For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen a Word of the Year – one value which I wish to embody in my life. It’s always been one of my values, but there’s always one that stands out more than others. For 2022, that word is Mastery:
the mastery of self (self-awareness and the resulting self-control) as well as
knowing more (knowledge and understanding) and
putting that new learning into practice.
Because to know anything is to do things differently from before.
Life management is about being well adjusted. … being able to stand against the wind of disappointment. Time is not really the important element. It is what time represents that matters. Time management is not about a list of things in order of priority that must be completed… Time management is about life management.
Given that life is mostly about intangible things, does it not make sense to learn to control them – things such as thoughts, desires, anger, curiosity, ambition, motivation, sadness, hurt and sorrow? Althought we live in a tangible world, life itself occurs within our mind, spirit and soul.
Jonar C. Nader, How to Lose Friends & Infuriate People, a controversial book for thinkers.
For me, this is the essence of what I am reminded of when I read Proverbs – self-awareness and then the option for self-control.
The wisdom of Proverbs
One of the many things that I’ve had on my “I wish I had time to do” list is to deep dive back into Proverbs. Of all the books of the Bible, this is one of the two that most resonates with me. The other one is the book of James.
Proverbs has a special place in my heart because I remember my dad reading it to me every night before bed. Occasionally, we would talk about what a verse meant. But more often than not, it was just a reading of a chapter or a portion of a chapter.
I was left with many more questions than answers.
Of course, many times, we try to read Proverbs literally, and not all of it can be understood with a literal meaning.
My experience with Proverbs is that different ones “jump out at me” at different moments in life. Moreover, I’ve interpreted them differently, depending on what I’ve been learning at the time.
As with any proverbs, many of them take time to digest and understand.
The usefulness of Proverbs
In the very first chapter of Proverbs, there is a small introduction, although there is debate as to how much of the book of Proverbs this introduction applies to.
I find it irrelevant who the author of Proverbs was: I don’t read the book of Proverbs because of who wrote it.
Throughout my life, I’ve turned to Proverbs when I’m in turmoil. And these last three years have had their fair share of inner (and outer) turmoil.
Consider how other translations present the introduction to Proverbs:
These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. 5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
The place of Proverbs
Proverbs is one of the five books of Wisdom of the Bible, together with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.
I find it interesting that two of these books are poetry and psalms, rather than writings of wisdom, per se. And yet, all five of the books offer unique perspectives on life and the experiences of life.
But, as you will have noticed from the introduction to Proverbs, it has lofty goals:
the discipline of wise thoughtfulness
astute common sense
a manual for living
to understand what life means
lead others to the truth
The road to wisdom
So, over the coming weeks and months, I intend to take a new journey through Proverbs and re-examine how it impacts my life. What new wisdom can I glean from these pages?
Over recent weeks, in my healing journey, I have been examining my relationship with trust. It first came to my attention when I looked at my business decisions, especially mistakes that I have made over the past 20 years. But, in recent days, I noticed a pattern emerge.
The beauty of recognising patterns of behaviour is that it opens the door for change and transformation. What I’ve noticed is a swinging pendulum in my life between distrust and blind trust. This pattern has cost me thousands of dollars, as well as relationships and creating heartbreak.
It is in seeing my actions and omissions accurately that the doors open.
The truth sets us free.
Let me provide you with some concrete examples:
In my early business days, I hired a friend to run one of my companies. Because I was overwhelmed and swamped with the growth in business and hiring new staff, I failed to supervise her properly. She was struggling in getting everything done, and I wasn’t available to support her. I didn’t ask how things were going, instead choosing to focus exclusively on my own overwhelm. Unfortunately, while she was getting the client work done, she wasn’t invoicing the client for it! By the time I realised the mess in accounts receivable and payable, the client had accrued some $40,000.00 in services they hadn’t paid for. Thankfully, the client eventually paid all outstanding invoices. But it took years to get fully up to date, and I bore the financial brunt of being caught between suppliers and financing a client. When I’m overwhelmed, I shut down, dissociate from the present, and turn to blind trust.
In March 2009, I left on holiday for three weeks to New Zealand. I chose the dates based on the weather (end of summer) and flight costs (cheaper because summer holidays were over and it wasn’t yet Easter). I was overwhelmed and exhausted after restructuring staff following the 2008 markets crash. Unfortunately, March 31st is the end of tax season – which meant that my company tax returns were prepared and presented in my absence. The company accountant and external accountants included a refundable expense in “income”, an extra $54,000 in ghost income! As a result, my income tax bill that year was $27,000.00 when it should have been less than $9,000.00. But, you prepay taxes for the next year, based on the estimates of what you paid the previous year! So, not only was I hit with the current tax bill, but my estimated taxes for the next year were identical, giving me a tax credit for years to come. My blind trust created a substantial financial pinch.
I could provide you with many more examples in my professional life where I have distrusted, micro-managed and controlled every aspect of an employee’s performance, to those moments where I am overwhelmed and shut down, leading to no involvement or supervision at all.
Trust = firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
Distrust = the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon.
Blind faith or blind trust: “unquestioning belief in something, even when it’s unreasonable or wrong”. I take it to mean “trust in spite of evidence to the contrary” or blindly ignoring evidence that perhaps they are undeserving of your complete trust.
How trauma informs our state of mind
Unfortunately, this pattern is not something I learned as an adult, and I’ve been using this pattern since early childhood. When I get overwhelmed, the easiest solution is to shut down and freeze, and this takes me into dissociation from the present moment and avoidance. In these cases, blind faith and trust in others become the only option, and I can’t trust myself.
Hypervigilance at the other end of the pendulum presents itself as distrust, micro-managing every situation as I attempt to control the outcome. Of course, this is exhausting, making me angry (an emotion that I was taught not to acknowledge as a child) and frustrated. To avoid anger, I would rebound into dissociation and shut down.
I never learned how to stay in the middle: in balance, calm and being alert. I struggle on so many levels with trust, and this shows up in my life on every level:
I could choose to sit in victimhood: “this is how I am, because of my childhood“. But I choose not to. I started to look at my patterns as generative learning – an opportunity to grow and change. And I share these learnings with you, because I want you to recognise that you have options and choices available to you.
As I have begun to experience inner peace, the wisdom of trust has become available.
The human experiences that break trust, building distrust
Years ago, I denied being traumatised at boarding school because I wasn’t regularly beaten and abused. Anger and speaking up would earn you a beating, being labelled a Jezebel, or having a rebellious spirit.
I avoided beatings by being “a good girl”, knowing when to shut my mouth and swallowing any anger I felt. The survival skills I learned were to shut down, dissociate, and walk away. Unfortunately, those skills are not very resourceful and helpful in my life anymore.
There are many moments that I wish I were rebellious, angry & unruly. How I wish I had been the wild child that baulked the system and stood up against injustices, daring to question unfair authority. Instead, I chose the safety and security of apathy, withdrawal and indifference. Unfortunately, as an adult, I still struggle with dealing with my anger, boundaries and injustice. As a lawyer, it’s easy to stand up for others. But I shrink instead of standing up for myself. I avoid confrontations of a personal nature, even when they would clear the air.
Through it all, I am entrenched in my independence. Of course, as I know now – hyper-independence is merely a symptom of trauma: unable to ask for help because I can’t trust others. Can I even trust myself?
Taught to obey Church leaders without question:
We had verses drummed into us, which in themselves were not wrong. But was the interpretation of these verses rightly applied?
Under no circumstances were we, children, to question those in authority because they were “appointed by God”. And if God wanted to remove them for wrongdoing, then it was merely our duty to “pray about it” rather than to do anything.
Even the hymns we sang reminded us that we were to “Trust and Obey” rather than stand up for ourselves or others. Helplessness was ingrained, and anything that was not as it “should be” was “God’s will”, and we were to endure it.
Biblical teachings: the human heart
But that wasn’t the only weapon in the arsenal of submission. In reading the below verses, repeatedly we heard: “The heart is deceitful above all things”. Divine Justice prevailing, to each according to their ways, patterns and actions received little mention. Instead, beatings were justified because our hearts were deceitful.
Those in power were above all of that.
How can I trust myself if I believe that my heart is deceitful? What relationship or trust can I build with others if they are devious and incurably sick in their hearts?
If you question what I am telling you, you lack faith. Instead, you should “pray about it” and “trust God” to solve this for you.
If the prevalent attitude about human nature is one of sin and depravity, then there is no trust.
Maureen Murdock, “The Heroine’s Journey”
Divide and conquer has worked for centuries, both within the church and politics, and it’s as quickly at work today as it always has been. Even today, we hear who to distrust and then expected to place blind trust in authority.
But blind faith means that you have no ownership of your spiritual path or will. It relieves you of responsibility, creating victimhood. And victims are powerless, easy to manipulate.
I am so grateful for learning a new way: what it means to have a healthy trust.
As much as I would like to say that my journey back to trust began with trusting Divine Presence in my life, that’s not the truth of my journey. My transformation started with an exploration of self-awareness for personal growth, and spiritual healing occurred after learning and personal development.
The first step back to trust was:
In noticing my patterns of distrust and blind trust, I could explore what healthy trust means. Emotional and spiritual healing have come together as I worked with forgiveness of myself and others.
My trust in the Divine grows as I let go of my need to micro-manage and control every tiny detail. And in living in the Spirit, I trust my insight and intuition to build relationships with others.
What does it mean to trust me, others and Divine Presence?
The elements of trust
Trust is not something we do from a place of apathy, withdrawal or dissociation. It is active and engaged: trust requires relaxed courage, curiosity, and calm presence.
According to Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka, in their book mBraining, they identify the four elements of trust (learning to trust yourself):
Other authors and writers similarly identify the basic requirements of trust as:
These authors point towards the same essential characteristics and requirements of trust. As difficult as it is, I have tried to group these together in a simple explanation:
Is all about listening as well as sharing
As Covey says: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”
To build trust, it’s necessary to voice your wants, needs, desires and motives. It’s okay to have self-interest, but be open about what those interests are
“intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.”
Trust begins when we are open & transparent – even with ourselves
It is recognising my value and the value of others, leading to genuine empathy & understanding
Clear & heartfelt commitment to my personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of others
Only then can we build trusted relationships
Actions – Consistency & Character:
In order to build trust, there has to be congruence and alignment between what I say and do! This applies as much to promises I make to myself as what I promise others.
Predictable, reliable, & full of integrity
Loyalty, honour & duty
Respect and selfless service
Oriented to values and the vision – not just selfish interest
Clear set of principles, so you can be on the same wavelength
Can be counted upon
Ability – Competency & Credibility:
Mastery – skilled & knowledgeable
Has a domain of expertise and performs their functions well
Will speak up and give their point of view on the matter at hand from a point of knowledge
Stays current & up to date
Self-assured in their competence
Demonstrating progress towards goals
Emotional and spiritual healing: rebuilding trust
When I look back at boarding school and these four qualities of trust, I find those in authority sorely lacking. If they had known better, they would have done better. But they lacked communication skills; they were authoritarian rather than compassionate. When I look at their actions, looking for consistency and character, I find them predictable, but I couldn’t count on them. They were not always congruent in what they said and did, as the rules did not apply equally to all. Perhaps worst of all, they were not skilled and knowledgeable, although they believed themselves to be.
We were left with an expectation of blind faith and trust in authority because the essential elements of a healthy trust were missing.
I now recognise that I have a proactive role in building relationships: I listen to the desires of my heart and trust my gut. I stay engaged and curious, rather than withdrawing. Instead of seeing myself as helpless and needing to be rescued, I recognise that I must play a part in building my future.
True faith is an inner alignment with yourself and with God. It’s a balance of trusting the universe to provide and doing your part to co-create with the Creator.
Letting the Infinite flow in my life: rebuilding trust
The road back to faith, trust and hope is uneven and rocky. Sometimes, it’s the procession of three steps forward and two steps back as I fall into habitual patterns of blind trust or distrust.
I am learning to communicate and listen. As I consistently practise the presence of the Divine in my life, I hear the small, still voice of Spirit. It requires that I quiet my mind – that I sit in Silence and allow my heart to be still. It’s a daily practice in which my mastery builds up each day.
I have to choose to be open and transparent; it doesn’t happen naturally. There are times I want to shut down, and I have to make a conscious choice to be vulnerable and compassionate. When I commit to building relationships with myself, others, and the Divine, trusting relationships open up for me.
I sit in the Silence each morning to reconnect and refill my heart with the faithful love of Divine Presence, for I trust in Divine Love. Each morning I listen to how I should walk and allow my Spirit to submit fully to Spirit
Ps. 143: 8
My understanding of what it means to rely on the Divine entirely has changed: it is no longer helplessness. I am not frozen in fear, unable to think logically or approach life with curiosity. I’m not keeping myself safe by being emotionally disengaged or apathetic. Instead, I am choosing to be fully present and connected.
From this place, I still choose trust, faith and hope.
Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on the Divine completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions. Give the Great Creator the credit for everything you accomplish, trusting that Divine Love will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead.
Prov. 3: 5-6
Other posts your might find interesting on Blind Faith:
When we say “lead us not into temptation”, most of us think of temptation as “sin”. But I want to suggest that temptation is the desire to do something, especially something that is considered wrong or unwise. I also invite you to define sin as to “miss the mark” – i.e. to take your eyes off the target and fail to shoot straight.
Lead us not into temptation, could very well be understood as: let me not get side-tracked and forget my priorities and purpose. Lead me not into the temptation of getting so busy and worked up that I forget the goal that I am working towards.
We say “resist the Devil, and he will flee from you”, but the devil is in the details, in the little things. The devil is in all the ways that I waste time and get off track.
The reality is that while pride, self-aggrandisement may well be an enticement, the real temptation is much more subtle. Temptation usually presents itself in the form of shiny objects that remove our focus from greatness and allow us to settle for good. We accept the simple pleasures now, rather than working hard towards long-term goals.
We turn and look at all of our differences, rather than seeing how we are all loved and connected to each other and the Divine.
Where your treasure is…
How do you keep your purpose and vision before you? What do you prioritise above other things?
One of the ways to realise what your priorities are is to consider asking others what they see in you. I did that today and asked others what my treasures were. These are some of the answers that I received:
my rescues – cats & dogs
consistency, getting stuff done, tenacity, unmatched courage and tenacity in the face of challenges
compassion, capacity to love, sharing, enthusiastic encouragement of and deep empathy for those around you
passion, fire, zest, energy, motivation
insane levels of capacity to learn and execute that learning under pressure, inquisitive, intellect, brilliant, knowledge
smile, beautiful face, eyes
depth, intuitive wisdom
positive vibes, positivity
And yet several things are missing that I truly treasure:
Silence, nature & meditation
Sleep (how did they miss sleep?)
Health & wellness
Another way that you can see what your treasures are: have a look at how you invest your time and where you spend your money. In which case, without a doubt, I have the following priorities (in no particular order):
my daughter, health & pets
too much social media for my own good!
And definitely, too much time spent looking at business and social media metrics and results, without actually looking at what actions I will take to change those results
Lead us not into temptation … caught up being busy, rather than actually living our purpose!
Take a sheet a paper, drawing a line down the middle. On one side, you write down your priorities and what is essential in your life. What do I treasure? Now, on the other hand, for the next 7 days, write down where you spend your time and money.
Where are you lead into temptation?
I have many tools that I use to keep me focused on the target:
my values: 6 words that I keep before me each day:
a vision board: a visual representation of what I want to make manifest in my life
A list of 50: fifty things that I said at the beginning of the year were necessary to do this year. They are divided into ten sections, including health, spiritual practice & growth, holidays, income streams, professional growth, etc. But a reminder that action and works are equally important in this life.
That is what I focus my attention on each day: reminders that keep me on track so that I am less likely to be led into temptation by the shiny objects that appear in my path.
Where attention goes, energy flows
It is so easy to get caught up in being “busy”, with your focus on a to-do list and day-to-day demands on your time. Are you intentional about how you focus?
Now that you have had an opportunity to review your life, what are you pouring yourself into? What do you invest your time thinking about? What consumes your thoughts?
As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.
Your thoughts are busy creating who you are – what you will say and then what you will do. A simple change in your focus and attention will allow you to pour your energy and effort into your purpose.
This, in turn, allows you to get new results.
What’s on your mind today?
The most important thing to remember is the most important thing.
What is distracting you from the most critical priorities?
Lead me not into the temptation of distractions, chasing my tail, and putting out fires.
When I am grounded and centred, I remember that I get my prize for performing on my stage. Not as a guest performance on someone else’s expectations and priorities.
Where is my purpose in my daily schedule? How does my agenda reflect my values? Or am I easily distracted by shiny objects that lead me into temptation?
Today I invite you to scrutinise where you invest your time, energy and money.
How many hours a week are you spending on social media or watching TV?
How much quality time do you spend with your family & friends?
Do you spend too much time at work? Could you change the way you travel to and from work so that this time is used more effectively (for example, I discovered that when I drive, I can listen to a podcast, while if I take a cab or Uber, I can work on the iPad or laptop)?
Does your schedule adequately reflect your priorities and what you tell yourself is important?
What “shiny objects” get you side-tracked and off-focus? Where are you led into temptation?
Unless you have your priorities clearly identified – as the treasures of your heart and mind, clearly set out in front of you – life will happen and get in the way. You will chase after a good idea, forgetting that it’s not aligned with your call to greatness!
Today, I invite you to focus on your target and find ways to consistently maintain that focus, so that you are not lead into temptation. Keep your eyes on becoming all that you can be, that
dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine. (CS Lewis)