I guess Trust is kind of like Buddhist sand art.
It takes a long time to build and can be destroyed with a single, angry breath.
Many, many years ago I had a boss that would take me out for happy hour to discuss business, or just shoot the breeze. He’d buy drinks and food. Sometimes he’d buy me breakfast or lunch. He told me I was on a promotion fast track. I loved working for him.
Many, many years ago, I also had another boss. He would yell at me when I made a mistake. He routinely embarrassed me in front of co-workers. He made me work late and on the weekends. He was condescending, arrogant, and rude. I hated working for him.
It was the same man. And he was an alcoholic.
Erratic behavior can be a symptom of alcohol abuse. On any given day, I’d wake up with a sense of dread and fear – hoping that the “good boss” would show up to work, but often finding the “bad boss” at the office. Always afraid of that angry word.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t trust him even if he was nice to me for long periods of time. If I made a mistake, I hid it. If I did something good, I hid it. I didn’t trust him to recognize my successes and help me with my failures. I never confided in him although, deep down, I believe he really liked me.
Fast forward to the present day.
I was having lunch with a friend a while back and the topic of ‘listening’ came up. My friend is a trained therapist with a doctorate degree. I described how my teenagers – as well as their friends – don’t often seem willing to open up. I can’t help them if they won’t talk to me. So, I asked my friend what the most important thing was to being a good listener. He paused, thought, and then said (paraphrased),
“Trust. If the person doesn’t trust you, they won’t talk. They have to feel safe.”
I’ve thought about this. A lot. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how important that kind of trust is in our family. Am I creating an environment where my kids feel they can talk to me about their troubles?
No. At least, not always.
Thinking back over the past 15 years, I see how erratic I have been towards my kids – sometimes getting angry over minor offense to which they confessed. Sometimes I was quite attuned to what they needed, really focused and listening. And other times, too quick with a harsh word. I can’t expect myself to be perfect – 17 years of child raising will produce some conflicts – but sometimes my own actions have been … closer to that alcoholic I worked for so many years ago than I care to admit.
I guess Trust is kind of like Buddhist sand art. It takes a long time to build and can be destroyed with a single, angry breath.
I still don’t trust my old boss even though I haven’t spoken with him in almost 20 years. However, I am trying to slowly, patiently build that sand painting of Trust for my own kids. I don’t expect it to be completed any time soon, and I’m not convinced I can build it without blowing it away a few more times. But I’m trying. One day and one grain of sand at a time.
This is a bit longer than my normal posts, but I hope that if your employees, children, friends, spouses, or parents aren’t talking, you might pause to think if you are trustworthy.
photo credit: Sand Art via photopin (license)