Trust, Vulnerability and a Marble Jar

BLOG- VulnerabilityI’ve trusted people I shouldn’t have. I’ve opened my heart and been hurt.

I’ve expected loyalty but got betrayal.

At one time or another, haven’t we all?

Trusting someone requires vulnerability. What I’ve learned, the hard way, is that you can’t allow yourself to be vulnerable with just anyone. People have to earn your trust. I used to just give it away- no prerequisites.

My mother (I think I’ve mentioned) used to call me Tinker Bell. And it was mostly because of this- I was too trusting. I couldn’t fathom that someone would deliberately hurt me: repeat a secret I’d shared or make fun of me in a group.

I was wrong.

Brene Brown, a research professor, writes about trust and vulnerability in her book, Daring Greatly. She says that vulnerability is full of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experience. It is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.

In my defense, understanding that vulnerability was the road map to those gifts was the reason I opened myself up again and again.

But I didn’t know about the Marble Jar.

When Brene Brown’s third grader came home from school devastated because a girl in her class revealed her embarrassing secret to her entire peer group, Brene’ struggled with how to best teach her daughter about trust and connection.

She didn’t want her daughter to operate out of fear and become disconnected in an attempt to stay “safe”. Even though it makes sense that after a betrayal someone might disengage and stop trusting, it is heartbreaking to imagine that outcome because one of life’s greatest joys is connection.

Her daughter’s teacher kept a clear glass jar on her desk, and whenever the class did something positive she put marbles in the jar. Whenever the class did something negative, she took marbles out. That day, the class was so unruly she took marbles out of the jar.

Brene told her daughter to think of her friendships as marble jars.

“Whenever someone supports you, or is kind to you, or sticks up for you, or honors what you share with them as private, you put marbles in the jar. When people are mean, or disrespectful, or share your secrets, marbles come out.”

I’d say this marble jar idea holds up in any relationship: parent, child, sibling, friend, lover, spouse, co-worker.

I love the Marble Jar metaphor. It is a concrete reminder, one that is useful for someone who is 8 and someone who is 48, that trust is built one marble at a time.

BLOG-MARBLE JAR