Down the street from me as a child, my neighbors had a tire swing; tied high in the tree, you had to crawl up, wiggle inside, and then let go before plummeting towards the ground with only a rope to catch you. Trust is a lot like that tire swing. As kids, we don’t think twice before jumping out of trees. Kids are unpretentious and their world is full of adventure with excitement around every corner. They haven’t yet experienced heartbreak, disappointment or developed routines. In a word, children know how to trust.
Somewhere along the way I have lost the trust that I once had as a child. Like most people, I’ve been rejected, lied to, heartbroken, and had my confidence stepped on. The world has a funny way of breaking down our confidence and that is when we begin to …
… build up our defenses to keep from getting hurt or embarrassed again.
It’s scary to reveal everything about ourselves to another person, especially in the beginning, so we hold back; we learn to be a little bit sneaky and protective. It’s nearly impossible for me to imagining that someone could genuinely like me once I’ve exposed the parts of myself that I’m not proud of. Once the truth is out there, you have to face it yourself. That’s the scariest part of all.
All relationships require a lot of trust. The question that I constantly find myself asking when I meet someone new is: How do you repair trust in others and let yourself be vulnerable? If you’re looking for an answer, I haven’t quite found it yet. What I have discovered is that it has something to do with balance. There is an important difference between reverting to childlike vulnerability and knowing how to guard oneself.
We share more personal information now than any generation has before us, but are we making it more difficult for ourselves to be completely vulnerable in real life relationships?
It is so easy to wrap yourself up in hobbies, social media, and “me” time to avoid the entanglements that come with having to be trustful of others. We are so often preoccupied with activities and social media life, that it becomes second nature to selectively portray an image of ourselves that we think is worthy. We inadvertently guard ourselves from the judgment and criticism of others. Living life through a filter has become second nature to me, it’s a defense from the possibility of getting hurt. We share more personal information now than any generation has before us, but are we making it more difficult for ourselves to be completely vulnerable in real life relationships?
C.S. Lewis said that “to love is to be vulnerable.” It is possible to guard yourself so much that you can make it through life fairly unbroken. You can easily become unbreakable, but then eventually impenetrable or cold, too. Trust is essential to love, and in order to love anything your heart will be put through the ringer, possibly broken; it is painful. However, the reward is greater than the risk. This, we seem to forget.
As children we were naturally trusting and vulnerable. We jumped from trees without a second thought, we sent our crush a valentine, and loved our parents despite their flaws. We saw each day full of possibility and adventure instead of being fearful and guarded. To be loved and to love in return, I’ve discovered that I need to first let my guard down and trust that who I am is enough.
Channeling the trust we had for others as children — before we had so many disappointments — is not easy, but it is rewarding. I’ve discovered that a childlike trust doesn’t require us to always wear our heart on our sleeves, but it invites and urges us to risk our comfort so that we gain more genuine, fulfilling relationships.
What prevents you from being vulnerable? How you know when to share and when to hold back?
Image via Chelsie Autumn Photography