The Trust Hormone: When Being Whole Puts You in Danger

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Ever hear of Williams syndrome? – Me neither, until a few months ago.

I was driving to work listening to an “All Things Considered” story on NPR. The narrator told the story of a little girl who has Williams syndrome, a condition in which a person’s brain indiscriminately produces too much of a hormone called oxytocin.

Her symptoms? – She trusts too much. She trusts everyone…anyone…always.

Let that sink in while you recall all the creepy people you’ve tried to steer your kids away from when they were little.

The Trust Hormone

Your brain generates oxytocin after you’ve had a positive encounter with another person. It creates feelings of trust, safety, friendship and affection. But her brain generates oxytocin more or less all the time. She will tell perfect strangers she loves them. She wants to hug them. She wants them to hold her. She’ll climb into their cars and buckle up. She loves people unconditionally, and she is a tragic scenario waiting to happen.

Her parents live an anxious life. They hope medical science can find a “fix” for her.

What’s really broken?

As I listened with sympathy for these parents, it occurred to me that maybe their little girl isn’t actually broken. Maybe she is a uniquely whole person. Maybe some part of her that is normally broken in others isn’t broken in her? What if she’s more “normal” than the rest of us? Maybe it’s not normal to distrust, to dislike, to dismiss.

But in a broken world, where the lust to exploit through sex or money or physical strength or social rank is the norm, this little girl will always be at risk.

How sad.

How sad that this un-average, uniquely whole person is uniquely at risk in our, dare I say, average world.

What’s happened to us?

Adam knows. Abel, the son of Adam, murdered by his brother Cain, knows. And most of all, Jesus, the Son of God knows. He knows but is not repulsed. He knows, and yet is so moved with compassion for our condition that He became a uniquely whole person, and placed himself uniquely at risk in our midst.

We grab at power to exploit others – we all do, even if in small, subtle ways we can easily rationalize – but He abandoned His power to rescue those who would kill Him.

Unconditional love

I hope science can “fix” this one little girl and others like her. But ultimately, the fix we all need can only come from the God who put himself at risk  – and arose to overcome it – to become our Savior.

At least, that’s where this average man’s trust will remain.

You can read the NPR story on the trust hormone here.

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One thought on “The Trust Hormone: When Being Whole Puts You in Danger

  1. Oxytocin is released when people have orgasms, and also when women give birth and breastfeed. It is one of God’s mechanisms for creating bonding moments between people. (And a decent premise for an argument against one-night stands.)

    I suspect you may be on to something about that little girl being less broken than the rest of us. A very interesting article.

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