What Can We Count On? (Part 3)

PicturePerhaps there’s no better time than January, this time of new beginnings and resolutions, to turn your attention to what is worthy of your ultimate trust. There are so many places to misplace our loyalty this time of year, so many things and people making unworthy promises: weight loss pledges based in stories of shame and inadequacy; people to compare ourselves with, and find ourselves inevitably lacking; the quick fix and the superficial solution, particularly when we know we are craving a total life overhaul….

How do we decide what is worthy of our trust? And just as importantly, how do we learn to trust ourselves?

Christine Robinson, the Senior Minister at First Unitarian, Albuquerque, in her small group ministry curricula on trust, asserts that we spend our lives in a series of trust lessons:

“Our experiences,” she says, “give us a sort of default trust setting [which] not only shapes our own feelings and behavior, [but] also shapes the way others behave towards us. It might seem that a cynical attitude is safest, but since people who sense they are not trusted often withdraw from a relationship and sometimes even act in untrustworthy ways, it is actually a terrible risk. And while a ‘trust the universe’ stance might seem like an advanced spiritual practice, in actuality, it can invite exploitation.”

What is your default trust setting? Does it veer more towards skepticism, or towards naiveté? Exploring your automatic tendencies, and then how you came to them, will help you to recognize your own teachers of trust. Whether because of their faithfulness or because of the ways they disappointed you, these teachers shaped your default setting. As you come to understand these critical lessons, you can also begin to consciously adjust your response to others and to yourself in matters of trust, and to practice and develop new habits.

As you think through where you place your trust today, you might find yourself with a list of beloved friends and family, and hopefully your list includes yourself. And yet, it’s important to recognize that even these good people are not worthy of our ultimate trust. While we affirm humanity’s goodness, we also recognize our fallibility. We are
imperfect, and we will love imperfectly.

And so now, you must look more deeply. What tells you that you are ok, that life is ok? In your dark nights, what offers you light? What holds you, no matter what? Thinking through sources of clarity in the midst of past struggles can help you articulate what is somewhat inexpressible, and to name, and claim, your own sense of the Ultimate.

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About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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