Maybe you feel jaded because your trust has been betrayed and you have built high walls of protection  around your heart. Thats understandable. Life can be harsh, and people can be cruel. Now you have a choice. You can either let the betrayal define you and become closed and bitter, or you can rise above the hurt and become even more determined to do whatever you can to create a world of unconditional love. Trust without any guarantee that your trust will be respected. Love without any guarantee that your love will be returned. Be kind without any guarantee that your kindness will be appreciated. This is the dance of authenticity, the risk that being completely yourself will open you to the most satisfying of all relationships.

Learning to trust an unpredictable world changes your whole outlook on life. It makes the world a more open, inviting and friendly place. Don’t give your trust recklessly. Give your trust mindfully; aware that there are no guarantees and there is always the chance you will be hurt again. In your calmest moments, you know that the risk to keep your heart closed is nothing in comparison to the joy of sharing love.

Are There Any Guarantees?

It seems backward, but the first step to building trust in relationships is to accept that there are no guarantees. As Comedian, Randy Millholand said, “There are people I know who won’t hurt me. I call them corpses.” Trust offers no certainties, or else trust would not be required. But don’t give up working on trust no matter how jaded you feel, or else you might as well be a corpse.

Find your balance. Being jaded and being idealistic are equally dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Be realistic. I have presided over too many weddings where young couples stand before me with stars in their eyes and no idea of how much they will likely hurt each other at some point. Some of these same couples have knocked on my door within weeks or months with awful stories of broken trust.

If people truly realized the intensity of making vows of commitment to another human being for life, they would wear a crash helmet to the wedding. Not a veil, but a crash helmet. Love is an act of faith. I sometimes feel like sending couples out with the instructions, “Do not try this at home without a safety net. It’s risky!”

Be realistic. There are risks involved. But also believe. Believe that there is something stronger than the risk- that is the joy of dropping your guard with another person, letting that person into your private wthoughts and dreams and making a commitment to love each other through thick and thin. Risk your trust in return for the adventure of being in love. Trust opens the gates to love.

Trust is more important than love. Saying to another person ‘I trust you” is often more profound than saying “I love you.” You may not always trust the person you love, but you can always love the person you trust. Trust is a gift. When you offer someone the gift of trust, you create an opening for something greater. Trust frees you from your fears and helps you give birth to love.

Building Trust in Relationships

Stephen Covey, son of Stephen Covey who wrote Seven Habits of a Highly Effective People, is the author of The Speed of Trust; The One Thing that Changes Everything. He offers the analogy that every relationship has a trust account. When you build trust, you make a deposit. When you break a trust, you make a withdrawal. The withdrawals are typically larger than the deposits. Therefore the fastest way to rebuild the trust account is to stop making withdrawals. The other way to rebuild trust is to make new deposits.

Here are 10 practical ways to build trust.

1. Practice with small and safe deposits first. There are big things to entrust to someone, and there are smaller things. How many people would you trust with your life savings? Probably very few. What about telling someone a secret, or starting a new business with someone? Again, very few. But would you be prepared to trust someone with a smile, or a kind word, even knowing that they might abuse your vulnerability? Start by making small deposits into your trust account and build confidence from there.

2. Gather information to get the greatest return on your investment. Trust, to a certain extent, is built on information. Instead of taking a blind leap of faith, take a calculated risk. Gather as much information as you can before you trust, but keep in mind that trust implies incomplete information. Wendell Berry said this- “Knowledge, like everything else, has its place, and… we need urgently now to put it in its place… Let us…abandon our superstitious beliefs about knowledge: that it is ever sufficient, that it can of itself solve problems… Let us give up our forlorn pursuit of the ‘informed decision.” Gather information, but also be prepared to take a leap with incomplete information.

3. Be transparent. Suspicions often emerge in relationships when people act in a way that is outside their character or routine. Even if you don’t know why you are behaving the way you are, or if you don’t know why you are pushing love away, just express that you are going through something and need some space. Transparency leaves less room for imagination that can easily create unnecessary drama.

4. Be consistent. Make sure your words match the way you live. Mean what you say and say what you mean. There is nothing that can devastate trust more quickly than inconsistency.

5. Believe in the strength of your partner. He/ she can deal with your feelings and doubts and questions. Express yourself as lovingly as you can, and trust your partner to stay with your honest thoughts and feelings.

6. Agree to boundaries with other family and friends. Your relationship has its own intimacy boundaries, and this has as much to do with sharing private information and personal feelings as sexual intimacy. If you are telling a friend something that you haven’t or wouldn’t tell your partner, you may have crossed a line into emotional infidelity. This can create major barriers to trust.

7. Don’t confuse trust with forgiveness. They operate differently. You usually forgive people well before you trust them. You might forgive an apologetic jewel thief, but not leave him alone in a jewelry store. You might forgive people who have hurt you, but not leave them alone with your heart. If there has been a breach of trust, work at forgiveness as the first step towards trust.

8. Each person has their own trust account. People operate their trust accounts differently. You need to deposit into the other person’s trust account in a way that speaks to that person. Garrison Keilor tells a story about a couple who had been married for many years. The woman wrote a sonnet to her husband that amongst all the things she loved about him it was when he was working on the broken washing machine that she gained a “trust for tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.” Be clear about how trust accrues, and ask direct questions to know how trust builds for others.

9. If you have breached a trust, don’t make things worse by lying about it. Take responsibility quickly, and begin regaining broken trust. The more time that passes, the more tangled the web, the harder it is to come back from broken trust.

10. If in your situation the broken trust is too deep, then work at a healthy ending to the relationship. There is more at stake than the relationship (and kids if there are kids involved). Your ability to trust yourself and get back on a path with integrity is the biggest issue at stake. Work towards loving and leaving the relationship, giving thanks for what it has meant, forgiving life for disappointing your expectations and moving forward positively.

Trust – What Are You Ultimately Protecting?

A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused,” I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

The beautiful thing about this story is that the Zen Master wasn’t holding on too tightly, so trust was easier for him. Be generous in your relationships. The more freely you give, the less you will feel that you have to lose.

Maybe you don’t need a crash helmet after all. Life is generous, and always offers second chances. People are flawed, but there are always opportunities to rebuild trust. You have an inner courage to get back up after being hurt and keep loving anyway. Let go, trust the adventure of being alive and enjoy intimacy without defensiveness.

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  1. Reggie says:

    Exactly what I needed to hear.  Thanks, Ian.

  2. Norma says:

    I never cease to be amazed at the blessings we received when we most need them.  Thank you Mr. Lawton for the beautiful words of wisdom and for sharing your kindness. 

  3. ian says:

    You’re welcome Norma. Blessings to you and all you love.

  4. Lenor says:

    …and never cease to amaze me.  I have searched my entire life for a church to call my own!…and now…I have found it!  I would only hope that C3 will always be your home too!
    Thank you Ian! Namaste and as my African Grey Parrot says “Namaste, I adore you!”

  5. ian says:

    thanks Reggie- hope you enjoyed your birthday

  6. ian says:

    thanks Lenor. Very glad to be on the journey with you- i like the sound of this Parrot

  7. kAren says:

    “Be consistent. Make sure your words match the way you live. Mean what you say and say what you mean. There is nothing that can devastate trust more quickly than inconsistency.” Good words. One of the Noble Truths, Mindfullness. Namaste Ian and Thank You

  8. ian says:

    Hi Karen, its a challenge for all of us, especially those of us who talk a LOT like me. Much love Karen

  9. Cathy says:

    Great reminder here about trust.  Without trust there is no hope. Thanks for the inspirational words!

  10. Great inspirational article.  It was so good, I shared it on my Face book page.  It could be very helpful to many of us:)

  11. Blake says:

    Great Zen Lesson…

  12. Myc Ripley says:


  13. Vinod Varma says:

    I have started reading your posts recently, and I do like them.
    In my view, trust, love, compassion, respect etc are internal, natural occurrence to a person. Also, I believe that every person is simple good at heart.A judicious approach in external expression of these can help avoid surprises.
    I think, it is unpleasant surprises that leads some to recoil/retaliate or fume within. This,  in turn, makes life hard for themselves and/or  others. I think your words helps in adopting a balanced approach in social interaction.

    However, I find disconnect in the usage ‘building trust’ and the statement  ‘trust is more important than love’. Can we ‘build’ love and trust? I think these are natural phenomenon if impediments are removed, and what you have written helps to remove these impediments.
    I have taken the liberty of commenting though I do not know you in person. In case what I have expressed is unpleasant/unfair/wrong, I am sorry and you may remove this comment without reverting to me.

  14. ian says:

    hi Vinod, im pleased that you comment. You make a very thoughtful and valid point. Trust and love are certainly natural phenomena, but sometimes they require a little active intention as well. Nice to hear from you. Please comment any time.

  15. Ian,
    I enjoyed reading this blog about trust. Great tips! Trust is so vital for us to be true to our authentic self. It is amazing how people open up when they learn to trust themselves and others, as well as how their life changes. I am glad to have found another blogger that is writing about building trust, as I feel it is something that people need more encouragement at doing.
    Enjoy your day!

  16. Ruth Young Tyler says:

    Dear Ian,
    Thank you for sharing your therapeutic blog that ministers to a person on many, many levels! Blessings!

  17. Anu says:

    Isn’t this what the Bhagavad Gita means by surrendering the fruit of all action? Everytime we do something, we expect something in return. We become more human when we expect nothing in return, not even gratitude. The idea of complete and selfless trust is very complex but you’ve explained it beautifully! Thanx.

  18. ian says:

    hi Anu- I am not super familiar with the Gita, but certainly love the idea you share here about surrendering the fruit of all action. Please share more of the Gita as you feel led.

  19. ian says:

    thank you Ruth- much love

  20. Knowledge will over come any and all adversity in life !  “Stay Safe”  Safety Must be First .. “Be Prepared For the Worst  24-7 ”  You can survive !

  21. Moiya says:

    Thanks for sharing… affirmation i think most can use.

  22. Anonymous says:

    excellent article. thanks for sharing.

  23. alison w says:

    This was exactly what I needed tonight. After having my love leave unexpectantly this past July right after the dropping of my walls and the fully letting him into my heart. the blow of that was absolutely devestating to my whole entire world. my happiness. my hope. my spirit and trust. such solid advice that is sure to help me get through what has already felt like a eternity in hell.

  24. ian says:

    Hang in there Alison. Sending you love and good thoughts.

  25. Les Long says:

    Very inspiring! Thank you! I think I found a new site to help keep me focused!

  26. ian says:

    Awesome Les- glad to have connected.

  27. F says:

    Still dealing with overcoming the aftertaste of culture shock from having lived in a country where trust does not come natural and where people are quite happy to join up together akin high school, and basically support bullying at a grown up age and a first time experience for me. It’s a country where inherent to the culture there is no sense of responsibility for people’s own actions and if done as a group, they feel protected in doing so towards a person they know nothing about. So in terms of being open an trusting and trying to have open dialogues, I feel hesitant both in discussing this experience as my experience in that country as a foreigner was that noone would help. Second point is that any information given, speaking out, would then just be twisted…to have experienced such a situation and environment where noone would just speak out against the wrong, can create a huge loss of faith in humanity.
    While thankfully I have left that country, it hasn’t stopped the attacks and yet I try to not become jaded, while questioning how people can go on targeting an individual for a long time and why? What stops people from being human and having a dialogue? If it’s fear, why can’t people face their own fears as opposed to projecting it onto someone else?
    (hence only putting first initial there)

  28. ian says:

    hi F. wow, it sounds like you have been through a LOT in your life- I hope you can find some resolution to the situation, and keep trusting yourself and intuition. It will tell you who to trust and when. Good thoughts to you.

  29. NLC_55 says:

    Imust say i believe in all you wrote i myself am very open and trusting kind person who loves people and life, i am also very rich in love and very blessed to have a good son and friends and a family, who all think im too trusting and open. I have been hurt and conned mamy times but will not let that change the way i am as always trust and find it hard not to, but why do some think trust = stuiped if loving and giving is bad then i must be bad person, and i try very hard to be good kind caring and always talk to people of all kinds as we are all human beings, i dont know about the love a couple have  never really had but trust must come first and into all our relationships if we are to be who we are.

  30. Meg Robinson says:

    Ah Ian !  Thank you.  I have been conned (sp) by a young somebody I trusted deeply.  It involves many other people and I feel not just jaded but devastated. I’m trying so hard to switch my hurt  feelings to positive feelings, but haven’t quite managed yet. Your article is very helpful.  I will re read it I think many times, and print it out. This relationship isn’t an intimate one, rather a charity aid project.  Thank you for your wise words.  Namaste.

  31. Carol Shimp says:

    Greetings Ian,Happy New year. I enjoyed your post & I like the story about the Zen Master. Trust is believeing you can control some ones actions. You expect a person to behave the way you want. Thats not practical. We have no control over others. I have learned to trust no one. But I do have unconditional acceptance and forgivness. To forgive some one does not mean I will be open to repeat that lesson again.

  32. Debbie says:

    This was an excellent article! 

    Thank you for your wise words and for posting them on your blog for others  to appreciate.

    Trust is a sensitive subject for me, but I am willing to risk.

    Once again, thanks!


  33. Ani says:

    trusting the world comes naturally to most children, but as we grow older and experience disappointment we learn to adjust our worldview. Learning to trust again is definitely worth the effort though.

  34. I recently started blogging and I had to develop a lot of trust to get started. Im feared being rejected but the response has been amazing. Trusting has brought more wonderful things into my life than I could have ever imagined. 

  35. caterina says:

    trust is so hard for me.  this was a beautiful piece to read this morning.  thank you.

  36. Matshepo moeketsi says:

    I so need to share this with friends. Thank you

  37. As long as we recognize we’re getting our second chance and trust that we can make a difference. Thanks for the article.

  38. Reg says:

    A great write up Ian. Thanks!

  39. Nanci says:

    I’ve decided you are my own personal Zen Master. For a couple years now… your posts are spot on with my own personal journey.  I thank you and I appreciate you.  Please keep spreading the love and light.  It is making my path brighter.  😉

  40. ian says:

    thanks Nanci- be well

  41. I love this line,  “There are people I know who won’t hurt me. I call them corpses.” I have had my trust broken numerous times over the years and had built a giant wall around my heart and myself. What I found looking back is new people entering our lives get a regurgitation of other peoples misgivings. They don’t get to experience the best of us because we are so guarded. The steps you outline are great. Beginning with small steps and entering into gathering information. Watch and listen…the information we require to trust will show, without us making too many deposits 🙂

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