The concept behind this column is that every week, a group of four southern Utah spiritual leaders pulled from the Interfaith Counsel will provide answers a difficult life question. That way, you get multiple perspectives and potential answers to mull over in regards to the question of the week.
This week’s question is “How can I be trusting without being naive?”
From Community of Christ pastor Emily Rose
This is such a difficult and important question! I have been accused of being overly optimistic and naive in my life. At the same time, I also struggle to keep fear and suspicion at bay, particularly on days that follow violent events in public spaces. I think we all carry a capacity for both mindsets, and it can be difficult to decide how best to use them.
There is something radical about choosing trust over fear. We live in an age increasingly defined by fear, and trust can be countercultural. Whenever my own anxiety lowers my capacity for trust, I am reminded that the opposite of fear is love. If we want to intentionally increase the love in the world, we must loosen the grip that fear has on us — and that begins with trust.
The question of naivete, or being overly trusting, is also important to consider. Earlier in this column, we considered what to do about broken trust, and I wrote that sometimes broken trust requires healthy boundaries. While it is an act of courage to extend trust, it is also an act of courage to establish boundaries in relationships that have become harmful. Sometimes in a situation like that, trust for yourself is most important.
I love the way this question is phrased: How can I be trusting? It implies that trust is a way of being and an ongoing goal. Becoming a trusting person is a spiritual practice. Keep extending trust and pouring love into the world instead of fear.
From Our Savior’s Lutheran Church Pastor Arthur Drehman
Jesus mentions in the Gospel of Matthew, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6). This verse is often quoted to show a boundary is to be made between those who are trustworthy and those who are not. Yet Jesus’ own life showed many times where he reached out and gave more to what society anticipates as the dogs and pigs of this world than to those who were looked up to. To a Samaritan woman, Jesus even said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” right before healing her daughter. In fact, so many of Jesus’ miracles were given to Samaritans that the societal label of calling them “dogs” had to be brought into question. Jesus was often looked down on for associating with tax collectors and “sinners.” So often the ones we are called to help are the ones whom society has already falsely labeled the “dogs” and “pigs.”
Mosaic law also speaks about taking such risks. Moses records, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him” (Exodus 23:4–5). Good deeds are often done without personal bias. Amongst those who hate us, we are still to be righteous. Sometimes the trust we have in doing God’s will is seen as naive because we are instructed to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). Faith is obscure to the eyes of the world because it presents a good, moral lifestyle without the extreme caution that the world thinks is necessary.
Does that mean that we trust everybody? Micah writes, “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend” (Micah 7:5), and a psalmist writes, “All mankind are liars” (Psalm 116:11). The question is not whether mankind will be able to live up to your standards. Mankind has already failed God’s standards, and God still reaches out to them. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That is, risks in life are to be taken, but they should still be acknowledged as risks. Christ’s death was a risk God took, and many still turn against God despite the salvation he has secured. While this world does have great enemies to the faith, trusting in God allows you to be open to the unexpected, many who are thought to be “pigs” and “dogs” may wind up being quite different, and help may come from quite unexpected places where you have placed no trust.
From Westside Baptist Church Pastor Greg Wright
The Bible says, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (Proverbs 25:19). Neither of those things will kill you, but they sure do hurt!
To guard yourself from naivety, be real about the character of people in general, knowing that people are prone to failure, circumstances can sometimes change beyond their control, and some people are intentionally evil.
Secondly, recognize that certain people have demonstrated trustworthiness and others have shown the need to build it. Another safeguard is to offer trust, but verify (follow-up). We assume some people are trustworthy (police officers, clergy, teachers, doctors, etc.), but trustworthy people should not resent being held accountable in order to verify their trustworthiness.
Also, determine the importance of the person’s trustworthiness. If it is really important, you better follow up; if it is not really important, give them a chance to prove themselves without follow up.
Next, recognize that building trust relies primarily on the part of the one wanting to be trusted. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into trusting someone who has not demonstrated trustworthiness.
Finally, be aware that rebuilding trust requires demonstrating trustworthy behavior over a long period of time and with greater accountability. In some cases, a person may never be able to fully regain the trust they once held.