What are we saying when we say “trust” has been lost? What is the problem this statement attempts to describe?

The problem with saying “trust has been lost” is that it may simply be a reflection of the fact that something has gone missing which should never have existed in the first place. If the trust I have lost is my trust that you will never hurt me, never let me down, never frustrate me, or betray me, then my trust was misplaced from the beginning.

In even the most intimate human relationships, people hurt each other. We betray each other. We fail to live by our highest ideals. We let each other down. We are not ultimately trustworthy.

The only guarantee in any human relationship or any human organization is that at times my behaviour will be shaped by the little egoic, self-centered, self-protective, fearful, insecure person who continues to be part of my make-up as long as I remain in this time-bound, material realm. And, as long as my smaller self is running the show, there will be aspects of my behaviour that are disappointing and hurtful.

An organization is a collection of people who try to live together with some degree of common vision and purpose. But all organizations made up of human beings will inevitably manifest damaging behaviour from time to time. We institute laws in an attempt to minimize the harmful effects of our behaviour, but we understand that harm can never be completely eliminated in any community made up of people who are at times less than the perfect luminous loving beings we were created to be.

So, when we say that trust has been lost, we need to be careful we are not saying that our institutions have failed to measure up to unrealistic expectations. There are times when we just need to get over our hurt and get on with the business of living together with the frustrating people we can all be at times. Failure is built into the human equation.

There is a reason that in most Anglican worship, a “General Confession” takes a central place in our liturgy. Paul was not engaging in hyperbole when he claimed that,

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

At times of course, it is necessary to walk away from a relationship that is so broken that the pain has become unacceptably high. But,  for the most part, as flawed and broken as our relationships may be, we do not give up simply because it is at times painful to be in relationship. We endure and persevere together. If we cannot accept the inevitable pain of human relationship, we will never be able to belong to a community larger than one.

Human relationships involve pain. The only way to avoid the rough edges of being with other people is to abandon any hope of human community and choose the impossible option of attempting to live in complete isolation.

What I need to trust is that you will hurt me and I will hurt you. But we will carry on together because of our common commitment to a greater and more luminous vision of human community. We carry on together because we understand that the pain of human community is the instrument God has given us to knock off some of our rough edges. Other people are the schoolroom of the Spirit where we learn to grow more fully into the people we were created to be. Human community is our spiritual practice.