else is a lie. My good name is trash. When I instead try to love others, I wind up trusting them as a consequence. I’ll be patient, and thus give them grace when they fail. In pursuing love, I’ll want to protect, persevere and not fail. That tendency of tardiness can be addressed because I Love others and desire not to fail, dishonor, or hurt them. When that love is returned, I’m given patience and second chances. This mutual love grows because each of us are working on our own love of others. In my old way of thinking, trust was basically a barter system of saving up for favors to be cashed in at a later date. The thing I desired wasn’t earned, but given away. I can’t count on trust always working, I am to count on love never failing. When I give up the self-seeking end results, I realize that love IS the end result. Love will show up when the friends do not. Love will cause me to show up when I may have been late before. Love will make me a better person while encouraging me to building a patient, forgiving trust with others.
I hope this revelation will make its way into your life if it hasn’t already. In a world where everyone inevitibly falls short, you don’t need a list of people who have your back. You don’t need the names of people who’ve never let you down. Perfect trust is not the answer. Love really is all you need.