My stomach still twists in knots when I think about the moment I broke one of my most treasured possessions. It has been years since it happened, but I still find myself drawn back to that haunting memory, filled with regret and “if only” and “what was I thinking?”
To be honest, I have broken it more than once. If you look closely, you can still see the cracks that serve as evidence of each break and subsequent repair. Some are faint, hairline fractures that are barely noticeable, while others are wider gaps with small chunks lost forever. With each break I have carefully, painstakingly pieced it back together.
It’s never been a quick fix or easy repair.
This cherished treasure of mine was given to me by people I care for deeply. I have had it a long time, but I used to take it for granted. I didn’t treat it with special care or concern for a long time, and I rarely even thought about it. It wasn’t until that first time I broke it that I realized how desperately I needed it. It wasn’t until it was in pieces that I understood how important it was to me.
I’m talking about trust.
Trust is something I take very seriously now. As a reckless teenager I very nearly destroyed it, but now, I protect it. I strive to keep it whole and I carefully cultivate it so it will grow. It is a cherished gift given to me by my parents, my husband, my boss, and my close friends. I shudder to imagine breaking it or losing it completely.
The dictionary defines trustworthiness as: “deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable.” This is something I daily strive to be.
The Bible has a lot to say about being a person who is deserving of trust or confidence and who is dependable and reliable:
In Leviticus 19:35-36 the Lord commands that we do not cheat or deceive anyone in what is owed to them or in what they owe to us. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 25:15-16 he exhorts us to be fair in all our dealings with others and not to cheat anyone, warning, “…all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.”
In Zechariah 8:16-17 the Lord commands that we speak no lies and make no false promises, plainly stating that he hates such things.
Titus 2:7-8 exhorts us to, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
It is clear from Scripture that we are to be trustworthy. We are to walk in integrity, being honest and fair, and not deceiving or cheating anyone. The Lord sees all we do, even the hidden intent of our heart, and he rewards integrity. In 1 Chronicles 29:17 David declares to the Lord, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.”
It’s tempting to think of yourself as trustworthy simply because you don’t intentionally deceive people or act dishonestly. However, while honesty is a very critical element of trustworthiness, it’s not all there is to it. Being deserving of someone’s trust or confidence isn’t merely about being honest. I believe it’s just as much about being dependable and reliable.
My parents have dealt for years with a businessman who time after time fails to follow through on his word. For various reasons it is a business relationship that they remain committed to, despite the extreme frustration that plagues it. But what could have been a positive and gratifying arrangement has instead become a source of wariness and contention. Through their experience, to my parents this man’s word has become worthless.
I too have been on the receiving end of many broken promises. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” once or twice usually can be forgiven and forgotten, but when it becomes a pattern, trust quickly deteriorates. And it doesn’t have to be anything big. There are people I no longer trust to be somewhere or do something at the time they said they would. I have friends who I don’t expect to call or to show up even though they promised. There are those who I know will inevitably forget to do that favor they so eagerly offered to do, or due to one excuse or another will fail to fulfill a responsibility upon which they agreed.
Being trustworthy is as much about being a person of your word as it is about being honest. Follow up on everything you say you will do, and take it seriously, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time. Also, take time to identify areas where you can make an intentional effort to be more dependable.
Here are a few examples of what being fully trustworthy may look like in your life:
- Consistently being on time to work or other commitments
- Promptly responding to emails and voicemails rather than letting them stew in your inbox for days
- Being faithful to project deadlines or other time commitments, no matter how inconsequential a delay may seem to you
- Following through on favors in the way and time frame you originally promised
- If changing your mind about how or when you should do something, double checking with those whom the decision affects
- Most importantly: taking responsibility for unfulfilled promises or commitments instead of shifting the blame or making excuses
Prove to friends, family and coworkers that you are a person on whom they can depend. When you say you will do something, do it – when and how you said you would – no matter how small or insignificant that promise may seem. And when you do mess up, own up.
When given someone’s trust, do everything you can to not break it or lose it. I promise, the rewards are priceless.
I place great importance on remaining trustworthy, but I do still struggle with always being dependable. One of my weaknesses is failing to always follow through on promises to call, write, or visit friends.
Question: What is something that causes you to begin to lose trust in someone? Do you have an area where you’ve realized you tend to be less than reliable?