From the book
“CARING ENOUGH TO CONFRONT”
by David Augsburger (1980)
To be trusted, Trust.
If you wait until trust is deserved, you wait forever.
Someone is waiting to trust in return.
A Two-Way Venture of Faith
"Don't trust anyone over 30," it once was said by those who thought honesty ended at 29.
Then 20-year-olds began to discover how hard it was getting through to the 25s.
"Man, you just can't rap with them anymore," they complained. "We just don't read each other at all."
Then the 18-year-olds began to sense how far over the hill these guys were who had passed 20.
No sooner had the eighteeners pointed this out than they were deflated by the fifteeners.
''Just because they can drive, they think they oughta be able to vote. They're too smart for no more than they know."
That's where the 12-year-olds chipped in. "Those teenagers are terrible," they said. "Have you ever tried talking to thirteeners? They say anybody that doesn't listen to them can lump it!"
The 10-year-olds wouldn't stand silent for that. "It's the 12-year-olds that are a bunch of spoiled brats; they're hardly out of diapers and they want to tell all kids how to do everything. You just can't trust them."
The 5-year-olds finally got in a word. "It's the first-graders that cause all the problems. Just because they've got an education and can read they think the world is their piece of cake."
The nursery school tykes find that trusting kindergarten kiddies is quite a challenge. And the toddlers in their terrible twos find the threes and fours less than trustworthy. And the one-year-olds are still working at achieving basic trust. So who's to be trusted?
Basic trust is the primal learning in the life of every child. Basic trust is the foundation for all subsequent learnings. And it remains the key, core, crucial emotion in all human relationships. Trust undergirds, interconnects, integrates, interrelates all the other emotions and affections.
Trust is the root emotion. In stress we fall back through the levels of fidelity, competence, adequacy, courage, initiative, autonomy, will, hope, until we encounter the fundamental ground of our being: trust.
"I trust you." When I hear—or sense—that message from another person I feel loved, I feel accepted, I feel respected.
"I don't trust you." When I receive that message from someone important to me, I feel disliked, cut off, rejected.
If being trusted is that significant to our own sense of well-being and self-esteem, then a climate of trust is one of the most crucial elements in life, families and homes.
Trust—breathed in an atmosphere of love—nourishes life like oxygen. Distrust tightens the chest with anxiety, burns in the throat like smog, tears the eyes with its acidity, and poisons the whole person.
Test it for yourself. Close your eyes. Withdraw into yourself for a moment. Say, "No one trusts me. No one. I cannot be trusted. By anyone. I am rejected as untrustworthy." What do you feel? There's a narrowing of the chest, isn't there? A tightness in breathing. You want to draw in air but it comes hard. That's anxiety. That's how it feels when we are not trusted.
A breath of fresh trust can give a person enough life to go on for days. But deny a child—or a parent—or any person— of trust and he or she starves on the stale air of suspicion and rejection.
One cannot live without trust. Deprive another of it and he'll seek it elsewhere, getting it wherever he can find it. Or he may come to the point where he says, "I trust no one. No one but me—myself." That too is death.
We need trust to be human. To refuse to trust is to do violence to human personhood.
Giving trust is the central task of parenting. To withhold it is to deprive an emerging person of the core need of its being. To withhold trust as a means of coercing conformity (which incidentally does not work no matter how commonly it is tried) is to say: "Until you measure up to my demands I withhold the breath of life-nourishing trust from you. When you earn it again, when I decide you deserve it, I may give it back."
Since trust is the primal familial emotion, we will explore it in this chapter primarily in the parent-parent and parent-child settings. Observations offered as to its nature are equally applicable elsewhere.
"They're a bunch of little devils," your husband says as your daughters back their love-bug out of the drive. "Who knows what they're up to—sleeping around, popping pills, smoking pot. Either you're with me—and we crack down on them—or you're with them. . ."
You're in a real bind. You love your husband. You want to stay in touch with him. But you love your daughters too. Nothing can persuade you to feel so coldly rejecting, so angrily judging as your husband wants you to be.
"I'm not going to reject either side," you tell yourself. ''Both my husband and my daughters need me. I need them. I won't let his suspicions and anger stop me from giving trust to the girls, nor will I let myself be cut off from him. My daughters' problems are not going to come between us."
But what if a son—or a daughter—doesn't earn your trust? What if your trust is betrayed?
"I can't trust you anymore," parents often say. That's not true. The word "can't" is false. "I won't trust you anymore'' would be a more honest statement.
"Can't" is an irresponsible word. It says, "Circumstances prevent me, others thwart me, you have stopped me. I am not responsible. I can do nothing." When you change the words "I can't" to "I won't" the troth begins to surface bringing responsibility with it.
When does a parent have the right to say, "I won't trust you anymore"? Only when they have come to the end of their parenting. When they choose to say, ''Stop the family, I want to get off."
"You don't trust me anymore," children more often say to their parents. That's a line of many meanings.
It may say: "I'm confused. I've just betrayed my own ideals. I've done things I'm ashamed of. Tell me that you trust me. I need a breath of trust." Or it may be saying: "I'm angry. You talk about responsibility. But when I want to make a decision you insist on making it for me. I need room to move, to breathe, to be me." Or it can mean: "I'm frustrated. You use your trust to manipulate me. I feel your trust has many strings attached like, 'I'll trust you if. . .and only if. . .' But do you trust my ability to choose what seems right to me?" Or it may mean:' 'I'm betrayed. You told me you trusted me so I made the decision that seemed important to me. Now I see you don't respect me or my decision at all. Not at all. You bear-trapped me. You led me to think I was free to choose, then snap. I'm caught and rejected."
Or the phrase may communicate: "I’m guilty. I let you down. I admit it. I need my quota of mistakes. If you expect me to be perfect—according to your own standards—then 'trust' is the wrong word for our relationship. 'Obey' maybe, or 'copy.' But is that what you want—a rerun of your life?''
"You don't trust us anymore," your son says as you refuse him the car and demand that he and his brother cancel their plans for a weekend at the beach. He's right. You don't trust him, but you don't want to put it that boldly.
"Trust has got to be earned," you say to yourself. "If the guys want trust they'll have to prove themselves for the next month." But you know from experience that demanding trust be earned usually ends in mutual distrust and secrecy.
"I could say, 'Fellows, you want us to trust you to use your best judgment. Okay, we will. And we want you to trust us to use our best judgment in setting a few limits. . .' "
It's possible to affirm trust in your son even while rejecting untrustworthy acts. Saying, "I'm trusting you to try again—in a better way," opens the door to understanding. Trust is love that forgets the past, reaches out here and now to believe and encourage others, and gives them the freedom to claim the future.
What does a child mean when he/she says, "You don't trust me"? Perhaps it's simply, "You're cutting me off. Give me a second chance. Stay with me." Whatever the meaning, what can you answer? You might try something like this:
“Yes, I trust you to use your best judgment.” But I know from my own experience that one person's best judgment may not include quite enough important facts of knowledge to be completely dependable. And sometimes it may need buttressing with some help from others—even parents. “If it's important to you that we trust you to use your best judgment, will you trust us to use our best judgment in the questions we raise and the suggestions we make?” That's a long answer to be sure; but it can afford to be since trust goes both ways. And parents and children must constantly keep it alive and nourish it.
''So you don't want to be a doctor or teach. But isn't there some respectable occupation that appeals to you?'' You stare at your silent son in total exasperation. "No, man," he says, "I think I'll just drift awhile and look at life. Then maybe find a little primitive land somewhere and go back to the soil. So you can keep your dreams of my future. I won't be needing them. Working and slaving for 40 years in the establishment only earns you ulcers and a taste for tranquilizers. Who needs all that capital to be happy? Who needs all that worry about Dow-Jones closings? I want to live."
You hear his values. They're worlds apart from your own. Will you-respect them? Or try to force him into some position where he has to yield to your values?
"Son," you say, "I want to be able to appreciate your values whether I share them or not. And you matter so much to me I want to know that you can see and respect my values too, even though you disagree with them. ..."
To be trusted, you must trust. To receive trust from others, you risk trusting them by opening yourself to them. These two go together—trust and openness.
A climate of mutual tust develops out of mutual freedom to express real feelings, positive and negative. As each person moves toward a greater acceptance of his total self, more and more of his/her potential for loving, trusting, responsibility and growth are released.
And as the trust level rises the willingness to risk being open with each other increases too. The two go hand in hand. Trust and risk. Acceptance and honesty. Each is advanced by the other; each is dependent on the other; they are mutually strengthening. There are risks involved in all love, acceptance, and trust. If I come to understand another's inner world, if I can sense his confusion or his timidity or his feeling of being treated unfairly, if I can feel it as if it were my own, then a highly sensitive empathy comes into play between us. A rare kind of trusting-understanding develops.
This is far different from the understanding which says: "I know what's wrong with you," or "I can see what makes you act that way."
This trusting-understanding enters the other's world in his or her own terms. And that is risky. If I take your world into mine, I run the risk of being changed, of becoming more like you.
"You quit your job? But that's stupid," you snap at your son.
"You had a good thing going after school and now you drop it. You'll never amount to anything.''
"Yeah, well, I just wasn't digging the work anymore. I decided to split," he says.
"At this rate," you say, "you'll never be worth a thing."
“‘If that's how you say it will be—that's how it will be.”
He's shrugging you off coolly, turning away.
You're stuck at the usual impasse.
You writing him off, he tuning you out.
You predicting failure, keeping score on his mistakes, digging at past hurts to prod him along. He fighting back, spiting you at every chance.
Someone's got to break the cycle. Your worst predictions keep coming true like prophecies that fulfill themselves.
"I've got to take the first step " you say "The boy doesn't need me on his back. He needs me backing him up with trust and encouragement.''
Trust is a two-way street. Two-way honesty. Trust, by its very nature, aims at interpersonal truth. Trusting another with the truth about me is the only authentic way of inviting the other to share the truth of his or her experience. Trusting follows truthing; truthing increases trusting.
The truth that is essential to trust relationships is grounded in authentic self-disclosure. "All truth is self-disclosure," so begins a major philosophic premise of contemporary thought. Truth is owning what is, recognizing what is given within us, affirming what is potential, actual and thus possible. Such truthing opens itself to another—vulnerably yet powerfully.
Trust with integrity is trust with its eyes open. Trust that cares enough to confront the other responsibly and with equal requests for the other to assume his or her responsibility to be equally honest, frank, out in the open with what he or she is choosing to do. Such trust willingly accepts apologies, forgives the past, cancels old debts, and gives the other his or her future back again.
For example, trust between intimates is based on open love—clear messages of affection and fidelity, and open honesty—clear statements of what I want, how I feel, how I behave and act in all my relationships. Love and honesty are inseparable parts of trust because trust is a relational thing, a two-way experience. It is circular. Continuous. Reciprocal. It is trust—between. It is the loving honest exchange of two or more persons as they interact and interrelate.
Trust is not a personal quality, a character trait, a Christian virtue to be possessed and prized. Trust is a relationship of risk and reliability, of honesty with loyalty, of goodness with genuineness. Trust is the basic stuff of all relationships.
For Further Experience
Trust is an attitude which, though not observable, can be inferred from certain actions we call "trust-behaviors." Check yourself. Which behaviors are characteristic of your relationships?
Constantly evaluating others.
Directing judgmental statements at persons and personalities.
Attempting to control another's actions, words, expression of feelings.
Using strategies to get desired outcomes, manipulation or threat.
Acting neutral when feelings get tense.
Acting distant and superior when another feels weak or hurt.
Demanding absolute promises and ironclad guarantees from others.
Dogmatically asserting your opinions and views-point as right and always right.
Avoiding all value judgments of persons and personalities.
Objecting to specific behaviors, not the "behaver"
Respecting freedom to think, feel, choose.
Making simple, honest statements and clear open requests.
Being willing to give of yourself when there is risk.
Being vulnerable as an equal with equals.
Allowing room for spontaneous choices, responses and actions.
Giving tentative statements which are open to others feelings.
Ending Blame: Forget Whose Fault
I am always responsible for whatever I think, feel or do.
I am never to blame.
I am always accountable for whatever I choose or do not choose.
I am not available for shame.
Effective confrontation is sharply focused on responsibility. Expressed responsibly, addressed to responsibility.
Confrontation which places blame contains within itself the source of its own dysfunction. Blame inevitably evokes resistance and resentment whether conscious at the moment or later upon reflection and review.
Confrontation which probes for shame possesses within itself the guarantee of its own defeat. Shame invariably elicits self-doubt and depressive pain which then provoke new drives for expressing the original behavior again. The confrontation serves only to increase the actions it intended to eliminate.
Confrontation which stimulates responsibility invites the other to look at past behavior more objectively and to consider new behavior which can be more satisfying to both persons.
Such feedback simply recognizes the time boundaries that exist. The past must be honored as past, the present seized, the future envisioned.
Responsibility is focused on the present and its openness to the future. Responsibility recognizes the ability to respond which is actual now and potential for what lies ahead. I will have ability to respond in the future; I have no ability to respond in the past. The past, being past, is not subject to change. I can change my present stance toward it and alter my future behavior from what I did in the past. These are present and future responsibilities.
Blame puts down the past as though that will help lift up better future options. (Instead, negative judgments and punitive actions toward one's past tends to boomerang. The negatively loaded behavior sticks in the memory and in times of frustration surfaces insistently.)
Shame puts down the self that acted in the past as though self-negations will create a positive self-image in the future. Two negations guarantee nothing except more negation.
Blame is powerless to effect change and growth.
Shame is powerless to evoke inner direction and new course corrections.
The capacity to choose creatively is increased as one takes responsibility for the past and affirms the ability to respond anew.
"I never liked that car—we shouldn't have bought it in the first place," your wife tells you. You're standing in the kitchen holding the crumpled chrome strip you just pulled loose from the smashed fender.
"Why didn't you tell me you scraped the side of die car?" you say low—and with over-controlled tones.
"It's just the fender. I scratched it."
"Scratched it? Who did you hit? Did you get a ticket? Does he have insurance?"
"Slow down. It was nothing like that. I scraped a post coming out of the parking lot. No accident. No police. No problem."
''Except for our hundred-dollar deductible insurance.''
"Never mind. Where were you looking?"
"Straight ahead. We shouldn't have bought that car to begin with. You paid too much for it. You were taken in. It's never run right. But oh, no. You had to have it. Thought it was sharper looking than Bill's, so you paid through the nose. . ."
"Cut it out!" you bellow. "That's got nothing to do with this fender." You toss the chrome strip onto her white tablecloth. "We're talking about you trying to move a concrete abutment with a Corvette.''
"You should be happy I wasn't hurt," she says. "If I had been run over by a truck, you'd come into the hospital and throw a greasy fender on my bed."
"Oh, for crying out loud, stick to the problem will you?"
"That is the problem," she says. "The problem is us. Not a piece of metal."
"The problem is I've got to pay for a smashed fender."
Nothing ends blaming games like the recognition that the blame must be scored 50-50.
Nothing settles old scores like the recognition that everything finally comes out even. That's how it is in any ongoing relationship. If there is blame to be fixed, it includes both persons involved. It takes two people to have a problem. In a marriage, for example, neither I nor you is the whole problem. "We" are our problems. The trouble is with "us." Both people are involved in the hurt, the problem, the tragedy of a marriage in pain. Blame is 50-50. In marriage, both people deserve each other. All tends to come out even in the end.
Example one: "He's the problem," the wife says. "I've given him the best 20 years of my life. I've cared for him in sickness and in health; I've borne him three children; I've never refused him anything. Now look. He betrays me with some little tramp. See how I was wronged?"
Good speech. Good case for scoring blame 90-10. Ninety for him—the villain; 10 for her—the virtuous wife. Agreed?
Highly unlikely. When you've heard them both, things even out. Once you see how righteous and superior she appears to him, the score comes nearer 50-50 again.
Example two: "It's all her fault that our son ran away," a husband says. "She nagged at him mercilessly. She criticized his choice of friends. She picked at his hair, his clothes, his way of speaking. She refused to accept the girl he was dating. So the boy left. She drove him away."
He makes a good case for scoring the tragedy 99-1. Ninety-nine points against her, one for his own responsibility.
But when you've heard both sides it evens out. In this case, the dad kept his distance from his wife since the boy was quite young. His cool withdrawal taught the boy how to reject and write his mother off. So the boy did in reality what his dad has been doing all along—withdrawing, rejecting, running away from relationship and intimacy.
"Trading for this car was your stupid idea," your wife says angrily. ''Now we're stuck with the lemon.''
"That's not true. We bought the one you wanted.''
''We were taken. It's your fault.''
You hit the starter one more time. It turns over but doesn't grab.
"You've been had," she says.
You give the ignition key another angry twist. If only it were her ear. She talks you into the car then blames you for buying it. Or did you buy the one she liked knowing you could blame her when something goes wrong? Either way, you're both being had in these no-win battles. Somebody's got to make a move for honesty.
"Jill," you say, "we're getting farther apart every time we fight. You're out to win by putting me down. I'm out to win by putting you down. We both lose. I don't care who wins. I just want to be close to you."
There's surprise all over her face.
"That's what I really want, too," she says.
Whose fault is it when things go wrong? That's the first question that arises in many human difficult moments. For those who prefer placing responsibility elsewhere, the question leads to a wild-goat chase for someone who can be scapegoated with the main load of blame. For those who prefer to sponge up the anger and store it away inside, the blame can be taken heroically upon themselves. "It's all my fault," they say, "I'm the total failure." And even more people do both. At one moment they blame themselves for the whole tragedy, at the next they take another swing at the scapegoat.
Blaming ourselves is useless, for a variety of reasons.
We usually blame ourselves for all the wrong reasons. (The crucial things that went wrong are not likely to occur to us alone.)
We're not qualified to sit in final judgment of our own lives. We so easily slip into either total rejection, "I'm no good at all, I don't deserve to live," or we excuse ourselves lightly, "So what, I'm only human." (To assume the right to sit in judgment over my motives, my past and my true condition, is to play God.) I don't truly understand my past. I know that my memories are selective. I recall those things that fit with my self-image.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, put this pointedly, saying, "Pride and memory had an argument. Memory said, 'It happened thus and so!' Pride replied, 'Oh, but it couldn't have been like that!' and memory gave in."
So it is for us all. Memory gives in again and again. Most of the pictures we recall from our past have been retouched. Most of the scripts we can quote from old conversations have been edited for us by pride.
Memory is museum
Room on room of memories are instantly available as one flashes through collections of choice recollections at will. Musing through your museum, note how selective the artifacts are. Are they art or fact? Did you create them to meet your needs or capture them to record reality?
Memory is mystery
"I can see it now exactly as it happened," you may insist. But it isn't true. The best you can do is produce a biased series of fragments which serve to reassure you that things were as you wish they were. Or they may warn you to be sure they do not recur. The truth of your past is known only in part. Even to you. Especially to you.
Memory is myth
Some people believe that memory is a camera. They assume past events are accurately recorded through an objective lens and preserved un-retouched. We have no objective past. Our reflections are just that. My memories mirror me and my needs, my values, my dreams, my interpretation of my serial life experiences. Memory is not a telescope for looking at a sharply etched and permanent image. Memory is a kaleidoscope that re-views the past, rearranges its detail, reinterprets its meanings for the challenges of the moment. My story is my mythology of my life which guides the organization of my life. Memory is a compass that may repaint the scenes recalled, but still points toward integrity. Memory is a gyroscope that balances the self and maintains harmony and unity within.
Memory is my story
Myth or mystery, it's still my story, and a story worth telling. Yes, it has been thoroughly edited by my pride. Memory reports what took place and pride rewrites the data before the conscience—the perfect scribe—can get at it. Yes, it has been recycled and the most recent forms may be made up of the original atoms but the anatomy has matured. Still, it's my story of who I am today, what I am becoming now, where I stand in this moment.
"Museum tours daily, 9-5."
Venture into your museum. Claim the rooms. The treasure is yours. Explore. The valuables are precious property. They are evidence that you have lived, risked, failed, learned from the pain, grown, celebrated, broken free.
There are a few rules in the museum.
Appreciate the collected objects of art. Don't abuse the privilege of visiting your past. Do not vandalize your valuables. Look at them in appropriate awe. Do not criticize them. Prize them.
Respect the recollected experiences. Use them for you, not against you. Learn from them how to choose more freely, how to live more fully, how to act more faithfully in the future.
Acquit the memories from any and all charges. To attempt to change the unchangeable (what is done is done) is useless. To try to reform what is formed (what was, is) is pointless.
Be humble enough to take pride in your past. Great or small, it's yours. Have the grace to be grateful for having lived. Accept the grace to own how you have lived. Absorb the grace that frees you to delight in what you have lived.
Going through our old memories to place blame is like hunting for a black bead in a dark room at midnight wearing heavy gloves and a blindfold.
I want to, rather simply, own my past with as few defenses as possible, and live now in the present before God and with my brothers and sisters.
Recognizing how unable I am to judge myself brings me to awareness of how unqualified I am to judge a sister or a brother. Since my vision is as impaired as though a beam of wood were protruding from my eye, I am poorly equipped to remove splinters from others, as Jesus put it unforgettably:
Pass no judgment,
And you will not be judged.
For as you judge others,
So you will yourselves be judged,
And whatever measure you deal out to others
Will be dealt back to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye,
With never a thought for the great plank in your own?
Or how can you say to your brother,
"Let me take the speck out of your eye,"
When all the time there is that plank in your own?
First take the plank out of your own eye,
And then you will see clearly
To take the speck out of your brother's.
Matthew 7:1-5, NEB.
Paul put it:
Love keeps no score of wrongs; Does not gloat over other men's sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; There is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance. 1 Corinthians 13:5-7, NEB.
Love ends the blaming games and gets on to the real questions: What is the loving, responsible, truly respectful thing to do now? Where do we go from here? When do we start? If not from here—where? If not now—when? Who—if not you and me?
Loving is owning responsibility, breaking the lead from the fine-line bookkeeping pencil, tearing up the scorecard, and beginning again. Now.
For Further Experience
1. Discuss a sensitive difference between you and a second party—family member, husband, wife, colleague—after covenanting the following ground rules:
All language must be in present tense.
All comments must be here and now.
All statements must begin with "I feel. . ." (And give real feelings, not "I feel that. . ." which is a judgment, idea, or criticism masquerading in a feeling language).
All blame statements are discarded as soon as either recognizes the finger being pointed.
Now move on up to an even more sensitive beef (or complaint). See if you can maintain clear, simple feeling-wanting statements.
2. Finish the following sentences for each other with at least three endings:
Hear each other. Cancel old hidden demands. Drop blaming strategies and work toward what you truly want for yourself, for each other, for you both together.
Order. Please rise.
The honorable Everyman presiding.
You may be seated.
Case one. Humanity vs. you.
How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?
Reclaiming the Gavel
"What will people think?" you ask your daughter. "What will people say? That kind of thing just isn't done around here. Not by our kind of people. I don't want to hear about it."
You see frustration turning to anger in your daughter's eyes. She's up against the old wall "what will people think?"
You've been banging your head against that wall all your life. In every decision you first consider, ''How will it look to others? What will it do to our family name?'' How you feel or what you believe matters little when the final choice bangs on others' values.
“Is that what I want for my daughter?” you ask yourself. “Blind obedience to others' expectations? What has it done for me?”
"Joanie," you say, "it doesn't matter that much what people will say. Let me hear what you want again. I don't think I was really listening."
Both giving and receiving of confrontation must occur in a context of good will. When one is consistently on trial, either feeling judged or acting as judge, all communication is contaminated by this imaginary game of legal charades.
Clear confrontation occurs as I am speaking to you as an equal. No "judgment" intended. Good judgment expressed and evoked in us both.
Confrontation can be clearly heard when one is no longer feeling automatically charged or guilty as charged.
"Wake up," your conscience commands. "It's time to be in court."
"Right, your honor," you reply. Your conscience sits as judge when you're alone. But once downstairs your husband, wife, mother, dad, will join it on the bench. Then at work the boss will pick up the gavel. At lunch Charlie will preside while you tell him about last night's problem with the neighbor who backed over your son's bike. Then tonight at home your brother-in-law Pete ("They're coming over for supper, remember?'') will be presiding behind the desk.
And you? You're in the docket. On trial. Permanently. One judge follows another. The evidence is heard. You testify—often against yourself. The sentence is passed— "guilty," or "not guilty. "And your case is passed on to the next judge.
You know the feeling?
The feeling of being constantly on trial?
The feeling that life is not a stage—but a courtroom. That others have been appointed to judge. And you? You're the judged. Always on trial.
And you put yourself there on the stand, in the stocks, or at the gallows with the noose around your neck.
You are constantly making judicial appointments.
You are handing out gavels.
You are constantly on trial because you place yourself on trial.
Every day is your day in court.
Every man is your judge.
Every disapproval is a new ruling. Another sentence.
"Claiming love for yourself is the real secret," Dr. Frank Kimper counsels. "There was a time when—though I was loved, I did not have the courage to claim it. Depressed, lonely, I felt no one cared about me. It wasn't really true, but I lived as though it were; and as a result I was sick at heart and sick in body. I worked for praise, thinking that love had to be earned. I assumed that to be praised was to be loved and to be criticized was to be rejected. So I was always on trial.''6
Few things are more painful than to be always on trial. You must constantly work for praise. Praise is a ruling in your favor. Enough praise might add up to an acquittal. And a little more than enough praise might even convince you that you're okay.
''To be praised is to be loved,'' you tell yourself. It's not true, of course. To be praised more often is to be manipulated. To be praised is often to be used. To be praised is often to be outsmarted, outmaneuvered, out-sweet-talked. But when you live to be praised, it doesn't matter. No price is too great for a little praise. ''Just can’t get enough of that praise!'' But when you get it, it's nothing. It turns to vapor in your grasp. You work for praise and approval, live for commendations and compliments, even sacrifice just for recognition and public notice. And what do you have to show for it? Emptiness. Loneliness. And little of the love you wanted so much.
Because the other side is there to haunt you. Criticism.
And to be criticized is to be rejected. To be criticized is to lose approval, respect, love, and everything you're working toward.
That's not true either, of course. To be criticized is often to be truly appreciated. To be respected so much that the other person can share both positive and negative feelings about you. To be criticized by a real friend is to be loved.
But when you put yourself on trial, criticism is seen as rejection and praise is viewed as acceptance.
What a way to live! What a way to not live. To be constantly on trial is not living. It is existing as a shadow, a reflection of others' approval or disapproval.
It can all end whenever you want it to. No one is constantly on trial unless she or he chooses to be. If you live for another's praise or cringe rejected under another's criticism, you are choosing to be on trial. You volunteer to be victim.
To measure your own worth or to feel yourself a person of worth only when the respect is coming in, is giving others far too much power.
You are you. Claim yourself. Be who you are. You are a person of worth. Own yourself. Recognize what you are. Reclaim the power to be who you are in spite of your moment-to-moment performance, regardless of your day-today achievements. Be who you are before God and before others.
When you are permanently off trial, when your judges have been reclaimed as friends, equals, colleagues, you will notice a key difference begins to occur in most of your relationships. You no longer wield a gavel over others. When you are off trial, your friends, enemies, co-workers will be acquitted as well.
Think of those persons whose approval is all-important to you. Visualize them. Fantasize them seated behind a bench, gavel in hand, powdered wig in place. Do you see their approving or judging faces? Now—in your mind—go to each one of them. Say, "I have given you the power to try me, to sentence me, to reject me. When you reject me, I reject myself. When you approve of me, I approve of myself. My happiness, well-being, and self-respect depend on your approval."
It sounds so powerless, so spineless to actually say those things aloud, doesn't it? But go ahead. Try it out. If you do not find it fits, you can discard it. Say to that face who is now frowning at you, “I’ll reclaim my responsibility for me. I am no longer giving you the power to reject me and cut me off from love, joy, and happiness. I am re-owning myself.”
Now you're facing the real issue. Will you accept love from others without needing first to pay for it in advance? Without needing first to earn it - then receive it? Will you claim love for yourself? Will you bear to be loved—whether you feel you deserve it or not?
We're at a very crucial point here. Accepting love. For many it's unpalatable. Unacceptable. Love is only to be accepted in return for work well done. I've been there myself. Even when I was told I was loved whether my performance matched all expectations or not, I didn't believe it. I explained it away. When others affirmed me as someone who is loved, I rationalized it off. It only made matters worse to be loved.
Until I claimed it. Accepted it. Received it gratefully. No questions asked.
That's the real meaning of what the New Testament calls "grace." To be loved—and to need to accept that love— right at the point where we don't deserve it.
But God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us and the immense resources of His grace, and great kindness to us in Christ Jesus, made us His own. By His affection unearned you are forgiven. It is not your own doing. It is God's gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of. (See Eph. 2:4-10.)
Do you respond to love like that? Do you say, "I am prized; I am a precious person; I am valued, loved, accepted, forgiven"? Then you are no longer on trial before God.
Will you step into the same kind of relationship with others? Accept the freedom of loving and being loved without feeling always in the docket, always self-conscious, always on trial.
''You mean I'm not on trial?''
''Only if you put yourself on the block.''
"And I needn't fear you as my judge?"
"I don't want the job. Reclaim your power to be you. Affirm your freedom to be yourself. Your trial is over."
I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely.7
This song lyric by the Fred Rogers is a favorite of the little people who watch his award-winning children's TV program, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. It is his celebration of unearned love.
Perhaps you have moments when you become aware of how little you deserve the love, acceptance, respect, and personal appreciation you want—and need.
To know that you're rejectable, and sometimes to agree that you deserve rejection, hurts. And hurts where nothing much helps. It hurts because deep inside you fear that if the truth were known, if justice were done, if all scores were settled, you'd be lost. That's the feeling. A feeling of great loss. Of loss of all that is most valuable, of yourself. "I" am lost. "I am rejected of God," you may feel. Right at this point, the best words you could hear would be:
You are accepted—as you are.
You are loved—for what you are.
You are respected—in spite of what you are not.
God appreciates you if you can receive it. He can and does say, “I love you, I accept you, you are loved.” And He speaks such love, knowing exactly what—or whom—He is accepting. He understands the full cost of such an act. So when He says, "I like you as you are, exactly and precisely," He does it open-eyed. His love is not blind.
And yet, His love voluntarily blinds itself to the failures of our past. When He forgives and we accept that forgiveness by letting it become real in our own forgiving attitudes toward ourselves and our fellows, then the old situations become forgettable. He ignores them. They are forgotten.
To accept acceptance when we know we are unacceptable is for many an unbearable, impossible task.
To receive help and to need to admit that we cannot help ourselves is no easy thing. For many it's an unpalatable thing that they simply will not endure. So they must stay stuck with their feelings of rejection, hung up with the need to pay their own way, frozen at the one point of great opportunity. And there they stay. Stuck. Painful feeling. I once hung there myself.
No words effectively describe the sense of freedom that comes when you finally let go; no language expresses the experience of being accepted, of knowing that you are accepted, of accepting that acceptance.
To accept another's acceptance at the moment you see yourself as unacceptable, this is grace. And grace received is experienced as joy.
To give joy to another is to extend grace—love without conditions and limitations—to another. It is to admire, appreciate, and enjoy another without trying to change him or her by rejecting parts of that person as unacceptable or intolerable.
To enjoy another is like enjoying a sunset. You do not command, "Tone down the reds. Raise the lavenders. Stop! Too much yellow. A bit more blue, please." You are not in command. You are in awe. In respect. In appreciation. And to see another person unfold and to enjoy that unfolding—that is grace.
Joy happens when we can truly accept another—and are accepted. "What if I am unacceptable? What if I am rejected?" we wonder in fear. And, at the moment when rejection is expected, acceptance is discovered in the other's smile.
Joy is the result of truly loving and being loved by another—warts, faults, quirks and all. Have you not experienced it when a friend comes close enough to see faults and blemishes, as well as virtues and strengths, and still loves you? "He knows what I'm really like. She knows me for what I truly am. Yet I am loved."
Joy happens when we can truly hear another, and be truly heard. Have you not experienced joy when a friend shows caring in the only believable way—by hearing not just your words, but hearing you. And your heart wants to shout, "I've been heard. Someone else knows what it's like to be me." You feel it in the chest and around the eyes. It's a moistness. Like tears. Tears of joy.
Joy is the enjoyment of being enjoyed.
Grace is the acceptance of being accepted.
Love is seeing another as precious, just as you know yourself to be precious.
You're driving alone. The hours stretch long. You find yourself talking out loud, answering yourself, and then listening in surprise to your own wisdom. At times you feel so cut off, so lonely, so isolated from others. You don't feel understood. You hardly understand yourself. At those moments you sometimes see through the empty charades that fill so much of the time spent with others. And you want more. More than anything else, you want to accept and be accepted, respect and be respected, value and be valued by the people who matter in your life.
While you're talking out loud, try saying some of these things to God. Put out your deepest feelings, searchings, the longings for what you value above all else. Describe the kind of love and acceptance you'd want from Him if He were here. When it's all out, experience the silence, the openness, the release. Then listen. Feel. Reach out. You may now be in touch with what you've really been wanting all along. Know that you are loved. Accept the truth; you are accepted.
For Further Experience
1. Do you tend to feel judged and condemned when you hear how others see you, what they expect of you, and where they differ or disapprove? Go to that person in your imagination and say, "I hear your expectations. I am not responsible for them. I want to be who I am and still be in relationship with you. I am responsible for that.''
2. Will you affirm—"When I have chosen to act according to my values. . .
“(1) I will not reject or regret my action merely because someone has passed judgment or volunteered criticism against it.
"(2) I will not disown, deny, or feel a need to make excuses or justify my behavior.
"(3) I will change my ways of behaving out of respect for others' feelings and rights, or because I am finding more satisfying ways of relating to others—but not out of fear of their judgment or censure."
3. Say these affirmations to someone you love:
"I am equally precious, as you are precious. Our abilities may differ, our worth, never.''
"I no longer question my worth as a person even when I feel others may."
"When you criticize me, I will see you as caring and confronting me. I want to hear the criticism and not feel attacked or rejected. When you praise me, I will say a simple, 'Thank you.' "