Dear Listener,

A few years ago during one of our Volunteers’ Monthly Meeting we posed a question about trust. We broke into small groups and listened to one another explore what trust meant to us and how we experienced it.

While I don’t remember the specifics, I do recall that we recognized two kinds of trust. One kind is earned. The image above points to it.

The other kind of trust seemed more mysterious. Beyond what we might normally expect, we noticed the occasions when trust seemed to happen immediately and of its own accord. When we opened to how it is that we actually experience trust, in life as a whole and as listeners in specific, we each have found ourselves in situations we thought we couldn’t tolerate and, yet, there we are… patiently listening. Or patiently waiting in the silence and not rushing in to fill it up.

The above scenarios came up in the responses I received when, in a recent letter, I asked for your understanding of what listening is. One listener shared, “Listening is in the moment, though we may be listening about things that happened in the past. We listen to the person as he/she is right now. I feel like that might be why it’s possible to listen without judging.”

This listener sat with her guest as they describe their own past behaviors – behaviors which happened to fall in a category that the listener would have thought she’d react to with condemnation. Yet she found the capacity to stay with the listening. Judgment, intolerance, just didn’t arise. She hoped that the guest found value in being heard. As for herself she said, “it was a wonderful experience, and for sure it’s left me wondering!” Her experience seems to be in alignment with the second kind of trust.

Another listener shared about a guest she has listened to regularly who, “has mental illness and often he talks…but sometimes he would just sit next to me and be silent and maybe half smile. He just wanted to listen, too….to the silence and feel the connection….where words were not necessary or sufficient.” In this listener’s experience, “listening to the silence is often more healing for our guest than what we say in response.”

To my ear, these insights shine a light on the spontaneous kind of trust. It isn’t necessarily about trusting the guest or not trusting the guest – which suggests the ‘earned’ or ‘not earned’ kind of trust depicted in today’s image above. But it strikes me that both of these listeners, each in different situations with different take away pieces (non-judgment, the healing power of silence) trusted something in order to stay with what otherwise might be considered uncomfortable to be with.

Is it possible that the equation in the image above points to an ‘in the moment, spontaneous’ kind of trust as well as ‘earned’ trust?

How many times have you experienced the capacity to stay present as a listener when you thought you couldn’t do it? How many times have you sat in the silence with a guest and notice no impulse whatsoever to race in with a comment, joke, or question?

What allows us, as listeners, the capacity to be present with situations we might not have thought we could be present with? 

When I ask myself this question, the equation in the image above does apply.

For ‘earned’ trust, we recognize that it requires consistency over time. But in being open to unknowable possibilities (otherwise known as listening), we might just be able to sense the timelessness of spontaneous trust – trust arising in the moment – and also recognize that we might quietly turn to this flavor of trust over and over again. Over time, as it were. 

As we practice listening, and particularly during this time of challenging listening that has occurred during several of our shifts, I offer an exploration of spontaneous trust – which includes trusting ourselves to practice boundaries even as we listen – as a support for deep listening. Since the LP began serving it has been true that we are supported and encouraged to listen to ourselves even as we listen to our guests. Everyone deserves a good listening to.

with gratitude and an awe for the depth of trust possible,