Is it better to be trusted than to be loved?

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I love reading quotes. Not just ones I agree with either. In fact I believe the best quotes are the ones that make you think. Here’s a good example and the catalyst for this column. [Note: there are several versions of this quote – as there are many well-known quotes – I’m using the one most familiar to me.]

It is better to be trusted than to be loved.

My first response to this was to feel a certain alignment with it, as if it’s something both profound and that I ought to agree with it. But on second look I began to wonder about both the quote and that first impression of mine. [At this point I’ll cease describing the inner workings of my mind lest it drive you crazy!]

One of the things I wonder about that quote is: what is the difference between being trusted and loved? If you love someone don’t you trust them?

Not necessarily. Or to put it another way, you don’t always trust them to do the right, good or helpful thing. Ask anyone who loves an addict who’s in the grip of his or her addiction and they’ll be the first ones to tell you that. No matter how much you may love someone in the throes of addiction, you can’t trust them to do anything other than what’s harmful to themselves and pretty much everyone else as well.

You could say, “Hey, that’s trusting them isn’t it?” Yeah – sort of. But I don’t think that’s what the person who said this had in mind. If he did then you can trust almost everyone. Hey, I trust Hitler to murder Jews and I trust Jeffery Dahmer to eat people too!

Wow – I’m pretty sure I’d rather be loved than trusted in that way!

But that’s not really trust. That’s just expecting someone to act in a certain way because of their track record. It’s not trusting myself to them. It’s not being vulnerable with them because I trust them not to hurt me.

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That’s real trust to me. It’s not thinking you know what someone will do. It’s the willingness and desire to give a private part of myself to you knowing you’ll be a loving and careful custodian of that trust.

So is trusting someone the same as love? No, but I do believe it’s an act of love. Love is far greater than trust. I’m called to love my enemies but not to entrust myself to them. Love is freely given and I believe should be given to all.

Trust is not freely given. It’s a response to someone who acts in a trustworthy manner. The more I see that I can trust you the more I will trust you. Trust is an act of love and is a hallmark of a healthy relationship. The less I trust the less healthy that relationship is.

The Beatles sang, “All you need is love,” and then proved they didn’t understand a word of what they had said by breaking up. A lot of relationships break up because of a lack of trust and love because a lot of people don’t really understand either one.

Life becomes more meaningful and enjoyable when we love and trust others. As long as I understand that love is freely given but trust has to be earned (to one degree or another) things will go well and life can be pretty good.

When I confuse the two and demand you earn my love but freely give away my trust to people who don’t love me and won’t respect that trust I get into real trouble.

So love freely, trust wisely, in that order and you’ll really have something good going.

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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.

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