6 Common Ways We Erode Trust

Trust is precious.

You can’t parent without it. You can’t lead without it. You can’t love without it.

And when it’s eroding, nothing matters more than rebuilding that trust. Here are 6 common ways we erode trust in those we love and lead.

6 Common Ways We Erode Trust

Birling Gap Cottage Begins Demolition Process
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

#1. We Make Weird Decisions. When I make decisions inconsistent with my vision, faith or character, it causes people to wonder what’s going on and pull back in mistrust. This strikes at the heart of integrity, and undermines our influence. Trust is built through thoughtful, informed decisions that grow out of God’s vision for us and are consistent with who we are.

#2. We Fail To Listen. If people don’t feel heard, they won’t trust you. I hear this complaint from people all the time. I hear it from my own kids! And it stops me in my tracks. Trust is built by parents who listen. And leaders who listen. And friends who listen. And spouses who listen. If you aren’t willing to understand what is really going on, you can’t be trusted. But if you’ll listen well, trust will grow.

#3. We Offer Lame Explanations. The opposite of poor listening is poor explanation. Like when we refuse to divulge why we are doing what we are doing, or going where we are going, or changing what we are changing. Trust grows through good conversations offering helpful explanations, inviting people into the process and the “why” of our decisions. But if people are being asked to accept direction without good explanation, trust erodes.

#4. We Pull Rank. When being pushed for explanation, pulling rank is the worst thing we can do. It suggests that we either don’t know what’s going on (and are afraid to admit it), or what is going on is questionable (and we are ashamed to talk about it). Either way, shutting down questions because “I am the boss/parent/leader” is a sure-fire way to erode trust even further. We influence through trust, not position.

Erosion control is needed, be that for soil or for trust. 

#5. We Are Unreliable. Trust quickly erodes when we fail to follow through, never show up on time, don’t complete our tasks, or gossip.  If we are always late, always forgetting, always stuck, never reliable, people can’t trust you. Reliability–faithfully doing what you said when you said–is key to building trust.

#6. We Betray Our Commitments. Taking unreliability to a whole new level, trust is eroded when we betray our commitments to love, to support, to forsake all others, to be at that special event, to serve in the ways we promised we would.  Obviously this applies to the biggest areas of our lives: our marriage, kids, work, friendships and faith. When we betray our most fundamental commitments, trust is more than eroded — it’s smashed. Can it be rebuilt? Yes, it can, but it’s going to be a long haul. More insidiously, we can betray our commitments in smaller ways. In marriage, by failing to put the other person ahead of our needs. Do that, and you’ll erode trust without having an affair.  In leadership, failing to seek the best for the people we are serving, opting instead to serve ourselves.

Trust is everything. Without trust, we cannot lead or love. Without trust, we have no influence.

Considering the ways we can erode trust challenges us to be people who work to build trust instead. That’s the kind of leader and father and husband and friend I want to be.

Why do you think trust is so crucial?

How have you seen trust rebuilt after it’s been eroded?




Marriage Got Gaps? 10 Ways Jesus Can Fill Them

Every marriage has gaps. And when two beautiful-yet-broken people commit to a life together, lots of grace is needed.

Gaps of all kinds spring up: expectation gaps, ability gaps, misunderstanding gaps, sin gaps, cultural gaps, value gaps. Sometimes you can hear them forming:

He just seems too focused on work to listen to me anymore.

She isn’t as physically active as when we met.  

I had hoped we’d do everything together, but we live pretty separate lives.

She’s just so different. I thought we’d be able to get past it, but now I’m not sure.

We aren’t intimate like we used to be. 

I’m disappointed.


Gaps form in any relationship between two real people. And I’m convinced that it’s into these gaps that Jesus wants to pour his grace so our marriages can flourish.

How can we let Jesus fill the gaps?  Here are 10 ways.

  1. Acknowledge the gaps. Get honest with yourself and with God. Be real about your feelings, your disappointments, your angst. But keep it to yourself for now; wait till you’ve had some time to process the gaps before you talk to your spouse about your feelings. The guidance of a good counselor or trusted spiritual friend can help you identify the gaps you are experiencing.
  2. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom about which gaps can be closed and which gaps may never be resolved. The fact is, some of the gaps in our marriages won’t be “solved.” Some cultural and personality gaps may never be fully closed, requiring ongoing grace to make up the difference.  Other gaps may result from physical challenges, such as when a person has had physical trauma and is not able to do things that had previously been part of your shared life. Grace is needed for the gaps, whether they can be closed or not.
  3. Offer grace and forgiveness. Whatever the gaps, grace and forgiveness must be our basic stance. Jesus enters into all our gaps, be they gaps in our life with him, the ways we are not yet transformed, or the gaps in our marriage, and he fills up those gaps with his grace. Let him do that for your marriage by regularly offering grace and forgiveness to each other.
  4. Work on you. The best thing you can do for your marriage is to grow yourself. When gaps are acknowledged in a marriage, it’s easy to become focused on how “they” are the problem, ways “they” need to change, errors “they” must acknowledge. But that’s very ineffective (and usually untrue!). As the advice runs, the only person you can truly change is yourself. When you let God into your gaps and pursue personal growth, you’ll find that you’ll be helping your marriage. Read, pray, get counselling, get honest, grow in self-awareness, let the Spirit develop in you all the fruits of his presence.
  5. Pray! Prayer must become the primary way we address the gaps in our marriage. Talking with one trusted friend is good. (But with many friends? Not good!) Exploring our gaps with a counselor? Yes. But none of that replaces the most basic conversation we need to be having with God.  I find it’s at the moment when I’m feeling the most discouraged or challenged by the gaps in my marriage that I’m presented with a choice: Will I fret and worry? Or will I trust and pray? Choosing to pray is always the better choice.
  6. Be watchful. As gaps grow, temptations rush in and relational distance increases, widening gaps into canyons. Temptations come in many forms: comparing your spouse with another, throwing yourself into a hobby rather than connecting in conversation, working longer hours, even seeking false comfort in polar bear jumping ice gapdangerous and unhealthy ways, such as drinking too much or viewing pornography. The more one allows temptations to pull your heart away, the greater the gaps become.  In my counselling with couples, I find that small gaps became larger as people refused to acknowledge them and simply pursued other distractions.
  7. Gently discuss with your spouse what you have been discovering about yourself and what you’ve been praying about for your marriage. Do this without accusing. Notice that this is the first point I’ve made about actually talking to your spouse about the gaps you’ve identified. Why? Because we often talk about the gaps way too soon. We haven’t wrestled with our role in the gaps, we haven’t spent time working on ourselves, we haven’t cultivated an attitude of grace and acceptance; in short, we aren’t ready, and talking about the gaps before we are ready will backfire. But there is a time when we must talk about them. Do it gently. Recognize that this may be the first time your spouse has become aware of a particular gap, and they may push back. Give them time and space to process and pray. Resist getting defensive. And keep praying.
  8. Be patient and listen to how they see the gap. In the conversations that follow, heed the sage advice to “seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Even after all the work you’ve done, you need to let your spouse share their perspective, their insight, their struggles. Be open to them and what they see. Keep offering grace and forgiveness, and be willing to ask for it.
  9. Be willing to let go of demands and expectations. As you process the gaps, be open-handed. There will be some expectations and demands that you will need to let go, letting Jesus make up for what your spouse cannot. This is true in every marriage, and it’s a key way we are reminded that our spouse cannot be everything for us–we need Jesus to be what only he can be. Some gaps will close slowly. Some will never close. But as we offer freedom to one another, we can experience grace in our marriage, even in the midst of the gaps.
  10. Live in a posture of thankful grace. When we focus on the gaps, we can forget the goodness. Make sure, in the midst of all the prayer and reflection and discussion, to continually and intentionally encourage your partner, celebrating God’s goodness in them, the ways they delight you and excite you. Live in a posture of thankful grace, letting Jesus fill the gaps, and experiencing in the process a relationship that is growing in depth and in passion.


How have you identified and addressed gaps in your marriage?

What is the best advice you’ve received for gaps that seem insurmountable?

How the First Five Minutes Influences Everything

The first five minutes really count. Think about it.The First Five Minutes

The first five minutes of a movie. Is it weird? Startling? Intriguing? Will I finish it?

The first five minutes of that recommended book. Dry? Lame? Confusing? (Perhaps making it the last five minutes as well.)

The first five minutes of a party. Awkward? Welcoming? Wish you hadn’t come?

The first five minutes of a meeting. Boring? Strained? Hilarious?

The first five minutes after getting home. Stressful? Embracing? Icy?

The first five minutes of the message at church. Inviting? Provocative? Offensive?

The first five minutes really count, because it’s in those opening moments that expectations are set, attitudes are decided, minds and hearts are open (or closed).  Important decisions, conscious or not, occur within the first five minutes.

This principle applies in so many ways, and I encourage you to think that through and make adjustments so the first five minutes of your next presentation/meeting/conversation goes stellar.

But, for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on the first five minutes in family life.

Think about the first five minutes:

1. After your son stumbles out of bed in the morning

2. When you come home after work

3. When your daughter is dropped off after a date with friends

4. After time away from your children

How you act during those moments is significant.

Do you take a few minutes to catch up? Listen to stories? Hug? Play?

Or do you ignore, complain, nag, or simply begin talking about stuff that needs to get done, didn’t get done, should get done (pack your lunch, take out the garbage, comb your hair, go to the store).

Make the First Five Minutes Count

Instead of jumping right into the “to-do’s” and “didn’t-get-dones”, we need to focus on who we love. When we put relationship first, the other stuff gets sorted out within the context of strong relationship. And everyone feels differently about it.

So, how do we make the first five minutes count?

1. Focus on your relationship. Which means: don’t immediately talk about what was missed, forgotten, or bothering you.  If that becomes the focus within the first five minutes, then a rift will form and you won’t connect on a heart level. First, the relationship must be reaffirmed. The person must know they are loved, and that is shown as well as told.

This is why Gordon Neufeld urges us to “collect” our kids with our eyes, first thing in the morning and periodically throughout the day. Collecting strengthens our attachment with our kids and it is crucial to a healthy relationship with them. Focusing on “who” instead of “what” is extremely important, especially when we feel we are constantly correcting a child, such as during a trying toddler season. Look for opportunities to connect with your child in a way that is not disciplinary or corrective. Relationship is first.

2. Listen with interest. What was it like to be home all day with sick kids? How are you feeling about your friend’s boyfriend? What are you looking forward to today? Let them tell their stories, share their excitement or frustrations.

3. Get in close.  Hug, cuddle, stand close by. Don’t remain at a distance or shout from the other room. Take the first five minutes and make that person your world.

4. Affirm their importance to you. Tell your kid you love them, that you’ve heard them. Let your spouse know you’ve listened, and how much you appreciate them. While listening you may have been tempted to correct, remind, insist, add something to the “to-do” list, but don’t. Not in the first five minutes. Let those moments be all about “who” is important and not “what” needs to get done.

5. Ask “what can I do to help?” And when these first moments are finishing, and it is time to get on with morning prep or making supper or the next thing on the list, ask “what can I do to help?”  For a frazzled stay-at-home mom or a frustrated teen-age son, this question is gold. It shows love and willingness to get alongside and do something that makes a practical difference for them.

The first five minutes influence everything. How they influence is up to us.

Can you think of a time when the first five minutes of something really influenced your attitude?

Of the five practices I mentioned, which one is the most helpful to you?