Trust: the reality of relationships across cultures

Trust: the reality of relationships across cultures

I’m thinking through two different aspects of trust at the moment. With a group of friends from our local neighbourhood who are are not believers my focus is how am I building trust with them. It’s been a long process. Two things early on that helped with a basic level of trust were, firstly, when I moved in with two like-minded housemates and we began relating with them as a group of three “sisters”. It made so much more sense to them than me as a weird lone foreigner. Secondly, when we started working in professional jobs here it brought a status and respect, and with it, greater trust.

One housemate built a beautiful friendship with one of them through spending many, many hours in her home. For a long time I thought I was failing in this group because I didn’t have the hours or the energy to give anywhere near as often as they would expect of a friend. But yet when they’ve faced crises of shameful things (sexual harassment at work) or vulnerable emotional things (severe depression) they have come to me for input. It certainly helps that they know I’m a social worker. But just yesterday one of them told me she notices how my housemates and I respect and care for each other and she doesn’t see that in their own group.

The other aspect of trust that I’m thinking through is between a group of new believers, women, from different families and different Arab nationalities. One woman in the group would only agree to meet up with other women who weren’t in her local neighbourhood. Anyone too close to home could not be trusted with knowledge of her faith. Another is still refusing to attend, not because she doesn’t trust the intentions of the women (she knows them all.) But she doesn’t trust their practical wisdom around (not) sharing information. The ability to hold one’s tongue seems foundational for trust. But I’m thinking a challenge for us as a group will be to grow a shared group understanding of how to wisely live and communicate with the community around us.

There are also very real questions about the genuineness of each other’s faith, and the reality of false motivations that would make a group member not just untrustworthy, but a real threat to others in the group. It’s very challenging not to feed gossip about each other when we’re all trying to make sense of who each other are and weigh up if their walk matches their talk ie. are they a safe person? Which is ironic since gossip is the very thing that will demolish trust.

I think I have seen beautiful moments of trust growing between them when one has chosen to share a hardship with the group and another has responded with kind words, regularly checking in, and generous practical help. One woman in the group consistently goes to great lengths to practically care for others and the trust others have in her is evident.
But there are mostly my own observations! Now I need to ask them how they have seen trust growing between them…

© When Women Speak… March 2023

This is one woman’s post in the conversation between practitioners on trust

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