I have been working for a few years with a digital marketing agency, and have had the honor of developing a friendship with the founder. We often refer clients to each other, and today I was thinking about what a relief it is that I can trust her judgment.
“It is so nice to have a friend whom I trust professionally,” I messaged her. “I trust recommending you to people and when you recommend me, I trust they’ll be good clients.”
Interestingly, I realized that, while she has worked actively to gain my trust by being a good leader, colleague, and worker, the relief arose chiefly from her lack of certain traits and behaviors. She is not a micro manager. She refrains from bad-mouthing people, even when they’ve been despicable. She isn’t manipulative. She never over promises or under delivers. Her lack of certain traits has been as important to building our relationship as her having others.
In the past year or so I’ve been thriving due to a sense of relief from the absence of certain things that I’ve had the opportunity to remove from my life: Getting up earlier than my body was ready for; worry about finances; the feeling that I was incapable of taking control over my life.
Growing up in Christianity, I was taught that there are sins of inaction that are just as bad as willful actions. These are called sins of omission (as opposed to sins of commission), and they include ignoring the poor or needy, not comforting those who need it, not feeding the hungry, or not giving thanks for the good that comes to you. These sins are comprised of willful inaction — knowing what is good and choosing not to do it.
Lately I’ve been considering virtues of omission, which would also be comprised of willful inaction — but in this case, knowing what is bad and not doing it. My colleague commits these virtues daily by not speaking ill of people behind their backs, not jockeying for a better limelight for herself, and not being disrespectful.
In the absence of these sorts of actions and behaviors, a trust has been born of relief. It’s a passive trust that grows in the empty space that relief provides.
In a cultural climate that emphasizes positivity to the point of ridiculousness, I have been interested to find that a negative space or lack can be as productive as an action. I’m enjoying relief in a calm, passive way. And I’m very grateful to be in a place where I can feel that.