There is little about who we are that isn’t a product of our experiences. Our experiences shape us, they teach us what to expect, and inform us who and what we can trust. Of course, our experiences teach us many other things too, but we don’t have time to get into all that today.
From what I’ve gathered, there are two types of people: those who are naturally trusting and those who are skeptical. For as long as I can remember I’ve been one of the skeptics, verging on untrusting. It’s not that I assume everyone is bad, because I know that’s not true. It’s just that I’m cautious, guarded even. My experiences have shown me that even the kindest smile can mask a hidden agenda, so I don’t trust easily.
I hate the cliché “trust is earned,” because it makes it sound like you have to sacrifice a goat or something to be trusted. I don’t expect anyone to “earn” my trust, but I try not to trust serial killers or assholes, if I can help it. For the most part, it’s pretty easy to figure out who is trustworthy. You can learn a lot by watching how someone treats others and how they behave when they think no one is looking.
I’ve yet to stumble across a serial killer, but I’ve met my fair share of assholes. I’ve found that if you wait long enough, they’ll show their true colors. It’s like they can’t help themselves, the assholeyness just slips out. It’s like trying to hold in a fart–you can only do it for so long before it squeaks out when you bend over to tie your shoe.
One too many run-ins with people like that have ruined me for trusting others. So, excuse me while I step over this grave and carry on with my life, because if you break my trust, you’re dead to me. I don’t give second chances.
I’m not callus about it. I won’t cause a scene or dramatically cast someone out of my life, because this isn’t The Real Housewives, it’s life, and we all still have to coexist. I’ll still be kind, but if you break my trust, you will remain at arm’s length because there is no way I will let you get close enough to hurt me again.
I once had the opportunity to work with a woman who I looked up to. When she reached out and offered me a job, I was over the freaking moon and couldn’t believe my luck. The job was pretty straight forward and right in my wheel house. Without getting into too many details, it went like this: she assigned me projects, and I did my best to knock them out of the park. The first few months were awesome; she consistently praised my work, and I felt right at home in my new role.
Things were practically perfect, until one day I received an email from her accusing me of lying about information I provided for a project. The tone of her email was scathing, much colder than any correspondence we’d had before. Worse, she had included her boss and the company owner on the email — people I didn’t really know and who didn’t know me. For all they knew, she was telling the truth and I was a lying asshole.
I was beyond mortified and on the verge of tears as I quickly drafted my response. The entire thing turned out to be a monumental misunderstanding on her part. Not only were her accusations complete and total bullshit, but she never mentioned any of this to me prior to this email. I was completely blinded-sided.
Following this interaction, our relationship changed from friendly conversations and joking with one another, to brief and to-the-point emails. I learned later that I wasn’t the only one who’d had an experience like this. She slandered half the people in our industry to get ahead. Eventually our department funding was cut, and my peers and I moved on to other jobs. In her departing remarks, she blamed everyone beneath her for the downfall of the department. In the end, it became clear she was not the person I once thought she was — certainly not someone to look up to or someone to be associated with.
I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t dead to me the moment I read that email. It didn’t matter that it ended up being a misunderstanding. She could have easily come to me privately and we could have worked it out, avoiding the drama and embarrassment on my part. I’m now convinced her actions were calculated. People like her are the reason I don’t give second chances, and I know I’m not the only one who’s like this. There are plenty of us; we just don’t wear badges or insignia to identify ourselves.
If you want to look at this from a psychological standpoint, it’s easily explained. Erik Erikson, a psychologist and psychoanalyst famous for his theories on human development, believed trust versus mistrust was the very first stage of development. From the moment we enter the world, we are learning who and what we can trust. According to Erikson, our experiences throughout our development have a significant impact on our identity—who we become. So, in layman’s terms, those of us who have been burned are less likely to trust. I’m know, I’m basically the poster child for mistrust, but it is what it is.
I may be a skeptic at heart, but everyone starts on the same page with me. I know beautiful books can have crappy covers, and some of life’s greatest surprises come from the most unexpected places, so I’m not totally jaded. I understand that beauty and growth are found in vulnerability, but I just can’t do second chances. Even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I literally can’t—I’ve tried. Once I see your dark side, I can’t unsee it.
I can forgive, and I can move on, but I will never forget.