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A Trusting Character

by  Thomas Waterhouse  |  Leadership Development

I’m actually “on record” as saying that I basically don’t trust anyone. Well, when I really think about it, that’s not totally true. I trust EVERYONE, just in an odd way! I trust people to hurt me, frustrate me, tick me off, and generally let me down. And for me, that’s somehow all right. I know these things happen, especially with those who are closest to me! And believe me, my friends pretty much trust me to do the same for them.

What I’m getting at is that we have to be careful with what I call “the deification of trust”. This is where otherwise healthy “emotional trust” morphs into unnatural demands for predictability. We have to be careful not to elevate “emotional trust” to proportions where we hold people hostage to the unrealistic standards of personal insecurity and fear. This essentially cripples others in their healthy flexibility, stifles change, and turns them into robots.

Worse yet, when we rely on demands for “emotional trust” in order to feel comfortable, we fail to develop what I refer to as “the trusting character”. A “trusting character” is necessary for personal flexibility, spontaneity, and appropriate risk. A “trusting character” is essential if we desire to help others to grow through offering them the same freedoms. More than a personal emotional experience, trust is a character trait we are wise to develop, especially if we aspire to be agents of change in the lives of others.

So exactly what is a “trusting character”? A “trusting character” has at least eight defining characteristics, and I’ll list them as a starting point for your consideration of this construct.

  • A “trusting character” is proactive, always ahead of the offense with a loving stance, and it’s rarely taken by surprise with what people do.
  • A “trusting character” is realistic, knowing and accepting the fallibility of its fellow human beings.
  • A “trusting character” knows that while others may be hurtful, frustrating, angering, and disappointing at times, they also know that deep inside they desire not to be that way. Good faith is the “trusting character’s” basis for connectedness.
  • A “trusting character” acts with “just right” boundaries, and allows a healthy “margin of error” for natural humanity to occur, and within which the other can grow.
  • A “trusting character” is strong with grace, and always prepared to cover offenses with a beckoning love, inviting others to reflect and “self-correct”.
  • A “trusting character” has a commitment to growth, and always takes the long view with itself, and with others. It knows instinctively that growth is a process (complete with “growing pains”), and that no one is ever “a final, finished product”.
  • A “trusting character” seizes the mission of raising up mature people, and ever adjusts itself to these ends.
  • A “trusting character” views trust as a gift to give, and it possesses the wisdom that over time, it will stimulate growth, and cultivate a trustworthy individual.

 

A “trusting character” is free to be more concerned with the emotional environment that it creates for others than it is with its own emotional safety. This is because a “trusting character” knows that love is the best “coping strategy” in relating with others. A “trusting character” knows that love is the true foundation for healthy relationships, and great relationship outcomes!

The bottom line is this, if you want to stimulate others to grow, then they have to feel free to make the mistakes that come with flexibility and spontaneity. And yes, sometimes in this “dance”, people will hurt you, they will frustrate you, they will tick you off, and they will let you down. The question is whether you want to give them the “growth curve” of a large, spacious meadow in which to roam, graze, and grow, or corral them into an eight-by-ten box where they will wither and die.

The Simple Encouragement® Movement is dedicated to creating Simply Encouraging® interactions and environments for the actualization of all people, young and old. Demonstrating “trusting characters” that cultivate fully developed people is a part of the process. I trust that as you integrate this construct into your being, you will begin to see its transforming power. In exercising a “trusting character”, you begin to leave a quiet but powerful legacy of leading change in the hearts of those you touch.  And that’s a legacy worth aiming for!

 

The Trusting Character
Copyright © 2010 Thomas Waterhouse and Simple E Creations, Inc. All rights reserved.
Simple Encouragement and Simple Encouraging are trademarks of Simple E Creations, Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Tristan Bishop  |  17 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Thank you, Thomas.

A very thought-provoking post. It is wise to show mercy to new mistakes and to help others to show repeat-mistakes the door. We do well to nurture a confident and safe workplace: Greatness grows fastest in a secure setting.

Appreciate you sharing this with us!

Thomas Waterhouse  |  17 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hi Tristan! I love your thought, “Greatness grows fastest in a secure setting”. I think a “trusting character” is likely to have buds and blossoms of greatness all around them! I appreciate your input .Thank you!

Mike Henry  |  17 Sep 2010  |  Reply

I believe giving teammates the freedom to fail is one of the most courageous acts of leadership. Many leaders fear the consequences of individual actions. Some people never quite “feel” it but if a leader is consistent, eventually people un-compress and begin to do their best work.

Mike…

Thomas Waterhouse  |  19 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Yes, Mike, “trusting characters” are full of courage, and they instill courage in those around them; the courage to try, and yes, sometimes, the freedom to fail. Of course, an important part of this dynamic is that the “trusting character” also provides room for the other to reflect, and to “self-correct”. The “trusting character believes that “Hearts filled with courage can rise to any challenge”. Thank you for all of your support, and for having a “trusting character”!

Mary C Schaefer  |  17 Sep 2010  |  Reply

“…a “trusting character” knows that love is the best “coping strategy” in relating with others. A “trusting character” knows that love is the true foundation for healthy relationships, and great relationship outcomes!”

Thomas, thank you for having the nerve to mention “love” in the context of all relationships, including work. – Mary

Thomas Waterhouse  |  17 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hello, Mary! Thank you for having the “nerve” to notice, and to give it voice! :) If we can’t speak of love in any context, then what is there left to say? One of my “Simple e-Couragements” said, “We can become so caught up in our biggest dreams and visions that we lose sight of our nearest duty. Our nearest duty is a smile, a touch, or any act of reaching out in a way that says to another, “You’re not alone, I love you, and I care”. A “trusting character” loves deeply” and if we’re not loving, then I wonder if we’re leading change at all! I appreciate your comment, Mary.

peter Lanc  |  18 Sep 2010  |  Reply

A trusting character starts with a trusting nature and assuming innocence!

Thomas Waterhouse  |  19 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hello, Peter! Yes, “A trusting character starts with a trusting nature and assuming innocence!” However, “a trusting character” rarely begins in this place. My thesis is that trust is a character trait that is developed over a lifetime, and this takes considerable self-awareness, personal knowledge, and consistent application. Sure, if we are raised in secure environments, then we have natural “emotional trust”, but as I have pointed out, this can become distorted for a number of reasons. I am actually developing a seminar on the “construct” or model of “The Trusting Character” where I develop each of the eight characteristics, complete with exercises and small-group discussion. It will be “A Simply Encouraging® Experience” offered by Simple E Creations, Inc., and I will keep Lead change aware of these activities. Thank you Peter, for checking in and giving me the opportunity to clarify some important distinctions about “The Trusting Character”.

Monica Diaz  |  19 Sep 2010  | 

It’s just that the way you put it in the original blog, it seems that you propose to assume fault before innocence. To asume they will hurt you and let you down is an opposite stance from assuming “innocence”. :)

Thomas Waterhouse  |  19 Sep 2010  | 

Nope, people will tend to act just like human beings, and the thesis is a distinction between “emotion trust” on steroids, and “The Trusting Character”. I “fall back” on at least three of the bullet points, and they are (1) A “trusting character” is proactive, always ahead of the offense with a loving stance, (3) A “trusting character” knows that while others may be hurtful, frustrating, angering, and disappointing at times, they also know that deep inside they desire not to be that way, and (4) A “trusting character” is strong with grace, and always prepared to cover offenses with a beckoning love, inviting others to reflect and “self-correct”. This assumes “innocence” in the contest of reality. One of my closing comments is, “The bottom line is this, if you want to stimulate others to grow, then they have to feel free to make the mistakes that come with flexibility and spontaneity.” So, my faux pas was beginning with my weird and sometimes misunderstood way of making a point. If you weren’t a “trusting character” you would be upset with me! :) Since you are a “trusting character”, I am learning and will “self-correct” by modifying the article for future publication! Thanks, I needed that!

Judy  |  18 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Love conquers all even “trusting characters”.

Thomas Waterhouse  |  19 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Yes, Judy, I agree that “Love conquers all” but as for this “mere mortal”, sometimes that’s very hard work! :) This is one “driver” for my thesis, and the soon-to-come seminar (see my response to Peter above). Thank you so much for stopping by and keeping the discussion going!

Monica Diaz  |  19 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hey, Tom! I have such a different approach to trust. Trust is ultimately a choice! Mine to make and give. I will not hold people hostage to my own choices. I prefer to trust first, find out later. I trust people to be human: both flawed and perfect at the same time! I strive to create an environment in which people feel respected, valued, cared for, consulted with, considered. So, to begin with, I choose to trust completely that they will be honest, trustworthy, good, responsible. And I behave accordingly. I feel only then can I create a trusting space for them to be at their very best. People can of course have any reaction they choose: value, use or abuse my trust. Many have showed me that trust and perseverance in it can bring out the best in people. I am grateful for these relationships, many of which are or have been a part of my life.

I am sometimes let down. And when I am, I feel strong enough to deal with it as a consequence of my choice. I take any action necessary and need not blame the other for betraying my trust. I re-evaluate my choice to trust and know that I can continue to do so openly, freely. I can moderate my trust, focus it or reset it entirely. It is STILL my choice.

I know I feel happier doing this and I have created great possibilities for a great many things in my life. I have found wonderful response and I believe that a fair share of pain (no more, no less). Yet I refuse to allow the let-downs to change my resolve. I want to be trusting. So I am. I also want to be realistic and aware of my environment. So I strive to be that, too.

I guess both approaches can work. But for me, I much prefer to trust in the good and allow it to come forth.

Thanks for a thoughtful post, Tom and for your constant dose of encouragement.

Thomas Waterhouse  |  19 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hi, Monica! Actually, you are stating the thesis pretty accurately. When you say, “Trust is ultimately a choice” and “I am sometimes let down. And when I am, I feel strong enough to deal with it as a consequence of my choice” you are stating the essence of “The Trusting Character” (as contrasted with “emotional trust”). We are definitely in simpatico, and I refer everyone back to the third characteristic of “The Trusting Character” which is “A ‘trusting character’ knows that while others may be hurtful, frustrating, angering, and disappointing at times, they also know that deep inside they desire not to be that way. Good faith is the ‘trusting character’s’ basis for connectedness.” While I know that people will act just like human beings, I too believe that we need to call forth the very best within them. Like you, I believe in people, and the Simple Encouragement® Movement not only cultivates this positive world view, but teaches folks how to “speak life to potential, healing to pain, and light to darkness” with the purpose of activating and actualizing the good that exists deep inside of every soul. As I read your reply, I thought that when I do “A Simply Encouraging® Experience” on the topic that you could be my “how to model” of “The Trusting Character”! :) Thanks for keeping the discussion going, Monica, and for inviting me to clarify this important point! I would love to talk with you about all of this at some point, and will email you later to arrange a discussion.

Monica Diaz  |  19 Sep 2010  | 

Sure! Anytime, Tom.

Susan Mazza  |  20 Sep 2010  |  Reply

of our tendency as human beings to operate from expectations – the expectation of predictability in anyone’s behavior is about keeping the relationship within our comfort zone.

Seems to me that a trusting character and the emotionally healthy trusting relationships that result can only be created in a context of commitment and sincere intention on the part of both parties in a relationship to each other and perhaps even to a shared future. Commitments are a much better truing mechanism than expectations when things don’t go as planned and give us a foundation from which to recover and build from the disappointments rather than to reinforce the fear of trusting others like it were a hot stove we now “know” not to touch again.

Susan Mazza  |  20 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Somehow lost the first few lines there…not sure what happened but here they are…

Brilliant distinctions regarding trust Thomas. This one really got me thinking: “the deification of trust”. This is where otherwise healthy “emotional trust” morphs into unnatural demands for predictability.”

It is so important to be mindful…continue reading above.

Thomas Waterhouse  |  21 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hello, Susan! Thank you for kind comment. Sometimes I feel like I’m not “burning very brightly”, so “brilliant distinctions” is good! :) I think your comments about commitment, shared intention, and possibly a shared future lend depth to the discussion. And I love your comment, “Commitments are a much better truing mechanism than expectations…” I think that a “trusting character” has to be in “this place” (commitment) by nature. Point # 6 speaks to this, and says, “A ‘trusting character’ has a commitment to growth, and always takes the long view with itself, and with others. It knows instinctively that growth is a process (complete with ‘growing pains’), and that no one is ever ‘a final, finished product’.” I sense that you might feel, as I do, that there is perhaps a little too much distorted “emotional trust” these days, and not enough focus on, and development of, “trusting characters”. I also love your final comment, “…rather than to reinforce the fear of trusting others like it were a hot stove we now ‘know’ not to touch again”. Yes, people are wonderful bundles of incredible potential desiring the just right relational soil in which to grow, not instruments of pain to be feared. This was a difficult construct to develop and write about for concern that it would be misunderstood. To clarify for folks (and perhaps to apologize for my odd way of making points), no, I do not “expect” people to hurt me, frustrate me, tick me off, or let me down. I just know and accept that these “commodities” will be a part of facilitating their journey to the full expression of all that they are, and all that they can be. As I think is true of you, Susan, I have a very deep commitment to that very process; the actualization of all people. I appreciate you! Thanks for the opportunity to clarify and deepen the narrative!

Rain  |  15 Dec 2010  |  Reply

very inspiring article.
trust – easier sad but due to human nature, past hurts, etc is somewhat hard to give.
i agree that having a trustful character requires a decision to trust everyday, setting aside all emotions, negative things that may come up.
it is a decision set by the heart to over come whatever thought the brain would tend to impose at times.

Thomas Waterhouse  |  19 Feb 2011  |  Reply

Hello Rain! I’m almost two months away from your comment, but better late than never! :) You are so correct about past hurts hindering our ability to trust. That’s why I have “morphed” my thinking of it into a character trait. In that light, I absolutely love your comment, “It is a decision set by the heart to overcome whatever thought the brain would tend to impose at times.” Absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for checking in.

Stan Faryna  |  20 Feb 2011  |  Reply

In the Gospels, a father and son, cry out:

“I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

They are hoping that Christ can rid the son of an unclean spirit that subjects the boy to epileptic seizures, etc. In fact, they are desperate because the Apostle’s had failed to remove the evil spirit.

Christ succeeds in healing the boy. But when the Apostles have a private moment with him, they ask Christ, why they were unable to move the unclean spirit out of the boy.

Christ replies: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Questions of trust remind me of this Gospel story.

I appreciate how Thomas negotiates the naive turns and dead ends of an examination of trust. Thomas’ approach requires courage, hope and fortitude.

Thank you, Thomas.

Kind regards,
Stan Faryna

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