Trustworthy People Don’t Ask You to Trust Them

While flipping through the channels on my TV the other day, I ran across a “law and order” show in which a detective was saying how abusers always seek the trust of the person they want to abuse. I have heard similar things in pastor group meetings, and this has prompted me to share what little common sense I have on the matter.

If someone is trying to get you to trust them, be suspicious. Trustworthy people don’t need to ask you for their trust. They will allow trust to develop naturally as they earn your trust day by day. And even then, they will always allow the parents to define the boundaries of that sacred trust, and will never question or test the boundaries.

bank-moneysmall__6053042392Look at it this way. When I make a deposit at the bank, they give me a receipt. Why? Can’t I just trust them to take the deposit and enter it in my account? Of course I can! But the bank people never say, “Instead of us giving you a receipt, why don’t you just trust us?” Trustworthy people don’t ask you to trust them. You are protected by accountability and checks and balances, and not by answering a plea to trust someone.

I know of cases of “caregivers” or “mentors” pushing a parent beyond their comfort level, and then trying to make the parent feel guilty for not trusting them beyond what they feel comfortable. It seems to me, that when this happens, the “caregivers/mentors” have their own agenda beyond the needs of the child or parent. A true caregiver/mentor is there only to help with the parent’s agenda, and has no ambition beyond that.

Trustworthy caregivers are just as cautious of you as you are of them.  They will not allow themselves to be put in situations where they need to use trust either – of themselves or of your child – instead of accountability. That doesn’t mean they are paranoid. At the bank, I am not paranoid about my bank having my money, but they still provide receipts and statements offering accountability. At church I am not worried about the integrity of the deacons when I put my money in the offering plate. I know that the deacons take precautions such as counting the money with others instead of by themselves. This provides accountability, not only for me but also for themselves.

Child abusers often seek to obtain the trust of parents. Be aware that a trustworthy person will not act hurt or insulted if you don’t trust him or her, because they aim to be trustworthy in a way that you can see and know. A trustworthy person has no interest in harming your child, so doesn’t need your trust to provide an opportunity to harm your child.

Everything trustworthy people do is done transparently, ready for the whole world to see. The policy of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, where I work, strongly states that no woman or man should be left alone with a group of children. Although in an unusual situation this may occur for a brief time, under no circumstances should any woman or man be purposely left alone with any girl or boy. This policy in no way interferes with us accomplishing our mission as caregivers or our work of teaching or mentoring. We don’t need a parent to trust us alone with their child in order to teach or mentor. Even though all Seventh-day Adventist institutions, and all reputable institutions do background checks before allowing people to work with children, being approved by the background check does not give the caregiver a license or special privileges to be given “special trust” where the policies of openness do not apply to them.

True caregivers enjoy having parents and other adult caregivers join them while they are mentoring and teaching, because their presence helps create a community where the child feels loved and accepted. True caregivers want the children they work with to know that there is an entire church family who cares about them, and not just one caregiver. A trustworthy mentor wants to win children to Christ and the church and not to themselves. A true mentor teaches children to be sociable and part of a community and does not work to isolate them from the community.

Trustworthy persons never put themselves in a situation where they need to trust you either. Just as trust works both ways, so does accountability, and checks and balances. The receipt the bank gives me after a transaction protects the bank as much as it protects me. We both trust each other, but neither I nor the bank ever tells the other, “Just trust me,” or look with amazement at the paper receipt and exclaim, “Why don’t you just trust me?” Everything is done in the open with receipts and records for all concerned to see.

In case you haven’t picked up on what I am trying to say, let me try again. If someone acts hurt or insulted that you don’t trust them, beware. Only abusers operate out of a “need” for you to trust them without question. Healthy trustworthy caregivers never put themselves in a situation where they need you to just trust them, and therefore they will never ask for it.

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Trustworthy People Don’t Ask You to Trust Them — 8 Comments

  1. What do you mean when you say that "only abusers" operate out of a need for trust?

    I agree that no one should make you feel guilty about setting boundaries, or rules with regard to trust. But those who do may just be misinformed about the definition of trust. We have to be careful about whom we call an abuser.

  2. This post raises some important ideas about trust. William frames his discussion around the idea of children and their relationship to trusting adults.
    I think the ideas can also be applied to adults trusting other adults. Indeed, adults can be very dysfunctional and abusive to other adults with anger, disrespect, lack of consideration, false gossip, etc.

    This comment from William, "If someone acts hurt or insulted that you don’t trust them, beware. Only abusers operate out of a “need” for you to trust them without question. Healthy trustworthy caregivers never put themselves in a situation where they need you to just trust them, and therefore they will never ask for it" can also be applied to adults who don't think or act right or are abusive toward other adults. When an adult says to me, "let me be myself and trust me" and then they treat other people wrongly, it is a time to be cautious.

  3. In my experience, those who deliberately set out to abuse children, have multiple covert ways of gaining trust. It is called grooming. And by the time they abuse children they have already gained the trust of parents. I have had the experience of finding out that people who I have had a great deal of respect for have been child abusers. Even in hindsight the signs have been difficult to determine.

    Now-a-days most organizations such as schools and churches have to comply with legal requirements of responsibility. The Florida Conference policy referred to in William’s article is a typical statement of procedure and process. The problem of course is that such policies must be acted upon in order for them to be effective. Part of our responsibility as church members should be to ensure that no shortcuts are taken.

    The principles stated in such policies are also a good guide when using family and friends to care for children. It should be remembered that a large percentage of abuse comes from family and family friends. Care should be taken to ensure that the principles are understood and applied.

  4. Thank you for your comments everyone. Maurice makes a good point about actually following these policies. 1. Some people may feel discriminated against if we make one person follow the policy but not another. 2. Even though we may indeed be safe people, not everyone a child meets is going to be safe. If a child or parent get in the habit of not following the policies with us because we are safe, then they will already have their guard down when they meet someone who is not safe. Like Maurice said, looking back he did not always see the signs. Of course I truly believe most people in our society today are safe. So let's assume until proven otherwise that people are safe, but still follow the policies!

  5. Thank you, this is a very helpful discussion. But it sometimes happens the other way round: Adults being misused by children inventing a story of child abuse. Although this cannot be excluded in all cases, your suggestion is very useful as to avoid being alone with any child or group of children. Sad experiences also teach that the same principle of providing witnesses (see Deuteronomy 19:15) also does apply to a Pastor giving bible studies to a lady or visiting a female church member for any purpose.

    Temptations must not be invited.

    Regards, Winfried Stolpmann

  6. Good point Winfried, and that is why I discussed that it works both ways. You bring up a good point about giving Bible studies and visits. Could this be why Jesus sent them out two by two instead of alone? Also when a pastor or Bible Worker brings someone else along on the Bible studies, not only does it look more kosher, but he is also able to teach and mentor the person or persons he brings along so they can learn to give Bible studies too. There are several reasons why it is good to do these things in groups.

  7. I had a job coach supporting me in work as I have a learning difficulty / difference. The first thing she said to me was "You can trust me, whatever we discuss won't go anywhere". I think many people (non-christians and christians) use these phrases out of context and as a means to connect with others. Quite a lot of children & adults wish to be accepted in society and need to hear these words spoken. Most of society communicates one way which is auditory sequential. Those of us who needs words to be translated into pictures to understand, are often let down by society and looked upon as being complex. Yet, no one ever takes the time to explain to us what trust looks like for us to know and understand this, and we are often lured in by people who 'sound' trusting by the pitch of their voice.


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