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Trust issues... we all got 'em!

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Trust in the Lord with all with your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6; Credit: English Standard Version. As shared in the Amplified Bible: Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways, know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6. This verse has always been one of the easiest to instantly recall with those simple first words of Trust in the Lord. It is always right there! If this verse is so very simple to bring to mind, why then have I insisted on twisting those words into Trust in the heart. Or Trust in the mind. Or Trust in the circumstance, or paycheck, or feeling, or situation. It will never cease to amaze me how we can love the Lord with all our heart, praise the Lord with all our heart, even believe in the Lord with all our heart- yet, our trust seems to be the hardest thing to hand over. To God- the one single being in our entire life who has never let us down, never left us lonely, and never abandoned us. The one who created us. The one who breathed life into our lungs. The one who counts the very hairs on our head. The one who numbers our days. The very God who promises us that he will protect us, provide for us, keep us from harm, heal our hearts, mend our souls, bind our enemies, slay our giants. Heck, the only thing God will not do for us is control our will. With all that power and promise how do we possibly continue to keep such a tight grip on our trust and not want to hand it over... to God?

For you WordNerds out there- What is trust exactly? According to Google trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. (Credit: Oxford Dictionaries). Trust is dependence on something, one in which confidence is placed. Synonyms: confidence, credence, faith, stock (Credit: Issue is defined as a vital or unsettled matter, a concern or problem, a matter that is in dispute. And just to join the boose to the caboose, trust issue(s) means that you have a concern or problem with putting your dependence, confidence, or belief in the reliability, ability or strength of someone or something. Put more simply, you withhold trust by refusing to rely on someone or something. You fear being betrayed in any way, shape or form. And you, my friend, are not alone. Trust issues... we all got 'em. Especially with God.

Your parents were supposed to love and protect you- but they didn't. This destroyed your trust. Your best friend said she would always be there, always love you most no matter what- and she chose a different best friend. This destroyed your trust. Your first love promised to be your forever love- he broke that promise. This destroyed your trust. Your first job ended. Your family dog ran away. Your favorite grandparent died. Your pregnancy ended. Your significant other became violent. Your money didn't last till the end of the month. Your roof started leaking. Your car wouldn't start. Your go-to grocery store quit selling your favorite candy bar. Your alarm clock didn't go off. Your promotion fell through. Your spouse cheated. Your hair dresser took a chunk of your money for not enough high lights. You were given a cheeseburger- instead of a McDouble. You gave out your number and your phone never rang. You gave out more than your number and never saw him (or her) again. Your forever marriage ended. In all these things, you placed more than your trust. You placed your heart, your dreams, your picture of the future you planned for yourself. You gave your entire self to someone or something that decided to fail you and leave you lonely. And it hurt. It may have even broken your heart. Now imagine that you have stacked these hurts up like a brick wall in front of you to protect you from any hurts that just 'might' still happen. This is the wall you can hide behind since people- and things, cannot be trusted (insert armored Emoji). Believe you me, you have every reason to not trust. Any of those things above- down to and including what seems to be the least significant, all influence and effect your level of trust in people and in things. How could they not?! But what happens when you begin to trust that wall more than you trust your heart, your feelings, your choices... even God? Well, you live your life at half-mast. Envision you, then your wall, and on the other side of that wall- the man (or woman) you share your life with. Envision you, then your wall, and on the other side of that wall... your family, your friends, your job, your finances, your home, even love. Now envision you, then your wall, and clear (way... way over) on the other side of that wall... is God. Guess what is also on the other side of that wall? Your dreams, your passion, your laughter, your sense of self, your adventure, and (most importantly) your freedom to live without the wall. That wall that you trust to guard you, protect you, to keep you safe- which it does, well, that same wall is your prison door without bars. Instead of setting you free to live, it is actually keeping you from living.

I would love to be able to tell you that I have busted down that wall in my life, but the truth is I still see it standing strong to guard and protect me when I feel fear rise. Like when I meet a man- even in a check-out line, at the grocery store. When I feel blown off by someone I have tried to make plans with. When my paycheck is lacking and my bills are growing. When my feelings get hurt, even unintentionally. When I find myself sitting at home alone (again) when I have an open calendar. When I open my laptop to write... and have no idea what path this is going to take. There are days when I literally fear all that could- and even just 'might' happen. Who is there to comfort me? That wall. That hard, cold, rigid, unmovable wall. It will never ceases to amaze me how there have been times I have found more comfort in that wall then in the soft flesh of another human being. How I have full access to a loving, merciful, gracious, forgiving God and yet I instead choose that wall to cling to. Sounds a bit pathetic admitting that truth out loud, but whether it is kept silent or blasted in black and white, it doesn't change that truth. So... what do I do about that damned wall?! I think if it was as simple as just busting that Mo Fo down- that would have already happened. And clearly it has not. What is my next option? To tear it down, one brick at a time. I am sure for some this is a grand spiritually cleansing experience, for others it's a crazy wild adventure, maybe even for some a celebration of liberation. For me, it always feels like more of an undertaking, something that requires a lot of time, work, energy, emotional exhaustion and it always proves to be a very painful eye-opening endeavor. Being an empath, I have become attached to my wall (Damn it!). Not so much like the comfort zone analogy of old shoe, but more like the very fibers of my being have attached to these hard, cold, rigid, unmovable bricks that make up this wall. We are intricately connected, me and my wall, and I know this will be a painful parting. Not just in losing the wall, but in opening those places in me that my wall has guarded and protected. Like my heart. My spirit. My mind. My very soul. I will essentially have to present myself naked to the world around me... without a shield.

So how to begin? I have to accept that this is going to hurt. I once was married to a man who was addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography. He was a complete rager and would use torture tactics of sleep deprivation, degradation, threats of leaving me and my kids penniless and on the street. He would use the car or truck as a terror tactic by driving erratically and dangerously- even with the kids in the car. He would lay hands on me and my kids, leaving bruises physically and emotionally. He could be the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful man who was even fun to just hang out with, but when this other side of him came out... he was a very scary human being. When 'they' say you repeat patterns of your childhood until you make the connection that you cannot- and will never, undo or change the outcome of your childhood, they hit the nail on the head with that truth. My point being, when I was in this relationship (two of the same relationships to be exact) the parting was excruciatingly painful. You would think that I would just say 'F*ck this' and never look back, but it is far from that simple. If it was that simple, I probably would have never made it past the first 3 dates. But just for the sake of planting a small seed of hope, the first relationship ended after 11 years. The second, we didn't even make it to 5. I will always be thankful for a volunteer counselor with Focus on the Family who answered the phone that day and simply told me, if you don't leave now- you and your kids may not survive this man. Diving just a bit deeper, just six years prior a different volunteer counselor with Focus on the Family answered my call and very clearly explained the glacier effect of a violent person, that the raging and violence that me and my kids were seeing and experiencing was just the tip of the iceberg sticking out above the surface of the water. That an active addict with a propensity for violence that is not getting help or treatment of any kind, is able to keep hidden the giant base of the iceberg that is beneath the water's surface. I would like to say that that first phone call changed my life. That it started the chain of events that helped me end that relationship and to never allow me or my kids to become involved with that type of person again. But sadly it did not. At that time, after that phone call, I did have enough strength and resolve to make choices to keep me and my kids safe. I filed for a restraining order, we worked closely with the violence advocate who provided my kids with emergency phones to take with them on visitations, and I made sure to have a circle of safe and supportive friends and family around us. But less than 2 years later I found myself married to the same man... in different skin. I am sure by now you are applauding my resolve to be done and done after two marriages that ended in two divorces from men with a propensity towards addiction and violence. But nope. Somehow, even after all we had been through, I found myself eyeballs deep in relationship, after relationship, after relationship with similar men. Not all of them were a mirror image of the men I had been married to, but they always, without fail, had many similar characteristics and traits. Most, if not all, were addicted to pornography which led to them seeing more women than just me. Most, if not all, dabbled in drugs and had their IV hooked up to alcohol. Most, if not all, could rage like a lunatic. Heck, even one of the men I dated, although he never technically called it 'dating' after over a year together, busted out the windows of a camper on his property with rocks- in front of his two small children, who were pleading with him to stop, all because I told him I couldn't keep being his 'girlfriend' when he couldn't even say he loved me or tell anyone we were in a relationship. It wasn't long after this night that he was drunk enough to be swaying and tripping down the front stairs of his house, gun in hand, because he thought this would be a great time to shoot sh*t up. WTF?! I know. So where did I go from here... into a 4 year relationship with the same man... in different skin. Were the partings painful? Hell ya they were. Did it feel like my life would end. Absolutely. Did I make the right choice when I left the relationship. YES, a thousand times yes. When people bring up how I should put myself out there, that I should be ready by now to meet a nice guy, that I should jump back in to the dating pool... I can't help but filter their excitement through my trust issues with men. How could I not? Don't get me wrong, I am sure there are nice guys out there. I have friends and family involved with or married to truly nice guys. And I haven't lost hope that I may eventually meet a nice guy myself- without the limbs of addiction and violence, but I am still working on this hard, cold, rigid, unmovable wall that is guarding and protecting me. It isn't so much about being scared that I will put myself out there and get my heart broke, which I know could happen. It has way more to do with the fact that I don't trust myself to pick someone who won't eventually prove to be that iceberg. What if I meet a guy who seems fantastic? What if he is sweet, kind, honest, funny, respectful, even a believer... and then out comes the threats, the lies, the addictions, the raging, the violence? It isn't about getting my heart broke- it is about getting my arm broke, my face smashed, my throat choked, my life ended. And that is a brick in my wall that I am very aware of but also very connected to. I am not going to just pull that brick from the wall, do my 'thank-you-for-serving-me' ritual, then toss that brick carelessly on the discarded pile of bricks from that wall that needs to come down. It is a process and I am far enough along in my recovery to know that when I feel ready to venture out to meet a nice man- mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, then that will be the right time for me. And not a second sooner (And the same goes for you!).

Now that I accept that taking down that wall is going to hurt, what happens next? I would imagine I will need to learn and understand what trust is, what it looks like, what it is supposed to feel like, and how it works. I would be here for eternity if I went through my list of each time my trust was broken. Like with most things, I am certain there is a common link involved. Being let down by someone I counted on is one of those links. Being let down stirs up feelings of not being important, not being valued or respected, of not being good enough to matter to someone. The problem is, that trust issues grow like a fast moving snowball grabbing anything in it's path. Instead of it just protecting me from someone or something that truly has treated me with intentional disregard or disrespect, it has grown to include anyone or anything that didn't come through when I expected them to. Like, for example, a plan I made to meet up with a friend for dinner and she had to cancel last minute. It is okay to be disappointed, but instead of just feeling disappointed knowing that it was unintentional and life happens, it became an intentional act to hurt me. To show me that I do not matter, that my time is not important, that I am not good enough and that it is just fine to bail on me at the last minute. That trust issue filter has me convinced that I need to keep that wall erected to protect me. Have I had people in my life deliberately bail on me, purposely cancel last minute because they had better things they would rather do? Definitely. Is it fair that all people get clumped and judged based on someone else's deliberate disregard and disrespect? No, not at all. Part of taking down that wall is learning to be confident in my own ability to discern the true intentions of someone that I allow into my life. I don't need a wall to protect me, what I need is to learn to trust myself more (there's that word trust again). I need to be more willing to allow for others to disappoint me, to fail me, to not come through when I expect them to. It is important for me to let myself see the difference between someone being human (flaws and all)... and someone just choosing to be mean, and to not clump them into the same category or to judge them through the same lens. I believe the more I do this, the easier it will become to build trust in those deserving of it. And yes, there are those who have intentionally broken my trust, and treated me wrongly, who are trying to make amends by actively taking steps to rebuild my trust and confidence in them. They deserve the chance to prove themselves, just like I deserve the chance with people I care about that I have hurt or let down. Breaking trust takes just one word, one action, one hurt that cannot (or feels like it cannot) be mended. Building trust is something that takes time, patience, perseverance, and repeated evidence of change. But it is possible to take some of those bricks down.

As I am working through this truth of what trust should look like and what it is supposed to feel like, what can I do next with that wall that is still standing? I can learn to be more gentle with me. I find I have, and still often, use the phrase 'I was so stupid' when I have put my trust in people or things that I should not have. I once had a good friend tell me, "You are never stupid for believing in someone". That somehow managed to take the anger I felt off of me, and I was able to place necessary distance between me and that offending person. I was able to see more clearly that their lies were deliberate. Their choice to stray was a choice made by them- not me. Their decision to blow me off by treating me with disrespect and disregard, well, they knew what it could cost them and they chose to do it anyway. I wish I could tell you that it is easy-peasy, that every time someone knocks down the trust I have in them, I just tell myself 'you are never stupid for believing in someone'. But it is far from that simple. It takes a concentrated effort each time since that old habit of making it somehow my fault is so ingrained in my being (byproduct of abuse). When my first reaction is to blame myself, that is my signal that my old thought pattern and behaviors are at play. That signal is meant to alert me to old destructive patterns that have kept me stuck in abusive relationships and bad situations that were unhealthy and unsafe for me. That signal is meant to bring awareness and help me to make the choice to be more gentle with me. And by choosing to be more gentle with me, my love for myself grows and when others treat me in ways that is not loving, it is more recognizable by me. As with all things, it is a process taking some of those bricks down, but treating myself with respect and love is where lasting change takes place.

So now that I have accepted that this is going to hurt, I have learned what trust is supposed to look like and feel like, and I have learned to be more gentle with myself... what is supposed to happen now with those bricks that are still left standing? Should I just step across them and pretend they are no longer there? I could choose to do that but every time something happens to bring fear to the surface, I will automatically step right back behind that wall. Should I do a powerful victory kick and send them flying in shattered bits? I could, but I am more likely to break my foot since those last standing bricks have been there the longest and are therefore the strongest. Should I instead take a hammer and chisel to force them apart so I can then go through my 'thank-you-for-serving-me-ritual' and toss them onto the growing pile of discarded bricks? I could, but more than likely I am going to wear myself plum out by trying to force them apart when they have been fused together for years of my life by a mortar created by my tears, heartbreak, anger, fear, foolishness, false hope, despair, loneliness, self-hatred, and regret. Do I just leave them be, ignore their existence, and just get on with life pretending that they don't matter? Oh, but they are still there... and they do matter. They matter in a big way. They are what is left between me and whatever is on the other side. Even if those bricks are only as high as my knees, they still serve that purpose to guard and to protect me. They still keep me from stepping into my life fully. So how do I break down that wall if I can't step over it, I can't destroy it with a victory kick, I can't demolish it with a hammer and a chisel, and I can't just pretend as if it's not there? I allow myself to be vulnerable with other people and I open myself up in different situations, even (and especially) when that is hard. (And so can you). I feel my feelings, not only the ones I feel comfortable feeling. (And so can you). I allow people to step into my life, even knowing they can and just might hurt me. (And so can you). Most important, I put my trust in God more than I put my trust in that wall. (And so can you). When I do these things (and when you do) those bricks will just begin to dissolve away. They no longer will serve a purpose in my life (or in yours). And the more I allow myself to live my life- and to really enjoy my life without that wall to protect me, the more my trust grows. In me. In other people. And especially in God. (And so will yours!) Trust issues... we all got em. What matters is how we choose to recover from them.


Credit: Oxford Dictionaries


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