Trusting Others: Gut Feelings, Logical Thinking, and Wishful Thinking

I am currently healing from broken trust which has left me thinking about what trust is and how it works. I have a lot of questions for you and I am eager to read your responses.

I often get gut feelings about people – both good and bad – but I try not to let them interfere with a budding relationship or friendship. My gut feeling is sometimes right, but often wrong. Should a person really trust their gut? I’ve always felt like I need more information – even if it leaves me guarded. I try to push through it – especially if it’s someone I can’t avoid. Are gut feelings irrational, biased, or even an innate instinct? 

Do you trust your gut? Does it tell you the truth?

While I sometimes ignore gut feelings, logical thinking takes over. I can keep a mental tally of the good and the bad and weigh my options. But the worst part is when wishful thinking steps in – when I want someone to be a good person so badly that I will look past numerous red flags. That’s when you get burned.

When I ignore red flags it’s often to keep the peace. I know there’s no formula for trust, but how many chances should you give someone? Where do you draw the line? What’s a forgivable mistake vs. blatant disrespect?

I am a trusting person and I usually give people a chance, but I feel it is much easier to see when someone breaks your trust than when they gain it. Gaining trust takes time while losing trust can happen in an instant.

If you’re trusting, open, and vulnerable – if you’re willing to let people in – does that make you prey? Will you become a victim? How do you protect yourself?

When a loved one trusts someone they shouldn’t – do you say something or step away?

On the flip side, am I trustworthy? How do I show someone that I’m trustworthy? I feel being honest and open has helped me in relationships. I’m often willing to share my story and hope others will reciprocate. Keep promises. Be reliable and available. 

Are people giving me a fair chance? On occasion, I doubt it because of the stigma surrounding my mental illness, but I try so hard to prove myself. Regardless, I have a lot of good people in my life.

Do you have to know someone on a somewhat personal level to trust them? Does personality play a role? Do any personal prejudices become a factor? Does the way a person looks make them more or less trustworthy? Unfortunately, I’m going to say yes to all of those. I see it in my own life. Deep down, I know it should be a person’s words and actions that make them trustworthy, but sometimes that’s just not the case. Sometimes you have to work really hard to look past irrelevant factors.

Here’s a touchy subject – how do you know if you can trust someone with your children? The list of people I’ll let watch my daughter is pretty short. Trusting people with children gives me a lot of anxiety. Do you have criteria for trusting a person with your child? My daughter plays with the girl next door a lot, and even her going over to the neighbor’s house makes me nervous. Sure, my husband and I talk to our neighbors here and there, but do we really know them? I feel like every time I take my daughter somewhere I am taking a chance with the people around us. When do you let go?

How do you know you can trust your children with different responsibilities or even with being left home alone? I learned a couple of weeks ago in a training given by our local children’s services that there is no set age to legally leave a child home alone in our state. It is completely at the discretion of the caregiver regarding the maturity of the child. I remember being home alone a lot when I was younger, but that was in a rural area in the nineties – it was more accepted to leave your children home alone at a younger age. My daughter’s daycare accepts children up to twelve years old. I certainly didn’t go to daycare that long but my daughter most likely will. 

And of course, the one that always pisses me off – why do people assume that because they’re Christian people should view them as trustworthy? Honestly, anymore it just makes me run in the opposite direction. I once had an auto mechanic tell me that he was a “god-fearing” man just before he really screwed me over. I’m sure we all have stories like that.

How do you see the good in people while still being cautious? That’s the question I want to be answered more than any of the others. Each time someone breaks your trust it knocks you down a notch making it harder to trust others in the future. However, if I don’t give people a chance I will miss out on relationships, opportunities, and experiences. What am I teaching my daughter at that point?

I am so curious to read your thoughts on trust. What does trust look like to you?



    My views on trust come from all the usual personal experiences, two abnormal ones, and a professional career as a lawyer, where I had about 4,000 clients. At my 25th year of practice I spent a while thinking about what I had learned about people, yielding two conclusions: 1. there are more different kinds of people than you can imagine, and 2. never underestimate the power of greed to skew people’s perceptions of reality. Number one affects trust because we assume a lot about others based on how we think people are – which works for most people we are likely to encounter in a normal life, but not all. Number two is where otherwise trustworthy people get into situations which skew their actions, and neither they nor we see it coming. To this I add a third conclusion which comes from my two second-hand brushes with mass murders. I knew women who were close to these two men, all swore the man they knew could not possibly be a killer. I think that, for men especially, warped sexual drives can be disconnected from the rest of the personality – you could trust your fortune to such a man, just not your daughter. And finally, adult children of alcoholics taught me that the home you grew up in can feel normal and therefore comforting, even if it is strongly disfunctional. So you can feel comfortable, and therefore offer trust to someone who is messed up and not trustworthy. Bottom line for me is that making trust decisions involves seeing the whole situation, the whole person, recognizing your own inbuilt blind spots, and being oh so careful when the potential for sexual abuse is present.

  2. Bruce says

    I view the concept of “gut feelings” differently since I thought of how it blends in to prejudice.
    Maybe 90-95% of people are just like you and me in most circumstances. But some special situations can change things. And some people are out of that normality. But unfortunately I think it’s a myth to guess that anyone can quickly tell which people are reliable in which contexts.
    So I think this means we should start out by trusting people, no matter how they look, in low risk situations. But as we get into higher risk scenarios, we need to ignore looks/guts/prejudice, either good or bad, and evaluate based on demonstrated behaviors in those contexts. For very risky situations, it can take a long time to develop that trust.

  3. robert79 says

    I moved counties (NL to US) at age 12, effectively losing all my elementary school friends. In middle/high school in the US, the group of kids I had started forming as my friend group kinda switched sides and joined the bullies in my age group.

    This seriously fucked up my natural friendship/trust detector… It took me several years for me to realise that I was interpreting any attempt to connect/bond with me as an attempt to find some weakness in me that could be exploited. But just recognising it really isn’t enough, habits formed in your teens stick… it took me another decade (or perhaps two) to really get over it.

    My gut feeling still says to distrust people though, I try to ignore it since most people (once they grow up) are actually quite nice.

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