Are You Afraid to Trust Others?
‘THERE is no one I can talk to. People won’t understand. They’re too busy with their own problems. They don’t have time for mine.’ Many feel that way, so they keep things to themselves. When others ask how they are, they often want to tell them, but they do not. They just cannot open up.
True, there are those who do not want help from others. Yet, many desperately do want help but are afraid to reveal their most personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Are you one of them? Is there really no one whom you can trust?
Understanding the Fear
In today’s world there is a climate of mistrust. Young people do not talk to their parents. Parents cannot talk with each other. Few are willing to talk to those in authority. Unable to confide in others, some turn to alcohol, drugs, or a wild life-style to try to escape from their problems.—Proverbs 23:29-35; Isaiah 56:12.
Confidence in authority figures, such as clergymen, doctors, therapists, and teachers, has been rocked by endless revelations of dishonesty and immorality. For example, one estimate says that over 10 percent of clergymen are involved in sexual misconduct. These “trust-breakers,” notes one writer, “dig canyons, crevasses and fissures in human relations.” How does this affect their congregations? It destroys trust.
The widespread breakdown of morals has also led to a crisis in the family, to the point that dysfunctional families are almost the norm, not the exception. Home was once a nurturing environment. Today it is often not much more than a mealtime filling station. When a child grows up in a family where there is “no natural affection,” a common result is the inability to trust others in adulthood.—2 Timothy 3:3.
Further, as world conditions worsen, we are increasingly exposed to potentially traumatic experiences. In a like situation, the prophet Micah wrote: “Do not put your trust in a confidential friend.” (Micah 7:5) You may feel the same after a minor disappointment, a broken confidence, or a major life-threatening episode. You find it hard to trust others again and grow emotionally numb, living each day behind an emotional wall. (Compare Psalm 102:1-7.) True, such an attitude may help you to function, but your “pain of the heart” robs you of any real joy in life. (Proverbs 15:13) The truth is, for you to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy, that wall must come down and you must learn to trust people. Is that possible? Yes.
Why Must the Wall Come Down?
Confiding in others brings relief to a troubled heart. Hannah had this experience. She had a good marriage, a secure home, but she was deeply distressed. Though she was “bitter of soul,” she wisely “began to pray to Jehovah” with an intensity that made her silent lips quiver. Yes, she confided in Jehovah. Then she opened her heart to God’s representative Eli. With what result? “[Hannah] proceeded to go on her way and to eat, and her face became self-concerned no more.”—1 Samuel 1:1-18.
Most cultures have known the benefits of intimate disclosure. For example, sharing ideas and experiences with those who have been in similar situations can prove beneficial. Researchers conclude: “Emotional isolation produces sickness—we need to disclose to stay sane.” A growing body of scientific research confirms the truth of the inspired proverb that says: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”—Proverbs 18:1.
If you do not open up to others, how can they help you? While Jehovah God is a reader of hearts, your innermost thoughts and feelings are a closed book to family and friends—unless you open up. (1 Chronicles 28:9) When the problem involves a transgression of God’s law, putting off confessing a matter only makes it worse.—Proverbs 28:13.
Surely, the benefits of confiding distress to others far outweigh the risks of getting hurt. Of course, that does not mean that we should divulge personal details indiscriminately. (Compare Judges 16:18; Jeremiah 9:4; Luke 21:16.) “There exist companions disposed to break one another to pieces,” Proverbs 18:24 warns but then adds: “There exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.” Where can you find such a friend?
Trust in Your Family
If you have a problem, have you tried discussing it with your marriage partner or with your parents? “For lots of problems, talking them all the way through is all that’s needed,” acknowledges one experienced counselor. (Proverbs 27:9) Christian husbands who ‘love their wives as themselves,’ wives who are “in subjection to their husbands,” and parents who take seriously their God-assigned responsibility to ‘bring up their children in the mental-regulating of Jehovah’ will work hard at becoming empathetic listeners and helpful counselors. (Ephesians 5:22, 33; 6:4) Although he had neither wife nor children in the fleshly sense, what a wonderful example Jesus set in this regard!—Mark 10:13-16; Ephesians 5:25-27.
What if the problem is more than can be handled within the family? In the Christian congregation, we need never be alone. “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” said the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 11:29) He admonished: “Go on carrying the burdens of one another.” (Galatians 6:2; Romans 15:1) Among our spiritual brothers and sisters, we can undoubtedly find more than one “brother that is born for when there is distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
Trust in the Congregation
In the more than 80,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses earth wide, there are humble men who serve as “fellow workers for your joy.” (2 Corinthians 1:24) These are the elders. “Each one,” Isaiah notes, “must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.” That is what elders endeavor to be.—Isaiah 32:2; 50:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
Elders meet Scriptural requirements before being ‘appointed by holy spirit.’ Knowing this will strengthen your confidence in them. (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:5-9) What you discuss with an elder will remain strictly confidential. Being trustworthy is one of his qualifications.—Compare Exodus 18:21; Nehemiah 7:2.
The elders in the congregation are “keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” (Hebrews 13:17) Does this not move you to place your trust in these men? Naturally, not all elders excel in the same qualities. Some may seem more approachable, kind, or understanding than others. (2 Corinthians 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8, 11) Why not confide in an elder with whom you feel at ease?
These men are not paid professionals. Rather, they are “gifts in men,” provided by Jehovah to help you. (Ephesians 4:8, 11-13; Galatians 6:1) How? Skillfully using the Bible, they will apply its healing power to your personal situation. (Psalm 107:20; Proverbs 12:18; Hebrews 4:12, 13) They will pray with you and for you. (Philippians 1:9; James 5:13-18) Help from such loving counselors can do much to heal a troubled spirit and restore peace of mind.
How to Build Trusting Relationships
Asking for help, advice, or just a listening ear is not a sign of weakness or failure. It is only a realistic acknowledgment that we are imperfect and that no one has all the answers. Certainly, the greatest counselor and confidant we have is our heavenly Father, Jehovah God. We agree with the psalmist who wrote: “Jehovah is my strength and my shield. In him my heart has trusted, and I have been helped.” (Psalm 28:7) In prayer we can unreservedly ‘pour out our heart’ to him at any time, confident that he hears us and cares for us.—Psalm 62:7, 8; 1 Peter 5:7.
But how can you learn to trust the elders and others in the congregation? First, look at yourself. Are your fears solidly grounded? Are you suspicious of others’ motives? (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7) Is there a way to minimize the risk of getting hurt? Yes. How? Try to get acquainted with others personally in a spiritual setting. Talk to them at congregation meetings. Share in the house-to-house work together. Trust, like respect, must be earned. So be patient. For example, as you get to know a spiritual shepherd, your confidence in him will grow. Reveal your concerns gradually. If he responds in an appropriate, sympathetic, and discreet way, you might then try disclosing more.
Fellow worshipers of Jehovah, especially Christian elders, work hard at imitating God’s endearing qualities in their relationships with one another. (Matthew 5:48) This results in an atmosphere of trust in the congregation. Says one longtime elder: “The brothers have to know one thing: Regardless of what a person does, the elder doesn’t lose his Christian love for him. He might not like what was done, but he still loves his brother and wants to help him.”
So there is no need to feel alone with a problem. Talk to someone with “spiritual qualifications” who can help you shoulder your burden. (Galatians 6:1) Remember that “anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down,” but “pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.”—Proverbs 12:25; 16:24.
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Any Christian may be called upon to assist a relative, a friend, or a spiritual brother with a personal problem. Do you know how to help?
An Effective Counselor
chooses the right setting: Mark 9:33-37
does not overreact: Colossians 3:12-14