Wouldn’t it be great to be able to trust everyone? Imagine a world where we could leave our hypothetical windows unlocked and our doors wide open. How would you feel in such a place? Safe? Secure? Able to accomplish great things?
Psychologically, trust is required for us to work together effectively. Barbara Misztal, in her book,”Trust in Modern Societies: The Search for the Bases of Social Order” points out three basic things that trust does in the lives of people:
- It makes social life predictable
- It creates a sense of community
- It makes it easier for people to work together
Trust brings us together.
In our personal lives however, a common view of trust is that it’s something we do when we are naive. Here’s some quotes:
Cuts, scars, bruises, lies and fake laughs. Fake smiles, constant cries and a horrifying past. Promises broken, lost loves.. and the “trust me” that didn’t last.
Trust is like a mirror..once its BROKEN you can never look at it the same again…
So it’s better not to trust. Better to harden up:
Sometimes trusting a friend is the hardest thing to do. Even the closest friends can become your enemies.
Trust no one, tell your secrets to nobody and no one will ever betray you.
I’ve learned the best way to prevent your heart from getting broken, is to act like you don’t have one.
To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.
So it seems desirable to trust, that it feels great to be trusted and yet trusting will only get you hurt.
Obviously we have trust in some people, institutions and things, otherwise we wouldn’t get our of bed, but I think it’s true to say that the whole world has trust issues.
What is trust?
The dictionary defines trust as:
Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Ok, we believe in the reliability, truth, ability and strength of someone or something. But what does belief mean? We automatically assume that belief is positive, a belief in a positive agency, but of course belief is not always positive.
Trusting in Outcomes
I can believe that the hungry cat will eat the cat food if given the opportunity, because I believe that hungry cats will do so. Could I not also trust that the cat will eat the catfood?
The Scorpion and the Frog is a story about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion explains that this is simply its nature. The fable is used to illustrate the view that the behaviour of some creatures, or of some people, is irrepressible, no matter how they are treated and no matter what the consequences.
So in life, if we meet people who we understand exhibit certain undesirable behaviours we can decide to:
- Trust in their good intent (and ultimately be disappointed when they fail)
- Mistrust those people and avoid them
A more powerful thing to do would be to trust these people regardless of the outcome, or perhaps because of the outcome that we knew was coming all along.
Why not, instead of trusting that a person lives up to our expectations, trust that the person will be true to their nature?
If we know someone to be a scorpion, why not believe and trust that they will sting. Why not let go of the idea that they are “bad”, assume that the scorpion will be true to his nature and protect ourselves, if necessary, from the sting, not the person.
We must be careful we do not put too much trust in the societal role that the person plays. We all have slightly different expectations of what a “manager”, a “teacher”, a “partner” or a “leader” actually is. If we rely on these stereotypes to “know” someone, we will inevitably have unrealistic expectations.
Most people we meet aren’t willingly malevolent. All have interesting stories to tell, are probably worth knowing and will add to the richness of our lives. Admittedly this is not always the case, but it can be.
If we accept their “imperfections” and show genuine trust, they may sense this and take it as a compliment. If we trust in their nature (and our understanding of this will change over time) we will find ways of relating to them that will give us a feeling of safety and security.
So, there it is. Give the gift of trust with automatic protection from consequences. It’s going to work. Trust me.