Almost Roadkill; Creating opportunities for trust

I wouldn’t trust my bike brakes. The other day I was out mountain biking on a thin trail and quite nearly ran completely over a living woodchuck. He stood in the middle of the path, obviously stuck in deciding which way to go, frantically turning one way and then the other. I get it. I often don’t know which way to go either. So I would’ve loved to stop for him. But I couldn’t… because my brakes are far from trustworthy. I was so sure of collision in my helpless situation that I had already braced for the impact when he dodged out of the way last second.

With my brakes as an example, let’s talk about trust. Trust is built through the following cycle: you have a need, you express the need, there is a positive response to the need, and the need is satisfied. I have a need: to stop for the uncertain woodchuck. I express that need: I squeeze on my brakes. There is a positive response to my need (best case scenario): I slow significantly. And the need is satisfied: Woodchuck goes on his way without being hit nor having a heart attack from a dreadfully close scare.

girl and boy holding balloon Lego minifugures

Let’s pause for a happy celebration.

Okay, back to real life. In real life, this trust cycle fails us on a fairly regular basis. When any step in this cycle goes south, mistrust happens. Often we blame those around us when we feel we can’t trust. Sometimes this is fair. Sometimes this is us in victim mode, though.

After all, you are responsible for at least half of the steps in this cycle: recognizing and then expressing your need. And this might just be the hardest part.

Recently I wrote a blog post regarding needs claiming that we all have legitimate needs and even have the duty to determine what they are (because we are worth it). However, even once we go through the process of recognizing our needs, it’s a whole other ordeal to express them.

I’m reading a highly recommendable book called Keep Your Love On written by Danny Silk. The author claims that “Expressing our needs and building relational connections are closely intertwined–in fact; they are dependent on one another.” His argument is hard to compete with when he lays the evidence that

silhouette photography of person

“God, the one Person in the universe who knows all things, and knows us incomparably better than we know ourselves, never says, ‘well, obviously, I know your needs, so you don’t need to tell me about them.’ Instead he repeatedly tells us to ask Him for what we need… He won’t meet our needs outside of a connection where we have to show up and crack our hearts open to Him, because that very connection is what we need to have our needs met in the first place.”

Hey. If even God–who freaking created me–asks me to share my thoughts and needs with him, can I expect any human in my life to simply know and respect my needs without me first communicating them? Can I blame him/her for our lack of trust because he/she didn’t somehow just “sense” my needs and help meet them?

Yeah… so maybe I ought to practice expressing my needs.

But to make things a little more complicated, Mr. Silk points out that, not only do we need to express our needs, we need to express them appropriately. We may think we’re expressing our needs when we complain, “I’m hungry” or when we accuse the other person, “you’re not listening to me or helping me.”

black and white tabby cat

These, however, are judgement statements. According to Mr. Silk, “A judgement statement says ‘I’m too scared to show you what is really going on inside me. I’ll only feel safe to show you what I’m feeling if you first agree with my assessment of what’s wrong with you and then promise to never be like that again.'”

When he puts it that way, it’s hard to claim that that approach is exactly fair.

Appropriately expressing needs begins with a focus on what I am feeling. “I feel scared when you yell.” It’s vulnerable. It’s hard. AND it is a demonstration of authentic power.

Once the feeling is expressed, then the need can be offered. “I need you to use a gentler voice when you’re talking with me.” …and, ta-da!, you’ve appropriately opened yourself up for others to help meet needs. And given trust an opportunity to grow.

Easy? Ha! No! But worthwhile. Connecting with others is what creates meaning in life. Connection requires trust. You are not a helpless victim; you have a part to play in building trust.

My bike brake metaphor fails to embrace the entirety of this concept. Yet, even here there is an applicable aspect. I could blame my brakes up one side of the fence and down the other for not working when I tell them to. But I’m perfectly capable of tweaking my brakes so that they are reliable and work correctly. I am not a victim. I just have to get my hands dirty and do some of the hard work.

Acknowledge your needs. And express them through feelings. Perhaps you will discover there are a lot more trustworthy others out there than you ever anticipated.

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