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Does trust have to be earned?

March 22, 2007

Recently I was speaking with someone about trust. They said “Trust has to be earned.” I have thought about that comment a great deal since that conversation. What is trust? How is trust earned? Do we live like it has to be earned? If we do live that way, doesn’t that mean we mistrust/distrust others?

I have taken several extended road trips through the Western and Central US and Canada. If I didn’t purchase gas, food, lodging, etc. on those trips because I could only purchase those things from businesses where trust had been earned I wouldn’t have made it very far. Every week I interact with people where trust hasn’t yet been earned. As a follower of Christ I believe I am called to love and interact with others. In order to love others and show them God’s love, don’t I have to trust them? Without trust I will not open myself up for them to see into and share in my life, and I will likely be dishonest with them. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7) I am not saying we should trust man equally or more than God, and I believe there are times where we need to be cautious and aware or we can be taken advantage of or hurt. In the conversation I referred to we were talking about trusting someone from my church: someone I know of and have some relationship with. That person is a Christian, but the conversation could have referred to my neighbor, boss, co-worker, or any acquaintance in my life.

After a lot of reflection I don’t think trust has to be earned. I think if we are to live openly and transparently with others, we need to offer trust to them. This makes me wonder how Christians could impact the world if we lived with an attitude and the action of trusting instead of distrusting. What is our witness when we don’t show trust? Is there someone you are not trusting because trust hasn’t been “earned”? Are you willing to change and take a risk instead to trust and see what God might want to develop in the relationship?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. California guy permalink
    January 9, 2009 10:17 am

    Although there is a little bit of truth in this because giving trust inspires one to become worthy of that trust, it is not always the same. You cannot generalize for every situation. Although you do not have to walk around with an attitude of distrust in your life, I believe everybody understands accountability.

    Of course, we have to give a certain measure of trust and have a certain amount of faith in others, otherwise we wouldn’t make it through life. But whether you realize it or not, that trust is not blind. It is based on experience and knowledge. Even the faith you talk about, that itself is based on an experience you had with God, because you tried him and you realized that He is true. When you go through a trial in your life, why is it you keep on trusting in God? Because you have no clue if he’s gonna come through but you just decided to do it for kicks? No, because you know based on your past experience with Him that even though it may be a hard trial, He will always come through for the best. This is why he has given us stories in the Bible, to inspire faith and trust in us.

    I don’t see it as a negative thing that trust has to be earned. God wants to inspire us to become trustworthy by giving us a certain measure of trust. He wants us as little children to feel worthy of the trust he puts in us, to make us feel like we’re worth it. But the one thing that is ultimately important to Him is that we make our own choice to do what is right, to do it because we love him. And this is ultimately what it all comes down to, that we are free-will beings and he wants us to love him of our own choice, and do what is right by our own choice (propelled by his power and grace), not because it is programmed in our DNA.

    Although in our day and age, this is not always a good example since the enemy has tried hard to break down this institution God has set up, think of a marriage relationship and think of it well. This is God’s example of what he wants between Him and his bride, the church. In the marriage relationship of a man and a woman, this is where you will find the meaning of trust and our relationship with him.

  2. March 10, 2009 6:47 am

    How can i keep trusting a Christian brother or sister who consistently hides the truth and lies to me?

  3. March 30, 2009 7:52 pm

    Prakash, I apologize that I did not get this message and replay until now. I can understand how this would be a struggle. My first advice would be to consult scripture. It tells us to test everything, and how to know the heart and committment of others. If someone is in your life and they are repeatedly choosing behavior that is hurtful to others, especially after being confronted about it in a loving and grace-filled way, then I think you need to ask if that person is honestly following Christ. Your first commitment is to Christ, and if someone is living in a way that is causing you to stumble then that person is not a healthy relationship for you (at least at this time). You may need to create some distance or ask for some space from the other person. Seek counsel from others who may be able to observe things in both of your lives, but be honest with them and yourself by being open to really receive their feedback.

    I pray God shows you what you need to deal with this relationship in an honest, healthy, caring, and grace filled way.

  4. May 15, 2009 8:28 pm

    I think that people have a certain level of general trust when you meet someone. But once the little bit of trust is broken, that someone loses it. In that case, that someone has to earn it back. But also with the general trust you started with also has to grow into a deep, rooted trust. That’s just what I think. Does this make sense? You start out with a little and it needs to grow and be nourished.


    • June 1, 2009 6:33 am

      I agree with what you have said here, but I would add one element. Trust is a choice. We can choose to trust even when our emotions or the circumstances tell us not to. When we feel trust is broken we really need to step back and evaluate why we feel that way. Has the other person truly wronged us, or is our selfishness, insecurity, pride, or just desire to do things our way causing the feelings. Sometimes we need to choose to surrender in the situation and learn from it. Sometimes we need to follow the examples of Daniel and Paul and praise God in the midst of the difficult times. Trust is a difficult thing, but God gives us the ability to trust even at those times it is hardest.

  5. August 14, 2010 8:18 pm

    so I found this blog post by google

    I find the statement “trust has to be earned” to be incorrect and so agree with you (if I understand you correctly). You can do everything in the world in an attempt to earn trust, but a person never has to give it, or one can do nothing and have it given anyway. Thus the statement “trust is earned and not given” is only correct when reversed.

  6. June 29, 2011 6:12 am

    Sherie, you are absolutely right. Trust does not have to be earned. As you added, mistrust is born of our interpretation of situations. It is an attempt to protect ourselves and not depend on God. Mistrust is a choice that leads us into sin. If we have truly been wronged, we are called to forgive. Mistrust is not forgiveness.

    Your choice of scripture is right on. Love ALWAYS trusts.

  7. Tim permalink
    July 25, 2011 6:19 pm

    I DO agree with some of the stuff you wrote Sherie, but I couldn’t resist throwing in my 2 cents… My apologies

    There is a difference between distrust and just not having built a reputation or relationship with someone. Also, to Barry, trust and forgiveness are two very different words with very different meanings.

    I believe that to give full and unquestioning trust from the very start of every relationship you have to ignore verses like Matthew 10:16 – “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” and Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ” And look at Genesis 6:5 – “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”

    Trust is a necessary ingredient in every relationship. There should be a level of trust from the very start of every relationship, but to give it totally and unquestioningly is asking for trouble…

    What if a stranger you just met asks for the keys to your car to get eggs from the store and they say they will bring your car back? If you trusted them you would give them your keys, right? It would even be distrusting to drive them to the store to get the eggs after they asked. Have you ever talked to a salesman you have never seen before? Maybe you went to buy a used car from a dealership? When he/she says “This is the car you need!” why ask to see other cars unless you don’t trust the person? What if you received an email asking for a minor 100 dollar investment mailed to a P.O. box and your investment would return multiplied by 1000? If you say you won’t send that money then you are not trusting the person that sent the email.

    So trust should be earned to some degree otherwise civilized society would crumble as fast as you can say “Why yes, I WILL give you all the money in my savings account!”

    If you tell me you’ll meet me at Starbucks at 7:00AM I will trust that you will be there, I am not going to call you and make sure you are awake and getting ready and then come and pick you up to be certain you will be there. But if you told me that you could take my savings account and triple it in a weeks time I will chose to remain wary and not give you my money unless you could convince me through various means that you can do what you say you will do. ‘Trust’ can be used there and I don’t believe I am the ONLY one in the world that would respond like that. If that is not a situation you would apply trust to then please explain to me what trust is and how I am misunderstanding the word?

    God is the only one who does not need to earn any level of our trust. He is perfect, without flaw, righteous and holy. Man, the fallen sinful creature, is the opposite of that.

  8. July 26, 2011 9:29 am

    Trust, love, forgiveness, faith – these things are all inextricably entwined. Even a cursory reading of 1 Corinthians 13 will make this evident. If we attempt to tease them apart we will inevitably run into difficulty. Separate any of these elements from love and it becomes conditional.

    Conditional love is based in fear, fear of being hurt. To love always involves risking being hurt. People are imperfect, weak and sinful. We must keep this in perspective if we are to have realistic expectations of relationship. We must make the choice to love as unconditionally as our brokenness allows. That includes trusting even when it seems undeserved. As Sherie wrote, “God gives us the ability to trust even in those times it is hardest.”

    I believe the key to trusting others is trust in God. We must let go of our fear of being hurt and its significance to us and trust that God will take care of us. We must not let hurt infect us and turn control over to our emotions. When we cling to our hurt our mind blows it out of all proportion. Though some would dispute this, the truth is that the pain will last only as long as you decide it will.

    It is our beliefs about hurt that cause us not to trust. Rather than focus on the hurt itself, we need to look at what we allow hurt to do to us, what we allow it to make us do, and what we believe it says about us. The focus needs to be on not on why it happened but on healing.

    “In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:4

  9. December 22, 2011 12:38 pm

    Trust is given with wisdom and discernment. Forgive the illustration, but, “As a dog returns to it’s vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” Proverbs Releasing trust without using wisdom based on past experiences is folly. God didn’t give us mindless faith, nor does he give us mindless trust. If you go into a dangerous neighborhood and you have an ipod on your seat, do you leave it with the doors unlocked? Do you leave your children home alone if they are only 7? Why not? Because you understand that they are probably not capable of making good decisions in case of an emergency and may not be safe. If you know someone is a child molester, though saved, would you leave your child alone with them? We do not all have renewed minds at the same rate. Much of how we deal with people depends on their maturity and yieldedness to the will of God. Some people, though saved, continue to live in sin. They lose their blessing on earth in the form of the kingdom of God’s peace and joy, and most likely their reward in heaven. God gives us discernment for a reason, and we all do not walk in holiness. Gage who you are dealing with and judge the situation accordingly. Healthy boundaries are part of loving yourself….so you can then love your neighbor.

  10. Carter permalink
    September 30, 2012 11:47 am

    This is an old post but I want respond anyway.

    Everything you did has little to do with real trust. Buying food and or services has little to do with trust. You seem to be confusing trust and pessimism which are not the same thing.

    If you want to preach on trusting fully then lend strangers your car in the hood. Let random people live in your house and just trust they will help out and or not rob you.

    Give money to people you don’t know and see if trust gets them to pay you back.

    I give people trust only until they break that trust. However, i will not put myself in harms way by substituting common sense with blind trust.

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