A 2022 Pew Research study notes: “Today, two-in-ten Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always (2%) or most of the time (19%).”
A max trust factor of 19% for our elected officials? Unfortunately, no one is likely to be surprised by this stat.
However, most of us would cringe if our spouses talked like this: “I mostly trust him/her 19% of the time!”
“Trust is absolutely essential to the companionship and intimacy that hold relationships together. Yet it is also one of the hardest things to earn and keep.” – The Anatomy Of Love, Lucy Brown PhD and Helen Fisher PhD
What is trust versus accountability?
Trust and accountability belong in the same photograph together, like two inseparable friends. The difference lies in where the camera is focused.
Accountability zooms in on who you are in real life. How do you own up to your actions, choices, and the consequences of these decisions? Are you trustworthy?
Trust focuses on what someone else believes about you. It’s like a savings account, too, where you’ve earned trust over time. A good friend trusts you to keep your word, to tell them the truth, and to be loyal and kind to them.
In fact, they would highly recommend you to someone else if you’ve earned their trust!
An ancient proverb states: “ A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…” Proverbs 22:1
Why is trust important in accountability?
There are many reasons why trust is important in genuine accountability. However, two stand out especially.
Meaningful relationships are destroyed by lack of accountability and trust
Too many times, we’ve heard customers share this sad story about repeated pornography use: “I’ve destroyed trust in my relationship with my spouse or significant other.”
Reaping the long-term consequences of lies and deceit hurts! Understandably a spouse will, as Brene’ Brown says, “feel used and mistreated.” Most of us despise empty promises. If your relationships lack the “trust factor”, they are doomed to failure.
On the positive side, trust is a core value, the very foundation of all great relationships! Trust can be earned. However, radical humility and accountability is the only path to rebuild broken trust. Here’s why.
Genuine accountability “brings the receipts” to build trust
At first, practicing accountability might feel like hiking an impossibly steep, rocky mountain trail. Trust builds over time. The problem is, over time we’ve all experienced having our trust broken.
Broken promises break hearts!
If trust has been broken, evidence of genuine steps toward change is the only thing that will rebuild trust. In fact, refusing to be accountable is characteristic of a narcissist.
Wise people legitimately ask – bring me proof that you’re trustworthy. Accountability provides that proof.
“Exhibiting accountability over time is a gateway to trust. When we see someone acting with accountability, we gain the evidence we need to trust them.” ~ Mike Erwin and Willys Devall
Can broken trust be restored?
The short answer is “Yes”, but the process is long and takes hard work, many therapists agree.
“Healing is a journey, but when two people are deeply committed to understanding, making amends, and recommitting, magic can happen.” – choosingtherapy.com
Although here we’re focusing on choosing accountability, we offer many helpful resources for couples backed by science and psychology.
How does responsibility build trust?
Taking responsibility for your actions is the first step toward lasting change.
When you admit you have a problem with porn, you start gaining clarity. You can’t change what you don’t identify as a problem. Gaining clarity is the first step toward solving any challenge.
Next, full disclosure over the length and depth of your pornography use is important. In reality, this presents a big challenge for many! So, we’ve created an in-depth guide for talking about pornography together.
If you’ve broken trust with someone you love over a long period of time, expect that trust is going to take longer to rebuild.
At the same time, admitting to your spouse that you’ve struggled with porn since your teen years helps them understand your challenges better.
Being responsible shows you care.
Taking intentional action steps toward actual change shows your spouse (or partner) you are serious. You signal that you understand your life choices negatively impact your relationship. Validating their feelings tells them you care. Marriage therapist John Gottman calls this “attuning” to your spouse.
Are you willing to become uncomfortable in order to change? That’s where accountability, responsibility, and trust work hand in hand.
For example, being open and accountable with someone else about your porn use is initially uncomfortable. However, it demonstrates you put high value on rebuilding trust in your relationship. You want to become a person they can believe in!
Blaming is replaced by becoming.
Accountability is not about blaming, but it does help you overcome blame-shifting! Amazingly, accountability helps you shift gears in your brain.
Instead of just focusing on your porn problem, you begin to focus on your goals.
Simply start by asking yourself a few vital questions. Then share these positive goals with your accountability partner.
- Who do I admire?
- What traits about them are inspiring?
- Who do I want to become in five years?
- What is one step I can take this week toward becoming this person?
- Will you check-in with me on this step toward my goals?
Brain science shows that writing down and affirming your goals to yourself regularly helps you create momentum toward positive changes! Having someone else affirm these with you is powerful.
Take heart! Building trust and accountability happens one step at a time.
Accountability becomes easier over time, as your accountability muscle gains strength through repeated practice. You just have to keep practicing the right steps.
“Americans’ Views of Government: Decades of Distrust, Enduring Support for Its Role.” Pew Research Center, 6 June 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2022/06/06/americans-views-of-government-decades-of-distrust-enduring-support-for-its-role/. Accessed 18 August 2023.
Kleiman, Nicole, and Benjamin Troy. “How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship: 20 Tips from Therapists.” Choosing Therapy, 29 November 2021, https://www.choosingtherapy.com/how-to-rebuild-trust/. Accessed 18 August 2023.
Manaher, Shawn. “How Are These Words Connected? Accountability vs Trust: How Are These Words Connected?” The Content Authority, https://thecontentauthority.com/blog/accountability-vs-trust. Accessed 18 August 2023.
Montanaro, Domenico. “Americans’ growing distrust with political institutions has real consequences.” NPR, 3 May 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/05/03/1173382045/americans-arent-thrilled-with-the-government-the-supreme-court-is-just-one-examp. Accessed 18 August 2023.