Learning to Trust


Wake Up Wisdom #2

In Wake Up Wisdom we share with you precious pieces of insight to support you on your path of practice. The questions in this series come from Wake Up sanghabuilders and facilitators and were asked during a Question & Answer session with monastics at the International Wake Up Ambassadors Online Retreat. We would like to encourage you – the readers – to offer your own experiences and insights when practicing with this topic in the comments section below, so that our community can benefit from collective insight. 

Brothers playing a game for building trust at the Wake Up Earth Retreat 2019, in Plum Village France. Photo by Raphael Brouard

Question: How can I learn to trust that my partner is there for me even when he can’t be emotionally present in the way that I would most prefer? I find this difficult especially due to their attachment style and things that happened in the past.

Response by Brother Phap Khởi

Trust is something that is very difficult to develop because a lot of the time we reflect on the past of the person and we judge them on their past. It’s very difficult for us to overcome that tendency, but trust can be earned. Your partner can start with small steps on things that are happening right now in your relationship. And as those areas are being built up, you can trust them more—little bit by little bit—and that will help to compensate, to overcome what they have been doing in the past. Even so, it is still very difficult because they may need a lot of time. 

But one thing is for sure: we have to give other people a chance. People can change. Sometimes we think the other person will always be a particular way, but it’s not true. If you’ve both been trying, given the right situation, the right environment, the person can change a lot. I speak this from my own experience. Before I became a monk, I was not a very gentle, kind person, as you always think of a monk as gentle, kind. I was very arrogant before I became a monk. Many things I did were sometimes a little bit not so good, but my friends gave me that chance. They gave me the chance to transform myself. 

It took me a long time—I think at least five years from learning the practice to practicing it—to put it in my daily routine and change my habit. It’s not an overnight thing. So, even right now, you want to trust them, but they will make mistakes for sure. They will not be a hundred percent perfect right away, so give them that learning curve, that process of changing of their habit, and just to be there. 

I think the best thing you can do is support with encouragement. If I feel that you are trusting me and you are encouraging me, I will try better. And that’s what happened in my past. I tried better every day because I know that there was somebody there who believed in me, that there was hope for me, so I tried. That is something that you have to do and that is your own practice to embrace them, to accept them as they are and then slowly to help encourage them to positively change. It may take a long time, but I think it’s worth it because everyone, everyone deserves a second chance—a third, and a fourth, and a little bit more. But slowly.  

Thank you for your question.

Brother Phap Khởi (left) with Brother Đức Khiêm during on of Plum Village’s online retreats this year.

Transcribed by Elaine Fisher and edited by Erica Fugger.

Click here to read Wake Up Wisdom #1: How to Balance Work and Self-Care

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