IWTA — “I Will Trust Again”

A woman approached me after I was speaking at a conference. She was wearing a bright yellow pin that proclaimed “IWTA.” She told me the story about her husband leaving her for her best friend. That was bad but that wasn’t the biggest problem for her — they were next door neighbours! Her husband moved his stuff over the fence and into a new woman’s bedroom and kitchen and bathroom.

She bumped into this new couple at Safeway and on Facebook and she found herself examining every car that drove into their shared cul-de-sac. There is a lot to the story, much of it tough and some of it inspiring; but to be brief, she made the decision that she would trust people again. She would even trust men. She would even trust best friends.

We all know that once trust has been betrayed, people will be less trusting the next time and some will never get over the betrayal. The degree of mistrust that is engendered varies between individuals and with the enormity of a particular betrayal. However, trust can be rebuilt with repeated positive experiences.

Note this: trust and distrust are experiences and not feelings. To cry, “I just don’t trust men anymore!” is to more truthfully say “I am still royally pissed off and I have not recovered!” The experience of broken trust produce fear – hurt – anger (this amalgam is “bitterness”). But trust is the practice of getting over through these emotions without overwhelming residue. If you have been abused by betrayal, you have to do something for the feelings to change.

Here is what I tell people who are trying to figure out trust and re-trust. The first step of re-trusting is to do anything with your bitterness. This is the process phase. Talk it out, pray it out, forgive it out, run it out, write it out — just get it out. Bark, bitch and belittle if that helps. Just don’t nurse it or hook others into saying, “Oh poor you.” Nourishing it builds a narrative that will never set you free.

Step two: do something you have not done before that is better than what you have done since you were betrayed. This is the initiation phase. Take up bowling (5 pin is fun), drink lattes in designer coffee shops three times a week and write an online journal with pics about the best and worst, join a cult (that is not really a good idea), do stranger interviews (see another post). The thing is, if you think of yourself as a Victim in life, then you will surely become one. Change your narrative. Get a tattoo that says IWTA and tell yourself that you can overcome rejection and stupidity — yours and his.

Step three is the toughest step: forgive the wretched rat. (You can tell by that description that I am undifferentiated and totally on your side.) This is the new beginnings phase. Forgiveness is hard. It is not a transaction (“I forgive you, you wretched rat!”) but a thought-out behaviour change. You decide to experience your pain, own it as yours and do something with it (see step two). Forgiving is bearing pain, deciding to face it and determining to change. Bearing-deciding-determining — verbs of re-trusting.

So you get into an intimate relationship and you are afraid, or you avoid intimacy because you are afraid. What do you do? You initiate. You start something rather than wait for the world to change. You make decisions based on character and consistency. You re-trust in increments over time. You let yourself feel and you wonder.

I think you can re-trust. I see it in my practice and sometimes in my own life. Take ownership and step-by-step face life. You can trust again.

Called to Move (David Ducklow)

As we look around at the world, we are encouraged to “do this,” “love that,” “be more” and “expect all our dreams to come true.” But once we have them, we no longer appreciate them as much as we did when they were simply desires.

Life can look greener on the other side of the fence, and our current realities never match up to them. How do we get out of this cycle? How can we take our desires captive, before they do this to us, and we experience an unexpected and inevitable calamity? The answer is: move.

This does not mean that we change vocations, associations or relations. But, as priest, professor, Henri Nouwen writes, we must listen to our call. “You are called to live out of a new place, beyond your emotions, passions, and feelings. As long as you live amid [them], you will continue to experience loneliness, jealousy, anger, resentment, and even rage, because those are the most obvious responses” when we desire what we see, just beyond the fence.

The idea of living from a new place, while physically living in our present place is a challenge that is avoided by many. But those who attempt to make this move realize that heeding its call is exactly what is needed. Then we realize that moving was the best decision we could have ever made.

What does it mean to you to live out of a new place?

(David Ducklow, Spiritual Director / Chaplain)

“ACTing”: A Model for Community Change

I don’t write much about my consultation work on these pages, but I think that “ACTing” is relevant for all of us that are going through some transition. E.G., I am of the age to begin retiring and I have just left the graduate school where I taught for 7 years.

This is a simple paradigm I use in my work with business leaders, community workers and church leaders. I think it for my own changes as well.

A stands for adjustment. The lowest level of change is to tweak what is not going well and hope that this is sufficient. Organizations might create a new logo, or a college might write a document intended to educate about sexual harassment. Even the most modest adjustments are potentially harmful; they lead leaders into the illusion that they and their organizations have changed. Adjustments don’t make change – they stop change.

C stands for change. Every system has a culture that resists change. We love the misbelief that we got it right the first time. Changes in organization are costly, impactful, hopeful and troubling. In changes we discard what does not work and design what does. We might change leadership in an organization; for example change is to design a work-from-home policy for the purpose of valuing parenting and child care costs or the time wasted in commuting.

T stands for transformation. The location of macro change is when we fresh-think purpose, mission and “way in the world.” A church I was consulting with decided to move from a central structure (e.g. Sunday morning at 11 am) to a simpler model where the people were disbursed into multiple “simple churches” of 20-30 people that met at various times of the week in various homes, coffee shops and other public facilities. This transformational change produced radical results and most of them positive.

Here are some ACTing questions for you.

  1. In the changes you are making in your life, are you adjusting, changing or transforming? Think of your partnerships at work, your marriage, how you interact in your neighbourhood.
  2. Most people are intentionally working their bodies. They may hope to gain muscle mass (not me) or lose weight (that’s more like me), or develop new hobbies like mountain biking, etc. How are you approaching your changes?
  3. Imagine a conflict you have that has been eating you up for a while. What changes are you making? How is it working out?

ACTing is a made-up verb. You change when you are in the verb tense.

Empathy — When Something Good Is Done

When I am confused or worried, I want someone to listen without rushing or concluding or pronouncing. It irritates me when someone dismisses me with “look on the bright side,” or for those theologically persuaded, “God is doing something good.” I don’t want to be equally dismissive, so I look for the “giver’s” good intent and try to not take it deeply. What do you do?

Empathy is the ability to know and experience the consolations and desolations of another. It is a spiritual discipline, a social skill and a profound respect; it is a relationship and a friendship that matters deeply.

Empathy is not sympathy where the “giver” feels good about the giving. It is not solution focused, or panacea finding, or conversation concluding. Sympathy is a reactive protection from getting involved. It is limbic un-thoughtfulness.

I want you to watch a lovely 3 minute cartoon on what empathy is, what caring is. Brene Brown is the speaker with the words behind the drawings. To hear more of what she has to say, look at “The Power of Vulnerability.” Want to see even more? Check out her genius TED talk.

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