B is for Boundaries.

R is for Reliable.

A is for Accountable.

V is for Vault.

I is for Integrity

This is #6 and #7 in a seven part series we’re working through on TRUST. Because Trust is Braving Relationships, we’ve been taking a look at sociologist and thought leader, Dr. Brene Brown’s acronym, B-R-A-V-I-N-G in her teaching on the Anatomy of Trust:

When working to build trust in relationships, or repair a relationship where trust has been broken, this acronym can serve as a guide, helping us to identify the broken places, so we can pursue intentional and effective healing.

N is for Non-Judgment and G is for Generous Interpretations. What is it?

Ok, I’m going to deviate some from my normal format for these articles. When I realized that this month’s topic in the series on Braving Trust was to be “N is for Non-Judgment”, I thought to myself, “Really? In the wake of all that is going on in the world… the polarization, the division, the pain, the opinions … I’m going to write an article on ‘non-judgment’ in the context of building trust?” So, rather than offer a researched exposition, I will bring my confession and a window into my soul exploration.

So here’s my working definition of ‘non-judgment’ in the context of building trust in relationships: [non-juhjmentn. not assuming to know more about you than I actually know. (Cindy’s definition)

What does it have to do with trust?

In the context of building trust, what does it mean to ‘non-judge’? How does your ‘judgment’ get in the way of my trust for you and how does my ‘judgment’ get in the way of your trust for me? What do we mean by ‘non-judgment’ in this context?

This river is proving to run much deeper that I ever realized, but here’s where I am in my exploration:

  • Non-judgment acknowledges your complexity as an individual being. It’s hard for you to trust me when I assume to know more about you than I do. You are a complex person, carrying within you all of your history, your hopes, your dreams, your pain, and your questions. And so am I. We are all very complex… Just because I know something about you, your job, your faith system, your age – maybe even a lot more – I never have the whole picture that makes you who you are. We are all more than a single story, a single label, a single experience, a single box that people might try to put us in. In order for me to earn your trust, I need to set aside my assumption, my ‘judgment’ that I know more about you than I actually do. And when you do that for me too, we can learn to trust each other more in our relationships.
  • Non-judgment means acknowledging that I can never assume your motives. When I stay curious and hopeful about your potential motives, your fears, your hopes, and you do that for me, we can learn to trust each other more in our relationships.
  • Non-judgment means I allow you to be on a dynamic journey. You are not a static snap-shot of ‘right now.’ You are dynamic, changing, growing and I can never assume to know the trajectory of your journey. Me too. Every day dawns with the mystery of potential and growth and when you allow that for me, and I allow that for you, we can learn to trust each other more in our relationships.

What can we do about it?

This brings us to part 7 in this series: G is for Generous Interpretations.

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Generous Interpretations mean that I am willing to consider the most generous interpretation about you that I possibly can. Does that make it true? No. But what do I have to lose by operating on an assumption about you that is generous, hope-filled, and positive instead of a guarded and suspicious interpretation? What if I were to be willing to always, filter your behavior through the most generous interpretation possible. Isn’t that what I hope for from you? To believe the best about you. To interpret with grace and humility. And to know you are doing that for me? Wouldn’t that take us a long way toward trust in our relationships? Again, I acknowledge the valid arguments for specific complicated and messy circumstances where this is problematic. I don’t mean to imply a simplistic solution. But, can I just consider that maybe, in most circumstances, with most of my relationships, a generous interpretation might be the best that I can bring to the table?

Final thoughts…

And what might I offer to the world if I am willing to turn this lens of judgment on myself, not in a self-depreciating way, but in authenticity and integrity, can I genuinely ask myself:

  • How am I making a positive, loving impact today on a dark and hate-filled, pain-filled world?
  • Who have I actively non-judged today? What does that even look like?
  • How have I offered Generous Interpretation in my relationships today?
    • to my family?
    • to my team?
    • to a stranger?
    • to someone who is different from me?
    • even to those I really don’t want to be associated with?

When I make a choice to trust, and I make a choice to love, I make a choice to become vulnerable. This is hard, because many times, pain will follow… but I believe there is no limit to what God can do with this … and He shows me the way:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.  1 Corinthians 13 The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


-Submitted by: Cindy Schmelzenbach, Member Care Coordinator, Asia-Pacific