They say that among those who have the most difficult time with trauma, are those who have stood on buckling ground in the midst of an earthquake. It is this betrayal by the planet of what we all call “solid Ground” that makes it difficult for people to feel safe following such a shake-up. When that which we have always assumed is unshakeable is shaken right below our feet, it shifts our fundamental assumption of safety. It shakes not just the ground, it shakes our basic trust.
All trauma, from abuse to natural disaster has as one of its most destructive forces the direct result of deeply affecting the human evaluation of whether or not the world is a safe place; a place where protection and justice can be found. Somewhere in the deep recesses of our soul, we all have a stance, a position relative to our own safety in our human existence.
Will the earth fall apart under my feet? Will the humans in my life help me or harm me? Is it safe to engage? Am I safe emotionally, physically, spiritually? Are men safe? Are women safe? Are people in authority safe? Somewhere lodged on the inside of our soul, we all have our answers to these questions and we enter into life in the ways we believe will most keep us safe.
When I was a kid, my mother invited me into an exercise called the trust fall. Her adult friends stood in a circle and I would stand in the middle, lock my legs, close my eyes and fall. Stiff-legged, I would hit the ground if some adult in the circle did not catch me. The way I remember it, as a kid, I was very trusting. I could remain completely stiff and fall without any self-protection. I remember believing this; I was a kid, they were adults; of course they will not drop me. Until one did.
Somewhere inside something fundamental changed. Adults don’t always take care of kids. The “of course” disappeared. I would still stand in the middle, but now I was reserved, ready to catch myself.
The greatest casualty of 2014 was my “of course”. Of course everyone will sacrifice their selfish needs for a greater good. Of course people will take the time to know the truth before they form opinions. Of course “right” will always win out in the end. Of course people will do what is right instead of what is self-protective. Of course they will not drop me. Until they did.
This year my therapist told me that I want to trust people so badly, that I attribute characteristics to them that they do not have, and then I trust based on my own projections. That, of course, was ridiculous. Why would I do such a thing? That would be foolish and dangerous. Then I discovered he was right.
I want the comfort of putting myself in other people’s hands and letting them come through. Don’t you?
I believe in the value of open-heartedness. I believe in the power of vulnerability. I believe in risk taking love. I believe that living with an open heart invites others to do the same, while simultaneously providing a conduit for God Himself to enter the world through that opening.
And I believe that this may well be one of the most dangerous ways to live. What if in all that risk taking, instead of soft arms catching you, you find yourself bouncing painfully on the hard floor?
In 2014 I was dropped. Ground that had I had assumed was stable, buckled under my feet. One of the most devastating forms of being dropped, is when trusted allies look at you while you nurse the bruise, and tell you that you are imagining, and you weren’t really just dropped. Now you are not just bruised, you might just be crazy. And you might be alone.
Between the bruises, the admonition to fall again, and the constant message that I wasn’t really falling, I finally left the circle. I didn’t just lean, prepared to catch myself. I stood, refused to fall, went to my room and took a long hard look at why I trusted in such ridiculous ways.
When I said in an earlier post that I isolated, I isolated. For a season, I went from too much trust, to virtually no trust. No ground was safe, and nobody would see my heart. Sadly, by the time this happens, it is usually the time when we most need for our heart to be seen.
Not everyone should be trusted with your most vulnerable you. Some will absolutely take advantage of that you. Others may simply not know what to do with a human heart. Some may not even recognize that you have given them anything of value. When Jesus said not to put your pearls in front of pigs, He is not trying to insult people, he is simply saying that not all living creatures have a taste for rare gems.
Not all humans know how to handle a human heart. If you decide to offer people your heart, do so with accurate expectations.
Like dreaming, trust is returning. But in this case, I had to learn how to give my trust wisely instead of blindly. The first time I am bruised I can question the other. The second and consecutive bruises, I must now begin to question myself.
It is not a tenet of “Christian forgiveness” that you should put your heart in the hands of those who have proven themselves untrustworthy. It is wisdom to guard your heart above all else. Forgiveness simply allows you to withhold yourself from a position of love instead of fear. Forgiving one who hurt you allows you to make a choice for your safety instead of living in bondage and reactivity to the poison of their lack of care.
For my trust to return. I have had to learn to trust my own discernment. I have had to make choices about who is trustworthy and who is likely to drop me. It is not a lack of forgiveness to decide not to trust. If history has shown someone untrustworthy, it is simply wisdom and self-care to not give them access.
I had to learn that open heartedness did not mean foolishness. I have begun to trust again, but I have done so by learning this hard lesson from John Chapter 2.
But Jesus, on his side, did not trust himself to them—for he knew them all. He did not need anyone to tell him what people were like: he understood human nature. – John 2:24-25 Phillips Translation
Learning to trust again, also meant learning when not to trust.
Learning to trust again meant first learning to trust myself.
Learning to trust again meant making choices that at first felt selfish.
Learning to trust again meant letting go of some things
I still find myself hesitant and tentative, but I am taking risks again. I am being much more wise about my risks, but I refuse to live my life in fear.