We have lost something as a society. We may not want to admit it, or believe it, but it’s true. We do not trust each other anymore. We do not trust our neighbors, our leaders, our institutions, the newspapers. Case in point, the word for 2016 was “post-truth,” narrowly beating “fascism.”
There is a lament, a cry, in this statement, because we believe that we used to trust each other. We used to believe fundamental truths such as, “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.” Does that truth still apply in our society today?
We used to stand for the American flag, put our hands our hearts, join together in song. Even if we disagreed with a policy or a practice, at least we would all stand together as a community at the ball game and claim a unified loyalty. Lately, some athletes and others have chosen not to stand, causing a stir in the media. The choice not to stand feels disrespectful and insulting to the rest of us who are standing, but more than that, not standing is a symbolic act that says, “I don’t trust you.”
We used to have a common enemy that we could all rally behind, like Russia. If we didn’t trust or like each other, at least we could all agree that we really didn’t trust Russia. Having a common enemy at least brought us a sense of unity. Having someone to trust less, helped us trust each other more.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Those who claim the name Christian today have very different understandings of what Jesus meant in this statement. Today, those who identify with the Christian faith, have taken this statement and have turned into a message of warning, instead of as a message of hope. Within the large umbrella of those who claim the name Christian, there is a deep mistrust. This fracture of mistrust provides evidence to those who have left the church and affirms their decision that they did the right thing in leaving. “Who would want to be part of that mess, when I can just find God on my yoga mat and be accepted for who I am?”
If a religious organization, institution, country, family, any system has lost trust, then the system has collapsed and it is vulnerable to false prophets, (as lamented by the prophet Jeremiah,) false teachings, (as warned by Paul in Corinthians), and false hope, (as spoken against in the Gospels.)
What is required to regain a lost trust?
First, we have to admit that we don’t trust each other. Let’s just get that on the table and deal with it.
Second, we must have the desire to trust again. Look, if we don’t want to trust each other, then we won’t. If it serves us to fear each other, then we will keep fearing each other. We have to choose to trust each other. We have to want to believe that people who see the world differently than we do are still people. We have to see each other.
But just having the desire to trust is not enough. We must know the truths within us – the fundamental values that define us as individuals. If we believe that Jesus said to love God and love our neighbor, and if we believe that to be a fundamental truth, then why don’t we act like it? If we believe that, “all men (and women) are created equal,” then why don’t we act like it? We cannot expect society to act one way, if we are not willing to behave in the truths that define us as individuals. What is your truth?
We must hold each other accountable. If we hear hatred, bigotry, dishonesty and cruelty, we have to speak up and speak out. Part of trust, is loving each other enough to say, “That’s unacceptable. You are hurting our society. You are pouring words into the impressionable minds of our children, and they trust you.” When we give adults permission to be cruel and do not hold them accountable, we are telling our children that it’s o.k. to be rude, hurtful and even violent. Part of being a trusting community is holding each other accountable. Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
If we are going to trust again, we need to forgive each other. We need to be humble enough to ask for forgiveness and generous enough to forgive. We must see the hurt we have impeded on each other and start to slowly, faithfully, work towards reconciliation. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31)
It took us a long time to get this broken as a society. It will take a long time – perhaps a life time to begin to trust again, and perhaps admit that the trust we thought we had was a falsehood. If we are going to heal, we have to begin to be willing to trust. It begins with one small step at a time. It begins with one neighbor reaching out to another neighbor, one community, reaching out to another community, one stranger, opening her door to another stranger. It will not be resolved on social media. It will not be resolved in the halls of Congress. It will only be resolved one person at a time. I believe we can heal this country. I believe we can trust each other. I believe we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I believe love always wins. I believe we can get there — even if it takes a life time.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers