Many of us claim to be skeptical, trusting little. Yet I find this isn’t true at all. I think the majority of us trust constantly, even if we know better and have had our trust abused. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Perhaps that is the only way to know if you can trust someone.
Take for instance the federal budget and its threatened government shut down. Thomas Jefferson said, “When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.” Didn’t we all feel like our leaders and representatives had failed us in their lack of cooperation, as though they had violated our trust in them? But who among them would we vote for again? And to quote our current President Barack Obama, “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.” I wonder who among our leaders remembers this.
Wall Street entities took our pensions and 401K funds. Nobody claimed responsibility, no one has been prosecuted except for Bernie Madoff. But who was ‘minding the store’ – to borrow an appropriate adage – while the funds managers were making unsound decisions and overly risky investments? Where were the brokering commissioners and the watchdogs while this was taking place? We all ask these questions while continuing to funnel hard earned funds back into the market, trusting once again. To quote another President – Ronald Reagan, who said succinctly – “Trust, but verify.”
Who among us has not faced betrayal? Maybe that betrayal showed up in a spouse, best friend, family member, co-worker. But when it comes from people we see daily and with whom we have a bond of trust, it levels us in a way that is violent. If corporate violations are the gentle erosion of trust over time, those acts committed by loved ones and affiliates are a land slide – the sudden breaking off of an entire portion of our souls. To trust again takes as long as the rebuilding of the ocean cliff after the sea wall caves. It’s traumatic and shattering. We vow never to trust again and construct retaining walls of concrete reinforced with steel. Then suddenly, one day out of the blue, our skepticism goes on holiday where it finds a new home and abandons us. C’est la vie! We’re back in the game.
I’ve been noticing a lot about trust lately. Perhaps it is more than trust – perhaps it is faith. Have we ever not trusted things of the earth? We have faith that the sun will rise and that the moon will always cycle through it’s phases. We trust that other drivers will remain in their lanes although there are no barriers keeping them there. We believe in the United States Postal Service and its uncanny ability to take a letter dropped into a box and deliver it to any place on earth. We have confidence in our paid professionals; doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants and trust their advice. Our beauty consultants such as manicurists, hairdressers, and aestheticians are trusted. Perhaps that is why we are so reticent to leave them and will stay with the same ones for decades. We trust the weather forecasters and dress accordingly.
So with all of this trust in the ability of others, why is it hard to trust ourselves? This is really where the core of trust and belief break down. We hear our inner voices and turn down the volume. Other people know better – they are wiser and more informed, we answer back thus intimidating ourselves. We beat it down until it can only whisper. Perhaps that is why so many sages espouse the virtues of meditation and quiet, stilling our minds until the whispers can be heard. Yet it was Duane Michals who said, “Trust that little voice in your head that says wouldn’t it be interesting if…And then do it!”
Or perhaps we are the violators – the trust breakers. We couldn’t be trusted – we let someone down – we broke a promise – gave in to temptation. We chastise ourselves and say that we will never be trustworthy again. But we are and maybe we’ll be especially vigilant about guarding ourselves from the influences that are unique to our own triggers. Did we really give up smoking, gambling, drinking, overeating, drugs, sex addiction; or is our particular vice hovering right above our heads waiting for the weakest moment in order to have the highest chance of success?
We can learn to trust again – others as well as ourselves. Speaking for myself, I would rather have my trust violated than to be so hardened off by fear of it that I couldn’t live joyfully. Frank Crane said, “You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.” Maybe that is the secret of trust. It doesn’t do anything for the ones we attach it to, but makes our own lives better and more enjoyable. Trust me on this!
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