So, a while back, during a particularly challenging conversation with my teenage kid, I heard myself say “There isn’t anything you could think, say, or do that would change how I feel about you. I love you. But whether or not I can trust you is up to you.” After that interaction I questioned whether that were true. And in hindsight I have to say, yes! I will always love my kids, but whether I can trust them really has to do with their choices.
Isn’t that true in other relationships as well? Sure, we may quibble over this and that, but trust seems to be merited more than love is. Love seems to be deserved by virtue of our shared humanity. Trust, on the other hand, seems to be reserved for those who do something to earn that trust.
To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.George MacDonald
Loving someone, or at least being kind or compassionate to them, says nothing about my ability or willingness to trust that same individual. “I love you enough to take you to that thing, but I don’t trust you enough to drive yourself.” And what is that based on? Well, on the one hand, I want my kid to succeed at that thing they are involved with and therefore I will drop everything to take them, but on the other hand, I don’t trust them to drive themselves to that thing since last week they were pulled over and ticketed for inattentive driving.
And a lack of trust has significant costs for all parties involved. Stephen M. R. Covey talks about how in low trust environments and relationships costs go up and speed to get stuff done goes down. Conversely, in high trust environments and relationships costs go down and speed to get stuff done goes up.
Low Trust = costs up & speed downStephen M. R. Covey
High Trust = costs down & speed up
This warrants at least a cursory look at how to earn someone’s trust. Again from Stephen M. R. Covey we learn that trust is based on both an individual’s character and competence. And within those two we find what Covey calls the “four cores of credibility.” On the character side we have integrity (or how honest someone is) and their intent (or their motives). On the competence side we have capabilities (or the skills someone brings to the table) and their ability to deliver results (or time management and getting things done). Looking at the four cores of credibility resolved a dichotomy for me. I couldn’t ever figure out why I would let a certain business partner watch my kids any day of the week (great integrity and pure motives), but I hated doing business with them (wrong skill set and didn’t get things done). Ah Ha! I kind of trusted them, but not fully.
This is why trust is such an important characteristic that is earned by virtue of choices rather than deserved by virtue of shared humanity, friendship, familial relationships or any other qualifier.
So the next time your kid says “but don’t you love me?” remember that it’s okay to say “well, yes, I love you to the moon and back, but that doesn’t say anything about whether I will trust you to build the rocket ship to get us there.”