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An Alternative to Describing Relationships

Why “Crossing the line” is not a sufficient metaphor for the breaking of trust

Shahrukh Raza
4 min readSep 14, 2021


“You crossed the line.”

It would be fair to say that most people hate to hear those words from somebody that they hold in a high regard — whether that be a friend, mentor, parent, lover, etc.

Trust is something that is of the utmost importance in people’s lives because without it, the alternative is a life that is riddled with constant doubt of other people’s intentions, actions, and sincerity. To some degree, we assign a level of trust to every person that we communicate with. To the random bystander in a public place, we are willing to have some small talk because we trust them with that but not specific details of our day. To the creepy guy at the train station late at night, we would not trust them even with that because of possible outcomes that we consider in our head.

The same reasoning can be applied to our acquaintances, friends, close friends, and family. Depending on your relationship and level of trust, we can only converse with some people about the weather while with others, we can talk about our day, and with only a few, we can (ideally) talk about our deepest fears and desires.

What I’m interested in discussing here is the metaphor of “crossing the line” that is said when the level of trust breaks. I don’t think that crossing a “line” is enough to express the implications of losing trust in somebody. When we cross a line, it is like jumping over a rope or maybe some arbitrary line on the side walk. Maybe it is some line made by chalk that a child decided to draw. These do not accurately describe that deep deep sense of darkness that one is plunged into where they see and feel nothing but the absence of certainty, absence of understanding, absence of light, and absence of trust. The metaphor is even close to being sufficient because if a line is crossed, then the person can simply jump back to the other side which is something that can relatively be done in an easy manner. I would disagree with that and so I propose another metaphor to highlight this.

A Plateau as an Analogy

The relationship between two people can be characterized as two individuals on a plateau. The depth of trust that they have for each other is signified by the height of said plateau. And so, for the person that we do not really have a deep connection with, the plateau that we are on with them is very short; this is for the acquaintance that we have small talk with, or the friend that we can only talk about surface level things with. As we continue to give parts of ourselves to another, the plateau increases in height on the summation of those very shared pieces. We add on to these plateaus with small thin layers of ourselves and slowly but steadily, It continues to grow as if trying to reach the skies. As the plateau rises in height, the stakes of that relationship also grow higher. These are our close friends and family; those whom we trust with the more intimate sides of ourselves. We become attached to them because of the bond, because of the shared experiences, because of the mutual feelings.

Now, what happens when one decides to break that mutual agreement of trust between the two people? One of the two goes into free fall, plummeting in proportion to the height and importance of that relationship. The act of falling is one that is already filled with fear and uncertainty and then they are magnified even more so because of the sudden shift. For essentially all of our lives we were grounded on solid earth. We thought we knew that person and then in an instant, our lives turn upside with nothing to ground us, with only the air of uncertainty surrounding us cutting all that we knew into smithereens.

Will somebody come out of that type of fall unscathed? Certainly not. They will have sustained injuries whether it be from the act of falling or the impact of reality truly setting in their minds. Depending on the height of the plateau, it is possible that they can be fixed and gather the effort to climb back up the plateau. But the scars will persist. Sometimes, they may be invisible with both people choosing to not acknowledge them but the existence of breaking somebody’s trust cannot be denied or ignored.

I think this analogy represents a more complete picture of a relationship between the trust of two people, and the repercussions of breaking that trust. While the plus side would be the potential to reach the skies and explore territories that you never have before (of both the outer and inner dimensions), what comes alongside with that is the possibility of it all rushing down to the ground and never really being the same.

The potential for gain and possibility of loss go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other.

I think (from my current naive experiences and knowledge) it is important for everybody to take the plunge at one point in their life or another. To attempt to rise to the “sky” with somebody, accepting fully that they also have the power to let you down to the earth; trusting that they won’t is where it all comes together.



Shahrukh Raza

Software Engineer. Interested in the Islamic sciences, psychology, coding, and recently physics!