Category: Spring 2016

Trust: A Necessary Confidence on the Path to Reconciliation

The only relationships in this world that have ever been worthwhile and enduring have been those in which one person could trust another.  Samuel Smiles

When those we love or a system we trust deeply trespasses our values or breaches the history of trust that has been given, our hearts feel ripped open, violated, hurt, confused, vulnerable, angry, afraid, deeply sad, in crisis. One of the most difficult choices I had to make in a deeply connected relationship was to offer the hand of reconciliation after a deep betrayal left a gaping wound in my heart. Finding my way into the heart after such a betrayal or breach was a real challenge. There is no way around the task of feeling the hurt when trust is betrayed or broken. Trust is one of those core ingredients in a relationship which can take years to build and only a moment to destroy.

To understand what reconciliation calls from us in a broken relationship, we need to understand the power of trust. As Rob Voyle, a Change Agent and Episcopalian Priest puts it, “Trust is the ability to make vulnerable what you value, to the actions of another, knowing that what you value will be protected or kept safe.” Stephen M. R. Covey states “trust is confidence. You know it when you feel it. And the difference between trust and distrust is dramatic.”

A common and yet truly unhelpful understanding that clients come in with after such a breach of trust is that somehow they must forgive and forget. But they can’t. They feel shame and guilt because they can’t forgive and be reconciled with the person who abused them, or who violated their values. It is impossible to forget such a breach. The more we try to forget the trust betrayed, the more we hold it in our consciousness and entrain our memory with it.

The healing task is to feel through the hurt and to change how we remember what happened, how we remember this memory, as we cannot change what happened in the past. As we work through these tasks, we realize that the wholeness of healing comes with forgiving the one who broke the bonds of trust. The Dalai Lama has said that we need to forgive the person, not necessarily the event. Lots can be said about forgiveness, about what it is and is not. Though we are focusing on reconciliation, it is best sustained with the act of forgiving. In my work, I have encountered a couple of reasons why people cannot forgive – one is that they don’t know how to forgive. The second is that there is still a deep objection to forgiving what has not been justly satisfied.

Simply, forgiveness is about how we relate to the past and our memory of the past. Reconciliation is about how two or more people agree to live together, to relate together in the future. In the process of reconciliation we seek to overcome our hurt, anger, grief, the fractured relationship and enter into a peace process wherein we come together in unity with those involved. And in some cases, reconciliation may not be a chosen path for healing. Indeed, if core values are not shared, it would be unwise to reconcile with another where the repeated risk of broken trust would occur.

In my own journey with my friend, it has taken me considerable effort and willingness to walk the journey of reconciliation with my friend. By nature, I am a peace-maker. That being said, it has not been an easy path because deep trust of the heart, destroyed in a moment, is not easily repaired. The one who breaches the trust must make themselves trustworthy over and over again. This is often very, very difficult for the person who breached trust to accept and understand. Trust is earned in small steps of someone reliably valuing and safeguarding what another values and has made themselves vulnerable in sharing what they value.

On the other hand, the one who has been betrayed consciously chooses to trust the one who betrayed. They are willing to make themselves vulnerable again in the relationship. Needless to say, the steps are often small and take a long time. Trust builds through what we do which has far more power than what we say. Re-building trust is key to reconciliation in relationships and when there is agreement to restore some semblance of intimacy, this re-building must be intentionally and mindfully attended to by all. Trust is a journey of the heart, not the head. Being trustworthy is about the actions of our character, not an intellectual exercise.

One sobering statistic I learned in mediation training is that when a conflict takes place over 25 years, it can take 50 years for reconciliation. Perhaps in certain situations, the time can be shortened or softened. But I believe it’s important for us to remember the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, because re-building trust once it is broken can be forgiven. It may not always be reconciled. I have a dear colleague who grew up in Germany. She once shared with me that upon returning to Germany to visit family and she saw the German flag being waved from cars. Germany was in the World Soccer Championship that year and there was pride in the nation. Growing up in Germany, she had never seen this kind of national pride. The shame of WWII took 50 years to dissipate before the national flag could be proudly displayed. Trust betrayed is not easily restored.

I know that reconciliation is possible and can and does offer my future a brightness not possible without this gift. I also appreciate the great effort of heart and soul it has taken on my part to be open to reconciliation, because it means being willing to trust the one who betrayed me and let them demonstrate they are trustworthy. It’s a journey. An incredible journey with gifts that still await me because reconciliation is about my future, not my past.

Choose forgiveness. It’s freeing. Be wise about reconciliation. Your trust is precious. Be precious with your trust. And you will build a delightful future, perhaps even with the one who had once betrayed you. And if you were the one who betrayed another, remember to also heal your hurts and commit to making yourself trustworthy again. It too will change your future.


Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: From Love to Courage

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

During a web search for quotes about courage, I found that most quotations suggest that courage precedes before all other virtues. First you need courage and then you can be kind and compassionate and generous. I find it easy to agree with this order of moral quality. So it gave me pause in reading the ancient teacher Lao Tzu’s perspective. He tells us that it is loving another which gives us courage. What he really reveals is this: It starts and ends with love.

In preparation for writing this blog, I first had to sit with various definitions of what courage is understood to mean. I read the following:

  • the ability to do something that frightens one;
  • strength in the face of pain or grief.

I then found the following definition to be a more full and complete definition:

  • mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty (Merriam Webster).

The origin of the word courage comes from Middle English corage, from Anglo French curage, from coer (heart), from Latin cor. In other words, courage comes from the heart, the way of love. As Maya Angelou wrote, “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

It starts with love. We are born loving. We are born to be loved foremost. Compared to other mammals, human infants would need to be in utero another 12 months to have the same capacities of new life as other infant mammals. Foals are able to stand and walk within hours. Kittens and puppies within weeks. Human babies take 9-12 months (or more) to walk. As newborns, we are completely dependent. We start with love, not courage. And love is what keeps babies thriving.

When you watch a child that is deeply loved, it is this love which provides a strong foundation to explore, to fall, cry and get back up to try again. A loved child builds courage to touch and taste the world. A loved child develops the resilience to face the great challenges of life.

When I was 10 years old, my father was killed in an industrial accident with burns over much of his body. Though he loved his children deeply, my mother showed us the burns to explain that he didn’t leave because he didn’t love us, but because of the burns. Because he loved us first, and we knew it in our bones, we had the courage to face both the tragedy and the aftermath of a parent’s death. To this day, his spirit continues to demonstrate his love for me, a love that nurtures my courage to step out and into the fullness of my potential.

About 10 years ago my grandfather died. Three days prior to his 85th birthday, our whole family gathered to celebrate his birthday around his death bed. We expressed our love and gratitude to him for the love and commitment and mentoring he had shown us in our lives, through song and prayers and story-telling. He came and lived before us and left a legacy of love and gentleness for us to follow. Because he loved us deeply, and we knew it, he developed the courage to face his own death, his own transition back into Spirit. He knew he would have to travel this journey and leave us behind. Just as coming into this world is a courageous act, so is leaving this world and trusting that those you are leaving will be well. It is love that first nurtured such courage in both of their hearts. And it is love that builds courage in the next generation to step out and forward to create their future of good fortune and blessing.

Lao Tzu says when we love another deeply, we build courage. When we receive love, we build strength. When we are courageous because we love and receive love, we have more joy. We develop the joy that comes with loving when hurt is still mending, for we will indeed have to face this life experience. Love gives us the courage to open our hearts to give more love and to receive love, even after the hurt, the rejection, the betrayal. Love is the deep motivator to be courageous and open to one’s inner knowing and wisdom that guides us to face the fear pressing in, shrinking our mind and our relationships.

If you are afraid, or if you are struggling to exercise the courage to follow your heart and pursue your dream, perhaps you need to contemplate your inner state of being loved and deeply loving another. If you don’t feel strong, where do you need to open your heart and receive love? And if you lack courage, then where do you need to more deeply love another?

To thrive with courage, first deeply love. Courage is love. Courage is my soul. It is my potential. I was born to love and be courageous. I came through the birth canal, riding the waves of contractions, to come head first into a sea of light into a new world. I am hard-wired to be resilient. To take the knocks of life, to get back up and keep choosing love. And so are you!

So please, keep loving deeply. That’s courage, and you have it in you. Contact Shirley Lynn for individual coaching and whole life therapies to bring healing to the stories of love that need to be transformed. Find the courage to awaken and re-kindle your heart’s truth and passion.