Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What We Can & Can't Trust

In my mentoring work I often talk to people right after their trust in themselves has been shaken. A marriage has ended in betrayal; a friend abandons them in a time of need; someone is unfairly fired from a job. Inevitably, the person who has sought me out, says something like- “I don’t think I can ever trust my own judgement again- I didn’t see the lie, didn’t anticipate the betrayal, should have known, could have left, didn’t see who she was, what he was up to. . . . “

I know what they’re talking about. Three years ago my marriage exploded with the revelation of a whole new crop of lies from my then-husband. I didn’t leave because of any particular lie. I left because I finally got that the lying (first revealed a year into the marriage) was never going to stop. Leaving meant I would not be there for the next lie.

But how could I have married a man who lied about pretty much everything? How could I trust myself again?  

Many of us were taught as children that trusting ourselves meant developing finally honed skills in assessing the present truth and likely unfolding of any given situation: we marry someone and plan a life together; we buy a house we think will appreciate in value; we take a job we have reason to believe will help us provide for ourselves and others.

And then things we don’t control- other people, the economy, our health or the health of a loved one- change. Or new facts come to light that we did not know (or could not acknowledge) when we made our decision. And things unfold. . . . sometimes better than we could have anticipated. . . . . or in a downward spiral of challenges and heart ache.

And we wonder if we can ever trust our own sense of what is true again.

But here’s the thing: Creating and living a full life involves endless choices and decisions, and we're never going to have complete information about all factors (inner or outer) that effect the unfolding. So, while we can trust ourselves to do the best we can, it would be na├»ve to trust that we- or anyone else- always has clear discernment of all the consequences or all the factors in any given situation.

What we need to learn to trust (so we do not become paralyzed by the fear of making the choices that are ours to make) is that we will meet the ever-changing and unpredictable unfolding and make any required changes or adaptations. Because that’s what we learn to do- that’s the skill development and deepening of character that we can trust.

So, let’s meet the day knowing we know only a tiny fraction of the factors that will influence and effect how it unfolds, clear about our right and responsibility to make the choices that shape our lives and our world.

Because what we can trust is that this is how Life unfolds in what we are: spectacularly limited, brilliantly imaginative and astonishingly resilient human beings living together and forever inter-connected.

We cannot trust ourselves to avoid all difficulties. Difficulties are an unavoidable part of life. We can trust that we will meet what comes to the best of our ability, with all of what we are.

Oriah House (c) 2014


  1. For me, learning to trust myself is not only to accept possible mistakes; rather, there's a big potential in learning to trust myself through listening to my inner voice. I was taught to disregard my inner voice. I was told it is stupid, silly, unimportant, pompous, egoistic etc. So I made some major mistakes in my life against my conscience. I didn't believe my inner voice any more, or I was too afraid of the consequences. Some part of me knew very well that my ex-husband was not the right guy, but I didn't listen. I didn't know how to cope with the fact that not marrying him would mean to look for somebody else, to wait longer with having a family, not to know if I ever find somebody better and so on. So I closed my eyes (and inner ears) and went into this marriage, and five years later it was all over. I could have spared me and him this sad experience if I had listened to my inner voice - if I had *trusted* it.
    Today I'm still exercising to listen and to trust. I still have the inclination to ignore the inner voice, but I've learned where this leads to. So I take all my courage and listen, and *trust* that there will be good and proper solutions to the problems this sometimes brings. If I don't trust this voice, problems will be much bigger and bring much more damage - to me and others.

    1. Nora, yes, it has been particularly hard to accept those times when I did know and ignored or over-rode what I knew deep within. Learning to listen and follow that inner voice will not, of course, mean we will never make choices that land us in difficulties- but I remember thinking when I was 40 that I wanted to make only "real mistakes"- ie- those where I followed that inner voice and things did not work out as hoped- and not the kind that came from not listening to what I knew.

  2. This is so true. Shixx happens in life. It's just the way of the world. Some things ARE predictable, and we can forgive ourselves & take the lesson so we make a better decision next time. But sometimes, you have no way of seeing it coming. Most of us do the best we can with what life hands us or what we create. I'm a big believer in learning and moving on. Which sounds way easier than it is.

  3. Wendy Mahalia GiffenFebruary 13, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    If we trust ourselves then whatever happens, and whatever other people do, we will remain strong in ourselves . By responding in accordance to our own values and convictions we will be free to love without fear

  4. Oh we are so brave, Oriah you are so brave to step out in faith, knowing so little and yet trusting love, and human love is so human, I call it cadbury, and we have tasted lindt, and we can think human love is lindt...and we get tricked and trick ourselves, but hey its all chocolate..its looks yummy and we hunger...and there is lindt in that cadbury we are right to search for love..and we are right to get it wrong..and we are so brave to step out time and time again..imagine never eating chocolate..tasting love at all..

    1. Love the chocolate metaphor- seems particularly apt for this day- Valentine's.