Imagine trying to survive without trust. How could you drive anywhere unless you trusted the other drivers to follow traffic rules? Would you go to work if you didn’t have faith in your employer to pay your salary? Or, if you are the employer, would you hire anyone without the faith that they would carry out their responsibilities? It is clear, then, that we cannot disentangle ourselves from the necessity of trust. Trust is the glue that holds society together; without it there are grave consequences. Because of the betrayal of trust friendships end, families are torn apart, and countries go to war.
What’s astonishing about trust is it is our birthright. We are born with it. Take a look at any infant. Smile at it and it returns the smile. It trusts you, a stranger. Its mind is not yet contaminated by prejudice and its heart is not yet clogged by fear. It is only after experiencing betrayal that we have to make an effort to be trusting, otherwise it comes naturally.
As adults, we find it difficult to be completely trusting, for it makes us vulnerable. After all, if I offer myself to another, they may betray me. The result is disappointment and pain. The following story illustrates how difficult it is to yield to trust:
A man fell off a mountain and, as he fell, saw a branch and grabbed for it. By extraordinary effort he was able to get an insecure grip on it. As he was dangling precariously, he looked up and shouted, “Help!”
A deep majestic voice answered, “What can I do for you, my son?”
“Save me!” cried the man.
“I will,” said the voice, “just let go of the branch and you’ll be safe. All you have to do is trust me.”
The man thought for a moment and cried out: “Is there anyone ELSE up there who can help?”
It’s not easy to let go of our fears, suspicions, and doubts, but let go we must. The paradox of trust is there isn’t enough of it in the world; yet, at the same time, there is too much. Witness the endless tit-for-tat killings taking place between the Palestinians and Jews. This is an example of the need for trust, for the butchery won’t end until trust begins. On the other hand, foreign aid that was given to North Korea to feed its population was funneled toward strengthening its military and developing its nuclear weapons program. This betrayal of trust has considerably added to the tension in the world. But what are our choices? As author Frank Crane wrote, “You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you trust not enough.”
Yes, with all the treachery in the world it is easy to grow cynical, but it is far better to grow balanced instead. That is, rather than completely withholding trust offer it with prudence. Perhaps most auto repair shops are a den of thieves, but if we look around and talk to our friends, we’ll be able to uncover reputable shops that we can depend on for service. True, rampant dishonesty is disappointing, but because of it we appreciate trustworthy people all the more.
Let’s leave general considerations of trust for now, and look at practical matters to keep in mind.
1) The first person to learn to trust is you. When you trust in yourself, you are free, open to the world, and ready to receive its blessings. Begin by living up to every promise you make to yourself. When you do so, you grow reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. As a result, you will grow in confidence and others will place their trust in you. Get to know, value, cherish, admire, and respect who you are. It is only after doing so that you will be ready to trust others.
2) You have the ability to size up the situations you face, arrive at decisions after studying the options, and act upon those decisions. As you do so, you will experience success and learn to trust your judgement. As Golda Meir (1898 ~ 1978) said, “Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”
3) Remember, trust is a choice. It is always accompanied by risk. It is the choice to move away from fear and toward love. So, it is a beautiful choice. Although it is true not everyone is trustworthy, because we cannot read their hearts, it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt in the beginning. By treating everyone as trustworthy, until they prove to be otherwise, we open ourselves to the many riches others have to offer. Don’t try to protect yourself from betrayal by building a fortress that keeps out the blessings others are willing to share with you.
4) No one trusts a liar. So, don’t lie. If you were to do so, you would not only lose the trust of others, but you would not be able to trust yourself. Why do people lie? Sometimes it is to look good. Insecure, they lie about their credentials or talents, for example. Or they may fib about the reason for being late or away from work. Sometimes the lies that are perpetrated are lies of omission. For instance, Tom was warned by his wife to cut down on his spending because of their many bills. Nevertheless, Tom gives in to an urge to make another purchase and keeps this decision from his wife. But after the arrival of the credit card bill, his wife not only has the burden of trying to figure out how they will pay their bills, but now has the pain of being betrayed by her husband. Small wonder that Tom’s wife is in pain, for betrayal is nothing more than a lack of respect. It is an act of contempt that is equivalent to saying, “I don’t value you. I don’t cherish you. Your feelings are not as important as mine.” The good new is, however, that Tom can turn things around. That is, by confessing his weaknesses to his wife, and by making amends, he can actually strengthen the relationship and experience a deeper level of intimacy.
Because of the importance of trust, it will do well to keep in mind the words of Baltasar Gracian (1601 ~ 1658), “When a man’s knowledge is deep, he speaks well of an enemy. Instead of seeking revenge, he extends unexpected generosity. He turns insult into humor, …and astonishes his adversary who finds no reason not to trust him.” Or as Lao-tzu (6th century BC) has written, in his usual succinct style, “Who does not trust enough will not be trusted.”