The Trust Dilemma, Or Too Much Coke

Several years ago I got involved with a committee.

I was part of a small alumni chapter, and there were about ten of us who took the reins that year. Although I didn’t last very long, I did enjoy our early sense of camaraderie and shared mission.

There was a little blossoming of community that was nice. So we decided that instead of making our meetings just about business, we would try for a social connection too.

We decided to have potlucks.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with another committee member before the first potluck. I offered to bring pizza; he offered to bring something too, although I can’t remember what.

And then he suggested, “We’ll need to contact everyone and assign dishes, so we’ll know what to expect.”

Right away I figured that was likely to be both time-consuming and a lot of undue pressure. We were volunteers, after all, with busy lives. I sure didn’t have time to coordinate a potluck, and I suspected that most of us would rather improvise this one.

So I countered, “How about if we make it a real potluck, luck being the operative word, and simply take what we get?”

Just then the conversation unexpectedly turned. To coke.

My committee friend was silent for a moment. Finally he responded, “But what if everyone brings Coke?”

I laughed a little, not at him but at the image of ten people walking in the door, arms laden with big bottles of Coke.

And then I said, “Well, I doubt that would happen. But if it does, I guess we’ll drink a lot of Coke with our pizza. Or water. I think we could handle it.”

Without skipping a beat, he concluded, “I couldn’t handle that.”

That turned out to be our first and last potluck.

I still recall this story from time to time. Initially, I thought it was about control. Being in control every minute, and knowing with certainty the outcome.

As the years have passed, however, I’ve realized it’s more than that.

It’s a story about trust.

My friend on the committee couldn’t trust the rest of us. He couldn’t trust that we would figure it out for ourselves. But mostly, he couldn’t trust himself to deal with whatever happened, good or bad.

Which brings me to a question I’ve been pondering.

Where does trust start?

Clients often tell me that they place a very high value on trust. But time and again I’ve noticed they’re looking for that trust to start out there. As in, “people must earn my trust.”

So they sit, waiting for proof that their trust has been earned. Facing constant disappointment, because, well, human beings are imperfect. Eventually finding themselves caught in a downward spiral. Holding back trust from others. Then holding it back from themselves. Until finally, they’re holding back trust from life itself.

All the while forgetting that you’ve got to give a little to get a little.

Maybe this happens because we equate trust with naiveté. Certainly, as small children we don’t know any better than to trust unequivocally. So we get hurt. And we learn. We grow cautious. We move past that first blush of simple, innocent trust.

But there is another kind of trust. Mature. In-your-bones.

A primal wisdom that tells us that trust starts right here, and even though life and people will hurt us, and we will be disillusioned, we can nevertheless choose to open ourselves to trust.

We can choose to trust ourselves.

We can choose to trust others.

We can choose to trust life.

We can even choose to trust when things look bleak.

Looking back, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to say that to my friend. I have a feeling that too much coke was indeed a bleak prospect for him, a proverbial worst-case scenario. I mean, we all have our quirks, right?

  • So now I’m curious. Where do you stand on the trust dilemma?
  • Does trust start inside of you?
  • Or does it start somewhere else?
  • And what’s your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?

32 thoughts on “The Trust Dilemma, Or Too Much Coke

  1. Ahhh yes… trust. That thorny issue.

    Where do you stand on the trust dilemma?

    Unfortunately, I don’t find it very easy to trust people. I’m afraid I’ve had my trust stomped on too many times, even when I thought I was being cautious and playing things safe. Sigh.

    Having said that, I must confess that there have been too many times in the past where I’ve done the same to others. So, in that sense I’m hardly blameless.

    These days, I try to be trustworthy with everyone I know and meet because, as you said, you’ve gotta give a little to get a little. However, I try not to expect too much from people because just like them, I too have let others down. Who am I to judge, right?

    Does trust start inside of you?

    I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s a conscious decision where I have to step out in good faith. Whether or not the other party decides to play along is entirely up to them. When you can’t know someone else’s thoughts and motivations, that can be a bit scary.

    And what’s your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?

    I’ve never been to a potluck. I’ve always wanted to… just to sample whatever else others might bring. I think I’d bring an extra spicy noodle dish of some sort. Yum!

    • Hi Tony – Thanks for starting the conversation off today. Sounds like you’ve given a lot of thought to the trust issue. I hear what you’re saying. It is hard to trust when we’ve been burned. But I like how you recognize that you’ve done the same to others (we all have, right?), and how you now look at trust as a conscious decision to step out in good faith. And I think your noodle dish sounds delicious. Darn! Wish we all could have an actual potluck. I think you’d like it.

  2. Patty –
    What an interesting story. I have to admit that it would never occur to me to consider that everyone would bring the same thing – and I would find it hilarious if everyone did! I do often anticipate that everyone will bring a dessert – but it isn’t a big deal… the more chocolate the better!
    Trust – I don’t know when I didn’t trust myself. I think that sometimes it gets me into some interesting situations as does my trust that it is all going to work out. Even when times are rough, and I try to tell myself that it isn’t working and I am scared… I hear myself and have to take all those thoughts back or let them fly away as I know, somewhere deep inside, that it is what it is meant to be and I trust it will work as it will. That trust allows me to focus on choices, love, hope, and the day to day living. Trusting intuition or instincts or that faith in self and purpose… it has likely saved my life and the richness of my life is continually unfolding due to that trust. (Sometimes it is harder to silence the Ego and the desire to control than others, but that trust is there regardless) It is Big Picture – I am going to be okay. My daughter has it too. It is the small stuff that I attempt to control from time to time!
    There is another aspect of trust I find interesting – those who keep to themselves (even in relationships) and isolate or try to be something or someone not taking the chance that they will be loved or liked or accepted. I am not sure if it is a case of the person not trusting themselves to be okay if they aren’t accepted (and that just came to me as I wrote) or if it is that they don’t trust the other. Or maybe a little of both?
    I have been hurt as I am sure that I have hurt others – and when the time is right, and I am ready, I open up to trust externally again. It takes time though as I often have to look at myself and consider my role in the situaiton and then ensure that I am not afraid of trusting again. It is okay to choose not to trust someone – and it is okay to trust yourself and have your boundaries.
    And to a “buffet” (smile) I have to admit that I am a dessert person!

    • Yes, I love all those words you use – hope, choice, love, intuition – all are such integral parts of trust. And I like it that you mention there is an aspect of timing with trust. It’s always there and available, but how and when we use it is up to us. Plus, like you say, trusting yourself may mean having the wisdom not to trust another. Thanks for making that deeper point. And I take it you’ll be bringing the dessert????

  3. Hi Patty — thanks for this post — I get the sense that, if I’m not trusting in myself or others, it’s helpful for me to take a hard look at the consequence I’m afraid of. When there’s a lack of trust, there’s almost always “something bad” that might happen if I trusted — but when I look straight at the “bad thing” rather than allowing it to lurk unidentified outside my awareness, I start putting it in perspective.

    • Yes, exactly Chris. I think this is just what happened with my friend. He couldn’t really look at the bad outcome he feared. If he had, he might have seen it was just coke. But it takes a certain amount of awareness to step back and take that hard look you speak of. Thanks for making that point!

  4. I love this story. A great example of the difficulty people have simply ‘letting go’ and allowing the chips to fall where they may. Sad to say, but I probably would have been that guy – obsessing over the potluck (not 100% sure I’m not, still!).

    Re: Trust. I do believe that a fundamental trust in life is the starting point. The alternative is worry about that which we cannot control. Once we trust that good things will happen in life, in general, we can begin to let go of the details – like who will bring the jello salad to the potluck!

    BTW – love your domain name — why not start now is actually my favorite line when seeking to inspire others.

    • Hi H & W – Welcome! Thanks so much for stopping by. “Letting the chips fall where they may” is a perfect companion metaphor for my potluck story. Hmm, what if everyone brought chips? I’d be OK with that! But I digress. You’re so right that there is a fundamental need to let go in order to trust. I’m so glad you brought that to the buffet table. And will you also be bringing jello salad???

  5. About the potluck…any I’ve been to have worked out great! Part of the fun is not planning. Is this guy fun???

    Trust! I know I have trust issues but I also listen to my gut!
    So I confronted a friend who I wasn’t trusting and I told her why I didn’t trust her and with that out I handed her the key to my home. I hired her to sell my home. Imagine doing that.

    She was surprised I didn’t trust her and wanted to know why. I told her. Pause… I then told her I would give her a chance because I did believe she’d be best at selling my home.

    A few hrs. later she called and told me I hurt her feelings. I said it wasn’t the purpose of my conversation. I then told her if I didn’t have trust issues of my own I probably wouldn’t had the conversation with her.

    It’s always about me, eh? Seriously. She then understood and I was happy I spoke my truth…anyone interested in buying a home?!?

    • Oh, me too, Tess. A few years ago I had a big potluck, didn’t know what anyone would bring, and it was just so much fun. And it worked out just fine. And I think my friend had the capacity to have fun, but was so tightly wound that he couldn’t access it. Anyway, your story is a great example of how truth-telling and trust often go hand-in-hand. We sometimes have to be willing to have the difficult conversations in order to get to trust. So thanks much for sharing that. And hey, maybe your house will sell faster if you host a potluck for all the interested buyers!

  6. Ah yes, the potluck dilemma. This is a metaphor full of rich lessons! My office holds potluck lunches a couple times a year to celebrate different occasions. We always have an disproportionate number of desserts, but that’s okay. And usually a lot of pasta salads. But it’s still free food and camaraderie!

    I think trust does start inside of us. We start out trusting others. But then, inevitably, life shows us painfully that sometimes we get hurt when we are too trusting. And it’s hard to come back from that. Hopefully it doesn’t leave us cynical.

    • Now that’s bottom-lining it, Eva – “free food and camaraderie!” Why get uptight about that? And I’m so glad you mentioned cynicism, because that’s exactly the danger we face if we can’t locate that deep, mature, in-your-bones trust that will always be there. Thanks so much for reminding us of that. It’s the true cost of not trusting. And a high price to pay.

  7. Patty,

    What a great story about trust. To be honest, this always kind of worried me about potluck dinners. It never happened, well…except the time when almost everybody brought a dessert…that however was considered “lucky” by me:~)

    Truthfully, trust is a BIG issue with me, but I’m learning slowly to get better at it.

    Funny, that it came up today in the dance lessons JC and I taking (ballroom). I was struggling to get the steps for a dance and our teacher said I needed to just trust JC. Well, both of us have had some “close encounters” of the sore feet kind since dancing…but I decided to try it.

    So, I closed my eyes in the dance and actually let JC lead me. I had absolutely NO problem with the dance steps. I had to trust him; a good lesson in trust.

    BTW Stop by for a visit when you can. I’m trying an experiment at my site and I’d love to know what you think:~)

    • Hi Sara – Yes, is there ever too much dessert? I love your story of learning to trust more by learning to dance with JC. I’m a huge fan of Dancing With the Stars. I resisted for years; it sounded so cheesy (yum, cheese is good at a potluck). But when I finally gave in I realized I just love watching people ballroom dance. How often do we get to do that? So number one I think it’s so cool that you are doing it, and two, I think when we have these physical experiences of trust, they translate into other kinds of trust, particularly emotional. It’s a wondrous thing. Thanks so much for telling that story, and I loved your blog today. I hope the whole world visits Tallulah! (She would like that.)

  8. For me trust is the knowing that I am able to deal with whatever is put in front of me.
    Trust is that I do not mind what happens, that I am unattached to things going a certain way. To learn that is a huge process, but so worth it.
    I am building that trust because for me it is the most important thing to get on with life. In the end I do have to trust myself AND the bigger invisible plan that I am part of.
    I build my trust by going out there and make mistakes, that way I am learning that I am more resourced than I think.
    Yes, I do get disappointed but it is up to me to get over it, to trust on my resilience and bounce.
    We are more capable than we think we are, if we play small we stay small. It also might be important to look who you play with, small players can disappoint and then you have to move on and keep looking for bigger players without getting too disheartened.
    Potluck always works out, most people do pay attention to where and to whom they are going. And if they do not you always have the most wonderful story to tell afterwards.xox Wilma

    • How wise of you, Wilma, to remind us that resilience is the companion to trust. The flip side of the coin. When we trust we increase our resilience. When we focus on resilience, we up our trust quotient. Thanks so much for that, and Hugs!

  9. As far as the pot luck goes, I truly would be happy with almost anything anyone brought. I don’t care for over-organization.

    If you want to know how I feel about trust in a larger sense, too bad. How do I know that I can trust you with such information?

    • Touche, Shay! Or maybe I should just say “Too-Shay!” I can’t find my accent grave anyway. Who needs one when I get a comment like this? Made me laugh out loud.

  10. Hi Patty, I love coming in a little later so I can read other people’s comments. I know someone who avoids potluck parties due to dietary issues. It tickles me that something seemingly all-fun would stress others out. We are fascinating creatures, aren’t we?

    As for trust, or lack of it, I seem to run into it as a problem when I’m too deep in my head about it. Wanting to know what will happen, not wanting an unpleasant experience to repeat. But geez, when is there ever a guarantee in life? It seems by automatically not trusting, I close a door on happy possibilities. I prefer to be open rather than closed and that for me means being a little more trusting instead of less. Great post.

    • Yes, Belinda, we sure are fascinating creatures. I’m glad too you brought up dietary restrictions. My friend in the story didn’t have any. And you’re so right about being in our heads, going all left brain about it. Thanks for reminding me of that. A surefire way to close down! Thanks!

  11. Dear Patty,

    Ah, yes, such a great topic – trust. I believe trust comes from inside. It is a choice. I love the Fool tarot card. He is walking off the edge of a cliff with a flower in his hand and a smile on his face.

    Why? Because he chooses and some believe he is a fool, yet he is the wisest amongst us. As you point out, it is the in your bones type of trust, not naivete.

    Choosing to trust knowing that betrayal and hurt sometimes happen in life is trusting in life itself, trusting in our selves. Trusting and choosing to be fully alive and to take a chance on life, again and again.

    It is “getting” the goodness of life in our bones.

    I love that you address it and how you address it. Thank you.

    And by the way, I forever have an image of you and your Mom in my mind from your remarkable post about your Mom. It was magnificent.

    Glad I found you!

    Warm regards,

    • Hi Lauren – Oh, I love the Fool too! Thanks so much for bringing up that inner Jester that all of us have access to. S/he is the archetype that has lived all the vagaries of life and come full circle back to innocence and joy, not the naive kind but the wise kind you mention. That’s a beautiful place to be. I love what you say too about taking a chance again and again. It’s the only way to live, right? Or at least to try to! And thanks for mentioning that post about my mom again. You’re very kind.

  12. Hi Patty
    Made me laugh – I sort of guessed where you were going.
    What do they say? A camel is a horse designed by committee.
    I’m not sure about the trust thing, but I’ve never been easy working on a committee. I’m just not a committee sort of person.
    I usually end up sorting out the Website for whatever committee I’m on and if you can imagine a Website designed by committee! Not a pretty site.

    • Well, yeah, committees can be a challenge, that’s for sure. I do like working collaboratively with people, but not when we are buried under a bunch of rules. Thanks for stopping by, Keith!

  13. Hi Patty.
    I’ve been in the SAME situation with Potlucks. I prefer to organize them and know what everyone is bringing. But in my case, (your post has caused me to reflect :-)) it’s because good food and variety is important to me. I know what I like and I don’t like to ‘settle’.

    When I think about going to a Potluck I envision all types of food and hope there WILL be all types of food when I get there. A Potluck is about the food, right? However, with people being too busy, they tend to bring veggie plates, made up bean/salsa dishes, chips and dip, cheese and crackers; the basics. With so many common easy dishes to prepare, it is almost guaranteed that there will an an overlap.

    However, I still surrender and go even when I don’t know who’s bringing what. I have a food allergy, so I make sure to bring something I can eat. A big part of this is about being flexible — that was my learning here.

    Maybe we should create a “PeopleLuck” and invite people over when they don’t know who else will show up 🙂 That would be interesting.

    • Hi Davina – I can see your point. Although, once I hosted a potluck for 25 people, didn’t know what anyone would bring, and the array of dishes was amazing. No overlaps, as far I can remember. It’s interesting, too, that you make the point about a potluck being about food. I’m pondering that one. Wondering if it’s more about fun and friends and not having to do the cooking. Not sure yet! At any rate, I absolutely understand that a potluck could be a mine field if you have a food allergy. Thanks for pointing that out! And I love your idea of a “PeopleLuck.” Sign me up for that!

  14. I must agree with you… one can choose… to trust.

    Somebody once asked me how I would be able to trust anybody again after the people closest to me at the time deserted me when I needed them most. My answer was simple. I don’t have a choice. I have to trust people because I am physically dependent on them for absolutely everything. I would drive myself insane if I did not choose to trust. And I can tell you it is a wonderful place to be… a place of complete and utter trust. I have trust in humanity.

    Thanks for a great post… as usual.

    • Hi Tracy – That’s such a beautiful way to say it, that you are in a wonderful place of complete and utter trust. I wonder what the world would be like today if we all had no choice but to embrace trust? I think then our humanity would truly shine through. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. I want to attend the potluck where everyone brings Coke, or pizza, or pasta salad! The jokes and laughter and hilarity that ensued would be far more entertaining than what resulted from a carefully orchestrated menu.

    I’ve been told I’m too trusting, but I like to trust people until they give me a reason not to. My own sense of trust is innate and very firmly connected to my spirituality, as in I trust the universe to bring me exactly what I need–which is not always what I want.

    • Yes, what a blast that would be. And great distinction between trusting we’ll get what we need rather than what we want.

  16. Like you say in your article, it is also about control. Some people like to control and plan right down to the last degree but sometimes it is fun to let go and see what happens, to be flexible, comfortable and secure enough to be able to have a good giggle about the situation then order pizza.

    Trust is a strange one. It means different things to different people and many people have been hurt in the past but to move on isn’t it necessary to look to the future?

    I trust people, I enjoy their company and I try not to get too hung up on their flaws, after all, I am an imperfect being too!

    I have been hurt in the past, I’ve had my trust broken but I don’t want to dwell on that. I want to believe in the good in people and believe in what they say. Not everybody is good but I’ll learn that as I go on and remove those people from my life. Better this than to not trust people and to drive myself mad questioning their motives. I’ve been there and it isn’t a good place to be 🙂

    • Hey, Kaz, welcome, and thanks for stopping by. So true what you say about trust. To not trust can in and of itself be maddening, always on edge, worrying, doubting. It’s almost like trust is a requirement if we want to get on with our lives.

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