Engage or Withdraw?

I’ll admit that at times I have a hard time trusting certain people. I generally develop my feelings of distrust after someone has done something intentionally or unintentionally that makes me question their character. And let’s be honest, if you’re in any kind of relationship with someone long enough from time to time they’re going to act in a way that will bring the issue of “trust” to the forefront.

We all have a trust-meter. Every time you interact with another person your trust-meter goes up or down based on a set of factors that would include such things as the person’s truth-telling record, their commitment keeping pattern, their confidentiality, their consistency in character, etc. This is true of all of your relationships…







All of this happens subconsciously. So when you have a person in your life that gossips about another one of your friends or doesn’t show when they say they’ll show or you catch them in a lie, your trust-meter goes down.

When your trust-meter goes down the natural tendency for most of us is to begin to withdraw. And generally the further we withdraw the more suspicious we become of the other person. This almost always either stunts or at least redefines the relationship.

Now some of you need to realize your trust-meter is broken. It’s giving you false readings. Because of the baggage from your past your trust-meter is all jacked up.

So what do you do? The wise person when confronted with a relationship where the trust meter is headed south will engage instead of withdraw. God has really been growing me in this area of my life.  He’s been prompting me to engage in that relationship and sit down and talk about the issues. Tell them about the doubts creeping into my mind and heart.  The goal here is to find out if there is actually betrayal going on (that requires further conversations) or if I’m getting false readings.

So do you have problem trusting other people? Do you think your trust meter gives you false readings from time to time? Do you tend to engage or withdraw when your trust meter is headed south?

57 Responses to “Engage or Withdraw?”

  1. I am pretty good at the day-to-day kind of trust. You know? Being generally open and available is easy for me. I just am not good at the take-a-leap-of-faith kind of trust or the I-need-to-tell-you-something-difficult-and-hope-it-doesn’t-ruin-our-friendship type of trust.
    .-= Lindsey Nobles´s last blog ..I Wonder… =-.

  2. cshell says:

    In a total state of withdrawl right now in my life, could use your prayers.

  3. Michael says:

    This is probably one of my biggest struggles. I have found myself replaying conversations over in my head analyzing what was said looking for digs. I tend to retreat and isolate myself from that person. These are some good thoughts.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Minford Hillhounds and Impacting People =-.

  4. DEb says:

    I think I have a pretty good “trust meter”.. realizing it could fail from time to time….with that said, If I feel the person TRULY loves God, I’ll definitely try to keep that relationship….if its questionable, I move on.. time is TOO short and so is life… I wanna jump on everything that God has in store for me here on this earth … dealing w/people who just don’t care is NOT my thing…. right now anyway!! xoxoox
    .-= DEb´s last blog ..Country Music Marathon – 2010…DOWN THE DRAIN! =-.

  5. Elaina says:

    I have to say that the idea of engaging when the trust meter goes off really freaks me out. I’m going to have to think about this post. But…I suppose the reason it’s tough for me to process is because I need to!

    • Pete Wilson says:

      I think a lot of potential relationships are lost or severely damaged because we don’t engage when trust has been potentially broken. In fact it will be hard for any of us to develop deep relationships with anyone if we continually withdraw.

      I battle the same temptation as you!

  6. Amy says:

    I think my trust meter is fairly decent. I don’t have much baggage to deal with but I do tend to withdraw once the trust is broken. I always feel like it’s not worth my time for the drama. I’d rather move on and do something “more productive”. It’d probably be more productive to engage instead of withdraw…convicting!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Weekend in Pictures =-.

  7. Mary says:

    my trust meter is is broken. My Pastor and my study group is working with me on that one. Either Im way too trusting in some areas or not trusting at all.

  8. Carolina says:

    Why did you have to mention trust again?!

    God has really been trying to get my attention in this area. I have a difficult time trusting, period! God, family, friends…anyone! Getting better, but as mentioned before, engaging is hard, for me just engaging in any of my relationships is hard!
    .-= Carolina´s last blog ..Trust, trust, and again trust, with a chunk of love! =-.

  9. vicki says:

    I’m lelatively new a this church, and was asked to lead a womens’ bible study. Little did I know that the pastor’s wife and the top ‘influential women’ of the church were participating. My trust meter was fine…until the gossip started, the need to talk about the church politics, and finally, the lack of accountability in doing the actual reading as the study required. I know they need a forum for discussing concerns and issues about the church but I felt uncomfortable with the sensitivity of the discussions, especially as a new person, and started to withdraw. Instead of being an inclusive group where we shared safely, I became the ‘outcast’. It backfired because I withdrew from engaging in what was important to them. I learned a valuable lesson through all this.

  10. My meter is very sensitive. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust them…but if they break that trust they are out of the circle faster than you can blink and will have a very hard time getting back into that circle, no matter what. I probably need to balance that better.
    .-= A Boy Named Tracy´s last blog ..Awareness =-.

  11. I do both depending on the person and the situation. If I like someone, I am quicker to engage. If someone consistently rubs me the wrong way, I am more likely to withdraw.

    Definitely something I need to work on.
    .-= Dusty Rayburn´s last blog ..Standards of Success =-.

  12. Kyle Reed says:

    I feel like I trust people very easily. But as soon as that trust is broken I have a very very hard time engaging with them again and trusting.

    Another thing that I have a hard time with is when someone says something negative about someone else. I can be negative myself and so when I hear a critic of someone else my opinion of them becomes skewed quickly. I wish it was different, but I have to work through this a lot.

  13. A. Amos Love says:

    T. R. U. S. T.

    T rue
    R est
    U nder
    S alvation’s
    T ests

  14. This is an area of struggle for me right now. My closest friend outside of my wife has broken my trust twice by divulging things to someone else that I shared with him in confidence. The first time, I pretty quickly forgave and we resumed with rebuilt trust. The second time it happened, it was more difficult to forgive and move on. I continue to have a problem dealing with this…I have forgiven, and continue to remind myself of that. However, I am unable/unwilling to become vulnerable and entrust him any more with personal information that is confidential. I’m wondering if that will ever change. It seems pretty scary to consider engaging more rather than keeping a safe boundary.

    Thanks for addressing this issue…I’ll have to work on this.
    .-= Randy Kinnick´s last blog ..Launch Into the Deep =-.

  15. Alice says:

    I have recently discovered this was a problem for me stemming from my childhood. Now my trust issues are jeopardizing my 11 year marraige. I am seeking help & it does help. God is helping us, but the bad days can be down right awful. Also, we don’t have a church we attend regularly. We left our church in Feb.

  16. Jenny says:

    “the further we withdraw the more suspicious we become of the other person”

    *guilty as charged*

    it is so hard to re-engage – for me. but you are right – it is the more productive road to resolution. i definitely need to work on this… but my little disengaged bubble is so much safer


  17. Becky says:

    Very convicting… I tend to withdraw but I need to not do that as much.
    .-= Becky´s last blog ..I finished my 2nd race! =-.

  18. @love1st2day says:

    For a long time I had been TOO trusting, and in esteeming others more highly than myself, I had erred in many of my initial estimations, thinking all is pure and rosy in the lives of every scripture quoting Christian. As a result, I was disappointed greatly in being so idealistic.

    Now, I realize that painting a perfect picture of anyone who proclaims the word of God, was foolish on my part. I understand now, that simply looking at the people of God with mercy and grace, along with wisdom and understanding of how humans behave, helps me to think more realistically. No matter how far to the ends of the earth you go, you won’t find one Christian who isn’t flawed in some manner at some point in time. Forgiveness will always be necessary. I hate that. I just want us all to be perfect NOW. But that’s not happening until we are at home with Him in that place prepared for us. So, until then, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I just suck it all up and keep running the race.

  19. Dean W. says:

    My Trust Meter works OK, but certainly not perfect. Depending on how much I have invested (or how much I stand to lose) regulates how much I am willing to engage. The great the the loss, the more I withdraw.

    Coming out of some hurt which happened when the ‘ol meter pegged red. I engaged a Life Group leader, who is an elder and was told I have trust issues, otherwise I wouldn’t question.

  20. extrarice says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that there are some people and situations where no amount of discussion and engagement will resolve anything, and it is important and necessary to protect yourself from a person like that. Keep the door open and the welcome mat out, but be cautious lest that person trash your house. Proverbs calls us to be wise in our dealings with others.

  21. My trust-meter got massively broken waaay back when I was a little girl, so for me trusting is a roller-coaster ride. I’ve tried it and lived to regret it. Sometimes, with some people, I still try. Sometimes, I quit.
    .-= Michelle Brown´s last blog ..Beloved =-.

  22. Julie says:

    Keeping it real. I have a very slanted trust filter and I withdraw. I’m sure this will shock you (not), but I am the least trusting with those in the church. Church leadership? I trust them less than anyone else. I keep thinking I’m over it, but apparently I’m not. I find it easier to trust in people online easier than people in my every day life.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      Thanks for being honest Julie! I’m wondering if it’s easier to trust people on-line because our expectations of them is so low. I’ve got to think about that one.

      • Julie says:

        Wow, first of all, I have to learn not to type a response while talking on the phone. LOL I totally made a mess of that post.

        Ok, I do think it’s easier online because I still have some feeling of control and I don’t feel as vulnerable or exposed. I can choose if I want to have conversation or not, be real or not, etc… With face to face relationships it is much harder to hide.

        Here’s the contradiction for me, because I believe for whatever reason my life is constantly in a state of odd conflict. I am muuuuuuuuch more transparent online and my fear of people dissipates. So, while I am being more open, I feel more secure. It’s all an illusion.
        In “real life” I feel completely and utterly invisible and without value. It seems to go along with “what you fear you create.” I don’t trust people, so I don’t reach out, then I feel invisble and without value, so I don’t reach out, so I don’t learn to trust people. It’s very much a ridiculous cycle that I don’t know how to break unless I’m equipped with a keyboard.

        • Julie,

          Your experience is quite typical of most of us…that is, to feel more comfortable being transparent online. In my training for teaching online college courses, I have discovered that students who are normally “invisible” in the traditional classroom are usually very active and participatory in the online classroom. We know that we are much more in control, protected and have some level of anonymity online, giving more boldness and confidence in communication and self revelation.

          Thanks for sharing your struggle and being transparent here. :-)
          .-= Randy Kinnick´s last blog ..Launch Into the Deep =-.

      • Julie says:

        Thank you, Randy. It’s a great place to learn and test the waters.

  23. katdish says:

    Trust is a very big deal with me. Like many here have already said, I typically give people the benefit of the doubt, but once trust is broken, I have a difficult time re-engaging with that person. This is actually sort of an eye opener for me. Because I trust people with parts of my life, but very rarely all of it. The list goes down considerably when we’re talking about the whole.
    .-= katdish´s last blog ..Beautiful (by Billy Coffey) =-.

  24. Suzi says:

    Wow. Never saw it spelled out quite like this, but you’ve put words to what I’ve been learning. What I’ve come to recognize is that if I live out grace and put on God’s view of the other person I will do the complete opposite of my nature of withdrawing. Since God is always in pursuit of our hearts, I engage when I remember who I am in Him.

  25. Kevin M. says:

    This is something that I totally struggle with. My first response is to withdraw but I am slowly learning to engage. One simple way I have been doing this is by checking assumptions with people. It definitely helps clear the air of any confusion! :)
    .-= Kevin M.´s last blog ..Sermon Synopsis 3/28 – Why worship Jesus? =-.

  26. patricia says:

    my trust meter was severely wrecked from all my life’s experiences.. and God has slowly been teaching me to keep my heart open and trust people once again…fixing my trust meter has been an extreme home make over edition work in progress. it needed major overhaul.

    as an extrovert…a lot of people who are my “friends” think i trust them. the truth is i trust only a handful of people in my life. maybe even less than that.

    He reminds me constantly that “if He can choose to trust me with His secrets, His gifts, His love…then I can choose to trust others again, despite their flaws & their brokenness. that’s what makes redemption so powerful and beautiful”

    and i make a choice everyday, to be a vessel of His redemption.
    .-= patricia´s last blog ..3.28.10 sundayfunday. =-.

  27. Darla says:

    my trust meter with people is fair. always needs inprovement, i think my trust issue is with God, and although i know he is trustworthy, something about his soveriegnty and his will…still processing this
    .-= Darla´s last blog ..Surprised! its a trust issue =-.

  28. It’s hard when you do realize ‘your trust-meter is broken and it’s giving you false readings’. For you because you find yourself constantly doubting the validity of a person’s character and for them because they should be able to earn your trust without automatically being tainted by your past events.

    The thing is _ if it is a person worth earning your trust to begin with, they will understand that we are all broken vessels in some way or another.
    .-= Kimberly Anne´s last blog ..a must listen. =-.

  29. JamesBrett says:

    so i don’t have a problem with trust, but boy have i got a great deal for all you guys! you see, i belong to the royal family in nigeria, and i’ve just won a lottery, but because i belong to the ruling family, i’m not eligible to claim my winnings myself. so can someone help me out here? all you have to do is send me your bank account number, so that i can……
    .-= JamesBrett´s last blog ..giving: love means action =-.

  30. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    This is a tough one. Reading everyone’s comments is heartbreaking. It reminds me of the saying, “the church would be a great place if it wasn’t for the people.”

    For me, Suzi’s comment hit it right:

    “I engage when I remember who I am in Him.”

  31. Bryne says:

    I have to say this one hit home. I am a very reclusive person and it is not in my nature but through hard lessons learned. Thankfully there are people in my life who keep trying to pull me out into the sun, as they say. I think it takes time and healing to release the baggage.

  32. Lily says:

    This is a difficult issue for me right now. I’ve always been honest and open to my family. But a familymember of mine told a lie about me to cover himself up to my grandma and aunt and it became a problem in the family. They confronted me with it and all I could say it’s not true. I couldn’t defend myself. My grandma and aunt are the most important people in my family and I trust most. I was afraid they would believe him. Okay I can say it, it was my brother who did this. He had done several things in the past and some told me to confront him with it and forgive him. I did ask my brother that I wanted to talk to him about it and he just laughed and walked away. Tried a second time and he laughed again and walked away. He has damaged my trust. Now he told a lie and I can’t trust and believe him anymore. It’s difficult. I know I have an issue with trust. My dad did the same.
    What can you do if the other one is not prepared to talk? I pray and I have already forgiven him. It was hard, painful but I can say now I have forgiven him. All this is not the pain worth.
    Wow, I didn’t know this would be painful now.
    .-= Lily´s last blog ..LilyAny: Kutless "Take me in" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tyu9IJKFi0 =-.

  33. Sarah says:

    I’m a withdraw-er for sure. I can be wrong sometimes, when I am wrong the withdrawing just gets worse.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Crazy Little Thing =-.

  34. Erin says:

    Oh, yeah–I’m a great withdrawer, mainly because I really dread conflict and have a hard time walking the line of assertiveness v. conflict. However, I’m having to deal with it as we deal with some trust issues with our 12-year-old son. Minor trust issues, but still there and still as difficult to deal with!!

  35. Barbara says:

    Trust and trust meter. I tend to trust everyone to a fault and then fall on my face! I am quite the open book about myself and it makes others uncomfortable I think, although I never intend it to be that way. I am 45 and have nothing to hide. I learned along time ago that if someone can learn from my mistakes in my Christian walk then I will be transparent. What I hate and what makes my trust meter go down is when others us the Holy Spirit and God told me as a way to measure everything and not the word of God. That is okay…the Holy Spirit can lead us but it can be over used…then I don’t trust as much. Make any sense?

  36. Steve says:

    I think that once someone has violated my trust, it takes a while to build it back. I guess that means I tend to withdraw when it comes to violated trust.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Sunday is Coming =-.

  37. aaron shaver says:

    I tend to give others the benefit of the doubt in most trust issues. But, I really find myself lacking in being aware of how their “trust-o-meter” might measure me.

    I guess I’m saying my personal issue is not so much in the realm of trusting other people but displaying the transparency of a good leader who earns others’ trust. Do I show my “Yes” to be Yes and my “No” be No?
    .-= aaron shaver´s last blog ..Army alters training for “Gamer Generation” =-.

  38. Lisa says:

    I have been on the other side of this, where I have lost the trust of someone and didn’t realize why. It was very hurtful when they pulled away and wouldn’t talk to me so we could discuss the misunderstanding. It caused the friendship to demise into nothing. I am much more conscious about communication when my trust meter starts questioning things now because I know how it feels on the other end to have someone not take the time to listen and work on things.

  39. Jason says:

    When my trust meter heads south, I do too. I always pull back and make the person “earn” back the trust unless it’s so egregious I cut off all contact.

    I do realize how bad that is and I am working on it.
    .-= Jason´s last blog ..You can see fat =-.

  40. Chelsea says:

    When my trust meter heads south, I withdrawal. I don’t like confrontation at all so I definitely just close up to myself and pull away from that person. God has been trying to work on me with this. I co-teach and I’ve had situations where I have had to come out and say something and talk about how maybe trust was broken or I was hurt in the situation. I am certainly not a master at this or really doing much better but I’m trying :). I’ve had my trust broken all the way back to my biological father. He was in and out of the picture and still is to this day. When trust is broken I don’t want to face it because it is exhausting but I know it would be better off in the end. Great post! Really made me think today. :)

  41. a.B. says:

    I struggle with this so much. I don’t confront unless the friendship is super important to me. Oftentimes people don’t even realize I’ve disengaged from them, which just fuels my deep bitterness and sense of worth. I have heard it say that unforgiveness is a poison and I believe it. I hold grudges and will never trust the person again.

    I know it’s wrong and I’ve tried so hard to “let it go” but it’s not that easy. I literalliy can’t forget how I’ve been hurt…… and like I said, most times, no one realizes I’m hurt.

  42. Monica Hunt says:

    Never thought of it this way- thanks for giving us something to really think about. Trust is a tricky thing and once someone loses it, it is SO hard to gain back!
    .-= Monica Hunt´s last blog ..C3 Sunday! =-.

  43. McCall says:

    This post could have not come at a better time for me. I am going through this exact thing right now with a lifelong friend. I withdrew and still continue to do so but I was sure that I had forgiven. I am beginning to realize though that maybe wasn’t the case. Maybe my trust meter is not exactly where I thought it was. I guess it is just hard for me to trust again when you have known the person your entire life and you know there is no changing them. I found that once I withdrew there wasn’t near as much “drama” in my life as once before. Now that we seem to be going through the same exact thing again the “drama” is ever present. So do you choose to engage the person regardless or do you withdraw? What is the Godly thing to do? But what is the healthy thing to do? This is a constant struggle in my life and I could really use your prayers. Thanks Pete so much for this post!

  44. I engage. I confront and once the person tells me their side of the story, the ball is in their court. Sometimes, I get tired of seeking out the problem with the same person over and over again.
    .-= ashleynashville3´s last blog ..The Price of Beauty =-.

  45. Mysoul says:

    This is a topic I could say so much about. I have the one strike and your out rule when it comes to trust. I will confront but after that theres no going back, that confrontation will be the last one. I dont engage with them again cause experience has taught me that nothing good comes out of it anyway. The same rule applies to me too, should I lose someones trust. I know that is a burned bridge that will never rebuild.

  46. Alicia says:

    I feel like this is so me. I want to love others and I tend to give my love to others freely (in friendships, not dating relationships). I think I just instantly see the potential in people and pray to see them how Christ sees them.
    But then, I end up getting hurt and left asking what is wrong with me, what I did wrong, when sometimes it’s just that I befriend people who are flighty and don’t stick around in friendships.
    I just wrote a post about it today, since one new friend (who I was supposed to move in with in May) randomly stopped talking to me last week. I have no idea what happened or what I did. It’s painful, and makes me question trusting others.
    .-= Alicia´s last blog ..Day 117 =-.

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