Solid relationships depend on trust. The biggest commitments in life require that we give a part of ourselves away, which is impossible to do safely in the absence of trust (for more on this topic see the prior articles: Trust: The Foundation of Any Relationship, Trust and Relationships – Pt. 2, and Trust and Commitment Go Hand in Hand. Still, none of us is superhuman, and we’ve all done something at one time or another to call our trustworthiness into question. The difference between normal, conscientious individuals (i.e. “functional neurotics”) and character-impaired or disordered types, however, is that disturbed characters: a) have a relative lack of compunction about betraying someone’s trust in the first place and b) feel a lack of obligation to repair the damage caused by their trust betrayals.
In my work with troubled couples over the years, I’ve witnessed too many instances in which a trust violator might actually have some degree of practical regret for their misdeed but little remorse or contrition for the pain caused by the trust breach itself. I’ve written before on what real contrition looks like (for more on this and related topics, see the articles: What Real Contrition Looks Like, Shame, Guilt, Regret, Remorse, and Contrition, and Contrition Revisited). Folks with any integrity of character are crushed in spirit under the weight of the pain the’ve caused others – especially the ones they purportedly love. And such folks also appreciate the special kind of pain (and loss) that trust breaches cause. So, they’re willing do whatever it takes to repair damage. They know and appreciate that trust has to be rebuilt slowly and deliberately. It takes perseverance and commitment and full acceptance of the fact that despite one’s best efforts, earning back someone’s trust takes time. Persons of character accept the obligation to do their repair work freely and willingly, without acrimony. They take responsibility not just in words but in action, demonstrating with every effort their willingness to take the lead in healing the wounds.
As asserted in the first article of the series, trust is the very foundation of a healthy relationship. Without it, it’s impossible for a relationship to blossom into what the kind of almost mystical experience a truly intimate relationship can be. And, like all of the most valuable commodities in life, it has to be earned.
Character Matters will again be a live broadcast Sunday, so I can take your calls. And I’ll be talking a lot about our character-impaired age and why it’s so hard to place trust in our leaders, our business enterprises, our government, our friends, our spouses, etc..
Also, my sincerest thanks to the unprecedented number of you who have taken the time and made the effort to contact me directly over the past few weeks to verbalize you support for my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and The Judas Syndrome and for the articles on this blog. It’s been a truly phenomenal week, and the validation truly means a lot.