Not long ago, my wife and I were in a store and the manager was telling her employees: “I don’t trust anyone!” Apparently, one of her staff came back late from lunch and that prompted her declaration concerning trust.

How do we feel about trusting others? Are there different levels of trust? How do we trust with “all of our heart?” What do we do when that trust is damaged, violated, or destroyed? Is it possible to develop healthy relationships without trust or without complete trust?

During group therapy in prison, almost every single man who began therapy had the core belief: “I cannot trust anyone!” Within the first few weeks, he found that he could trust the group members because they adhered to the group rule of confidentiality: “What is said in here stays in here.” For many of these men, it was the first time in their life that they felt that they could trust someone. Too often, the words and behaviors of others had ruined their ability to trust.

Are there different levels of trust? At the beginning of therapy, men learned about four Greek types of love: Agape (caring about people in the world, a general love for humankind); Storgé (caring and love for a group such as family, a church group, a group of friends, a work group, a sports team, even a gang); Philia (a close friendship, a best friend, a confidant); and Eros (an emotionally intimate relationship, usually a romantic partner). At each level, there are different levels of sharing information in conversations, different usage of formal or informal speech, and different levels of physical distance and physical touch.

In much the same way, levels of trust differ. I share bank accounts and credit cards with my Eros partner, but not with the others. [Except, of course, with Amazon and other companies, but that is transactional trust which is a different subject.] With my Eros partner and my Philia partners and with my Storgé groups, we share thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, and dreams and goals at different levels of disclosure. But they are still shared with caring and love and trust.

Some men in prison said they would trust someone when that person “earned” their trust. Oh, really? Is there a trust checklist of 10 or 20 items they complete, then they have your trust? How long will you hold back? And, if you don’t put your heart out there completely, and if they don’t put their heart out there completely, then how and when can two hearts be knitted together? Is there a risk that your heart might be hurt or broken? Yes, but it is worth the risk!

What if the trust is damaged, violated, or destroyed? When beginning a new relationship, we can trust and verify. We do the same when healing from a damaged relationship. Healing is hard, but through the atonement of Jesus Christ it is made possible through the healing power of forgiveness.

In April 2016 General Conference, Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy taught that “To forgive is not to condone. We do not rationalize bad behavior or allow others to mistreat us because of their struggles, pains, or weaknesses. But we can gain greater understanding and peace when we see with a broader perspective… God is the perfect judge. He sees beneath the surface. He knows all and sees all (see 2 Nephi 2:24). He has said, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10). (The Healing Ointment of Forgiveness, April 2016).

One prison inmate said, “time plus truth equals trust.” That does not mean we have to return to a dangerous or unhealthy situation. We can and should set healthy boundaries, but we can find inner peace through Jesus Christ. That might seem impossible, but Elder Patrick Kearon of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us: “Jesus specializes in the seemingly impossible. He came here to make the impossible possible, the irredeemable redeemable, to heal the unhealable, to right the unrightable, to promise the unpromisable. And He’s really good at it. In fact, He’s perfect at it.”[i]

May the Lord bless us as we continue to reach out and create and maintain healthy, trusting relationships, and to strive to become the kind of person that others and especially the Lord can trust.

[i] Kearon, P, He Is Risen with Healing in His Wings: We Can Be More Than Conquerors, General Conference, April 2022.