What is Trust?

As I have been writing about dishonesty and how to overcome it, I have been thinking about the other side of this topic. It became apparent to me that to be able to learn how to stop lying, a person would need to know what truth is, as well as what trust is. Because even though you have stopped lying for a time, the ultimate goal is usually to rebuild trust and develop connections within a relationship.

To rebuild trust, you need to know what trust is. Without understanding what trust is and what it is not, you might find it hard to develop trust, thus causing stress in the relationship. Any stress can cause us to revert to old, unhelpful behaviors. I am going to help you figure out what trust is today. I want you to know a good definition of trust, some examples of trust, and some nuances to trust. Ultimately, trust is the ability to have complete faith in someone or something that you want to rely on.

How do you define trust?

Different dictionary definitions are on the internet, whether through dictionary.com or MerriamWebster.com. The definitions of trust we find are somewhat broad. So let’s just take our time to sift through them to better understand what trust is.

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Trust could also be assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.

What does it mean to have a firm belief?

Let’s stop there and talk about this definition. A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. When you hear the words “a firm belief,” the meaning says that you are holding strongly to the idea that this thing we are believing in is reliable, truthful, and has the ability we need, or possibly the strength we need. I like that it says firm belief because it emphasizes that we are unwavering in this belief we are putting our faith in.

Let’s move forward to what other aspects of trust we can find.

Trust can be attributed to someone or something that we place our confidence in. It can mean dependence on something in the present or the future. Another variation of trust seems to say that we have hope in something. Yet, another form of trust is when you place faith or confidence in something or someone.

What does trust mean as a verb?

We see that it means:

    • to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of or to believe
    • to place confidence in, to rely on
    • to Hope or expect confidently
    • to commit or place in one’s care or keeping
    • to entrust to permit to stay or go
    • to do something without fear of misgiving

What about the term, trustworthiness?

Trustworthiness means that someone is worthy of confidence or dependable.

A simpler definition of trust…

A simpler definition of trust, especially in marriages or relationships, is the ability to count on someone else to do what they say they’re going to do, follow through, and not hurt us.

What are synonyms of trust?

If you know me, I like to look at synonyms too. You may have seen some in the definitions above. Looking at definitions helps us to pick out synonyms.

Here they are: Dependable, confidence, faith, stock, Credence, credit, reliable, secure, sure, safe, responsible, solid, and true.

Examples of Trust

Let’s talk a little more about trust. There’s an old example that people bring up when they talk about trust. That is the example of sitting in a chair. We all sit on furniture or chairs. Every day we trust those chairs not to fall or break. All of us have also seen funny videos of someone sitting in a chair, the leg breaks, and they fall over, especially old, plastic chairs.

Here is a question: What other examples of trust or not trusting do you see in your life?

Let me give you a few of mine. I trust in God, most of the time (WE CAN GET INTO THAT LATER). A funny one is that I don’t like heights.

A funny story about heights…

A big attraction to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of these high-suspended Bridges. Our pastor does not like heights either. I remember our pastor raising money for Speed the light, a charity for helping out missionaries, where he decided to tell everybody that if we raised a certain amount of money he would wear a chicken costume and walk across that suspended Bridge.

Now his fear to cross that bridge was incredibly High. That’s why the metaphor of the chicken costume was funny. He didn’t want to cross that bridge, but we were able to raise enough money to meet his challenge. The outcome: He wore the chicken outfit, walked across that bridge, and lived to tell the story. When we talk about trust there’s a certain amount of distrust he had in that bridge. We will talk about the other side of trust in a minute.

Some other examples of trust that I can share are: I have trust in my parents, my wife, my car to get me where I am going, the police, almost all chairs, most restaurants that are serving good food, and most doctors.

Do you see a trend here?

I am saying most…

Basically, I have a bit of distrust in some areas too. Many of those things I distrust depend on how they look and act, how old they are, where their allegiance lies, and many other factors.

The Nuances to Trust

Another side of understanding what is trust is to know what it is not. Trust is not fear or anxiety or worry. When we have fear, worry, or anxiety there is an obvious lack of trust in the thing that we are facing. You can have a lack of trust in many things. For example a spouse’s financial habits or abilities,  a bridge, or an old car that has over 200,000 miles. What things do you lack confidence in?

Partial trust in someone or something is possible!

Another interesting tidbit about trust is that you can have partial trust in something or someone. You can have trust in one area and not in another, especially in relationships. I can trust a person to hand me tools,  but maybe I can’t trust them to hold onto $100 for me. It’s less likely we trust people with our money as opposed to other things.

I struggle with trusting people to babysit my children. I struggle with trusting our school systems, although I trust many of the teachers that work in the school systems that I know. You can even trust something a little, but maybe not to the full extent. These are nuances.

When it comes to God sometimes we trust God, but we do not fully. We may say we do but we only do to an extent. I want to show you that trust is more complicated than we think it is. We are talking about absolute 100% firm belief versus something that may be a little more simple and clear cut and not in the gray area. Unfortunately, in most relationships, what we trust and don’t trust about people can get very gray.

So I want you to understand what trust is and accept that you do trust some things and not other things. That’s a fact and it’s NORMAL.

How does truth factor into trust?

To know what to trust, you need to know the truth. Truth is something that is absolute fact and never will not be fact. It doesn’t change. A fact is something that is a fact now but may not be a fact later. Truth is absolute. Again, it does not change. We can count on truth and TRUST it. We can’t always trust facts. 

I think it is important to make a distinction and understand truth because when we are trying to build trust, the truth can help us build a solid foundation. It is hard to trust something if you don’t know some amount of what is true. Work to find out what is true, but keep it simple. Sometimes we can work too hard. I am not encouraging you to dig all through your spouse’s history or phone. I am just encouraging you to establish a few things you can stand firm on.


I like word studies. A like to figure out what I am dealing with when I’m working on something. It’s so helpful and provides more context to a situation that we are trying to better understand. If you are having trust issues in your relationship. It helps to understand what is trust and what is not trust. It’s hard to rebuild trust if you don’t understand what trust looks like or whether I do or don’t trust something. I’ve had many clients come in and sit down and say I don’t know if I trust my partner AT ALL.  It helps to define what you can and cannot trust.

So today I want you to sit down and write down what you fear, what your anxieties are, and what you can and can’t trust. Be honest with yourself and you will find the truth about what you trust and can stand on those things while you rebuild trust in other areas.

Brandon Coussens, LMFT

Brandon Coussens, LMFT


Brandon Coussens is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC. To find out more about him you can go HERE.

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