When Trust Is Shaken

Today I experienced my least favorite thing ever, namely the unexpected discovery that someone close to me, that I trusted, completely ignored what they know about me and did whatever the hell they wanted in full knowledge that it would make my life more difficult both practically and emotionally.   I’ve learned not to judge the people who do this too harshly—maybe the only happy side effect of having done the same more than once myself.  But it remains the single most annoying thing in my world, perhaps because it always comes as a surprise.

I know that I can be (and have been) described by intelligent people as being a wee bit uptight about issues of trust, but I’m okay with that.  I’ve experienced the havoc of serious betrayal and I’m not going to volunteer for that ever again. I do fairly well at giving people the benefit of the doubt, though.  I firmly believe that most people are out to forge bonds and cooperate, not to hurt one another.  The vast majority of people I’ve met have been kind, honest and decent.  But I’ve made some unwise choices in the past about who to trust, and have placed myself in the way of some who felt excused from their share of the obligations that society generally considers mutual and reciprocal.  So when someone lays one of these moments on me, I take it personally and it takes me longer than some to get over it.

I think there is something really sad in the betrayal of trust between people.  It’s so fragile, and its meaning ripples so far beyond what we can see.  Trust is a tissue-thin veil that wraps us and binds us together somewhere deep in our private souls.  Break it, and we’re back in the public sphere, emotional and intellectual armor in place, watching our backs.  How much is lost by that.  How much we are diminished by the need for constant vigilance.  Perhaps this is the sorrow that appalls me about the sudden discovery that trust has been mis-placed.  Not the betrayal itself, or the details of what has been lost or compromised, but the knowledge that someone was willing to tear that veil for some reason that can’t possibly—possibly—outweigh the loss of that diaphanous strand that distinguishes friend from stranger.

Some people roll with this much more gracefully than I do.  Either they expect to be betrayed, and accept it without much static, or they surround themselves with people they can actually trust from the beginning.  How do they manage it?  I wish I knew.  I’m flabbergasted by betrayal every time it happens.  I reel and lurch along for a ridiculously long time afterwards, trying not to take out my angst and crabbiness on the many good and trustworthy people in my life.  I’m not proud of it; it creates entirely unnecessary problems for me.  Yet here I am, as bent out of shape as if it were the very first time.

A good supper, a glass of wine and a solid night’s sleep will heal much of the wound.  But the trust will not be there when I wake up, nor the hope that is trust’s handmaiden.  If I could say a prayer for this weary world, it would be that we would all treasure the trust of those who love us, that we would cherish that bond between us like the impossibly precious gift it is.

©Mary Braden 2013

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