On the Question of Trust, Sharks, Users and Takers

SharkWeekFeature1So often I am reminded of a conversation I had with a long-term mentor of mine almost two years ago.  “How do you discern who you can trust?” he asked.  How indeed, I thought silently to myself.

My answer then, as it remains, was that it was less important to know where others are coming from than to live and lead from a place of solid centeredness and confidence in our own values.  Still, as I continue to learn and grow, I am increasingly aware that there are those who cannot be trusted in our interactions, no matter how worthy our own intentions, motivations and actions.  Regardless of why, there are those who routinely undermine others – without regard for consequence, without provocation, and often without warning.  Sharks, users, takers, and players.  The world is filled with them, just as it is filled with those who work to lead and live from a spirit of humility, service and love.

Admittedly, I used to plague myself with trying to understand why some people behave badly, as if understanding alone would change the outcome or somehow justify their behavior. (I would also spend a great deal of energy complaining or feeling victimized by the person’s behavior, too.) But let’s get real.  Whatever the ‘whys’; whatever wrongs may have been done to them in the past by others that now lead them to act in a similar fashion; whatever their sense of entitlement or justification; bad behavior is still bad behavior, and questionable character rarely changes.

So I’ve quit asking and I’ve quit wondering.  Not only have I found that exercise to be completely futile, I’ve also learned that when we spin our wheels trying to understand, change and/or fight against those who have wronged us or others, we rob ourselves of precious time and energy that can be applied toward more productive ends – towards building trust and relationship with those who uplift, encourage and support instead of those who break down; and towards those paths and projects that align with our values and serve our life dreams.

It’s not a running away from problems or difficult people we’d rather not deal with, so much as it is a matter of re-prioritizing where, how and with whom we want to spend our energy.  It’s a matter of re-wiring our thinking, too.  We can feel victimized by others’ behaviors, or we can do something about it.  We can give our power over to them or we can empower ourselves.  While we may not be able to change others, we can surely change our response to them and how we choose to move forward – moving from a mindset of fear-based survival to a place of loving self-respect.

I’m curious…Have you ever allowed others’ behaviors to sabotage your own journey?  If so, how did you disentangle yourself from the situation?  What boundaries, tricks & tools do you employ when faced with those who routinely undermine, betray and breakdown?  Have you ever been caught of guard by their behavior?  Whether as leaders or followers, how do you navigate those inevitable times when the spirit of collaboration and team are undermined by the self-serving interests of others?  

2 thoughts on “On the Question of Trust, Sharks, Users and Takers

  1. I recently had a relationship with a con man and a drug addict, I should have known what to expect. I don’t think he’ll every change. He hurt me pretty badly. The relationship is over. I’m not masochistic type.


  2. Sometimes we are drawn into the illusion that we can somehow fix/change another, or perhaps we find certain aspect(s) of a person so compelling that we find ourselves willing to overlook less savory truths. While there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ person or relationship, I’ve discovered that as self-love and respect grow, so does our capacity to set healthy boundaries with others.

    Addicts, incidentally, will ultimately always choose their fix above all else. It is simply the nature of the disease. Good for you for walking away from a relationship that does not serve your needs in a healthy way.


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