Trust is like a marble jar (3 steps to trust in 3 mins read)

“No man is an island” is an indisputable saying. We simply cannot do everything alone. Which means that trust is central to being human. We have been doing it for thousands of years. Which should mean that we are really good at it by now, yet thousands of us have trust issues. Do you ? I know I do. In fact only 6 years ago 1 third of all Americans would not trust their neighbours.

This trust thing or rather the lack of it is causing huge problems for us humans. Both individually, in our own communities and if you look at the state of world politics trust issues  are also being played out on the world stage.  This trust issue… issue (well you find a better word I can’t!) is constantly affecting us all whether it is our own lack of trust or someone else’s.

The biggest challenge with all of this is of course that trust takes time to build and seconds to break. And once broken it can (and often does) build up to such a large issue that eventually it can affect every relationship in our lives ever. The side product of this chronic mistrust is a large side helping of pessimism and if really unlucky a topping of paranoia.

Mistrust spreads like wildfire. Look at the effects of terrorism propaganda if you need an example. It is at the core of some of the worst hate crimes in the world. At the same time on a smaller, but no less insignificant level, our children who are as always watching our behaviour, copy us and then our trust issues get passed on generation to generation. And why? Well because trust and mistrust has something to do with our survival instinct. We need other people to survive, yet this makes us vulnerable and when we get hurt in one way or another we bring up our defences and woe betide anyone that tries to get through our in built safety net- because we are actually really good at protecting ourselves (in many different unhealthy ways).  Trust issues can be so subtle. You may not even realise they are there and suddenly wham from nowhere they slam up the iron curtain and usually this spreads disaster in your life and makes you seriously unhappy and potentially very, very lonely.

However this is the worst case scenario.

Like with anything in life (at least from my perspective) how we respond to our emotions and our fears holds the key for either our unhappiness or happiness. It is our choice to react or respond. It is our choice to be brave or to hide. Now whatever it was that started your issues with trusting people be it colleagues, partners, family  or friends there are ways to work through it. Of course this can sometimes take a lot of work and therapy however that is not the topic today. Today we are going to look at the 3 baby steps towards healing trust issues, oh and marble jars.

Yesterday I had the privilege (via Miranda) to find an amazing speech by Brene Brown about trust. In 9 or so minutes Brene not only entertained me, she also gave me  what I considered to be the most complete and tangible description of trust I have ever heard, well actually her daughter did.  Brene had to explain trust to her daughter. In her daughter’s school they use a marble jar as a way of encouraging the children to do the stuff the adults want them to do. Marbles go in when the children do things well and take the out when they don’t. Brene simply explained to her daughter that trust works in a similar way.

Over time we fill up our marble jar for different people, as the jar fills up the bond deepens. We all have one a person we actually trust in this way, whether the marble jar is a little full or full to bursting there is someone.  And if you don’t well then Brene BRown’s daughters insight is going to help you identify them.

Brene asked her daughter what makes her friends earn (trust) marbles? And instead of telling gigantic stories of standing up for her in front of the school bullies, Brene’s daughter told her that her friends earned marbles by saving a seat for her, or remembering her grandparent’s names. They earned marbles or trust by the smallest of moments.

Now this got me to thinking that if  trust is formed by these moments that by actively observing and acknowledging them that this is part of the part to rebuilding trust. Look into your life at the people you know. It doesn’t matter if you think you trust the or not. Have a look at the little things these people have done to make you feel safe. (Don’t think about trust, think about how they have made you feel secure). Look at the small things. Make a list of them. You will find there are more there than you would have imagined. It makes you feel special when you notice these marbles, these small almost unnoticeable kind, caring and loving acts that people do for you. And if like me you have a hard time always remembering the good things that people do to show you that they care, counting their marbles is one of the best reminders you can have.

So the first step towards building trust is to count people’s marbles. (The things they do that make them trustworthy to you). Do this with people you feel good with and then with people you are unsure of.

Now remember the second part of the marble jar, the taking the marbles out. Well that is trust too. Because sometimes people put in and sometimes they take out. There is probably someone who has hurt you on a small level. These smaller betrayals are easier to cope with at first than the bigger betrayals. Maybe someone has hurt you and you are trying to decide whether or not to trust them again. So write their marbles in versus their marbles out. Once on paper it’s easy to see if one outweighs the other. Now have a look at the marbles out. Are there any of these that you have had an influence on why this marble is a betrayal? For example if you have had a friend constantly cancel on you but you don’t say anything but keep rescheduling is it not also your responsibility to say something about it. Trust is a two way thing, so make sure that you are not blaming someone’s actions that have broken your trust instead of taking responsibility for your own lack of action. Try and be as objective as possible and then make your decision about trust based on rational thinking than raw emotion.

So the Second step to rebuilding trust is to objectively compare the marbles in the jar and the marbles that have been removed.

For me bravery is also part of trust. In order to trust someone we make ourselves vulnerable. We allow people in which exposes our intimate nature. In can be scary as hell to allow people in. Believe me I know because although in so many ways I love and trust my Mr T everyday my old trust dramas test me and push me consciously and unconsciously. When we have been hurt it takes a lot of bravery to open up again and sometimes we will only open a new marble jar by a quarter or a cm to begin with. However if we don’t open the jar a bit more marbles can’t get in. If we want to not be alone, if we want to connect then we have to be brave. Battle scars may make us experienced but not every connection will end in the same battle, some never will but you won’t know that unless you take a chance.

So the third step is be brave enough to try and trust by opening a new marble jar and seeing what happens rather than expecting the same old story.


As I said earlier trust issues take time to work through however half the battle of healing is becoming aware. If you use the marble jar thinking method I have described above you will become very aware of the people you can trust, the people you can begin to trust and the process of building trust with someone new. These are the first steps on the road to trust recovery one thought, one step at a time which will actively and consciously change the world around you to a better place. Just think what an amazing world we could live in if we all took stock of and appreciated our marble jar people today.

So who are your marble jar friends ?  

Trust is builtone marble at a time

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