What is trust?  The dictionary defines it as confidence, reliance on a future outcome, or hope.  I think, though, that these words are incomplete.  There are essential qualities these words do not convey.

We have had many reasons to think about trust recently.  Locally or internationally, much has happened to nurture our distrust, feed our fear and threaten our instinct for survival (even when we are not realistically imperilled).  We’ve decided we can’t trust foreigners, immigrants, politicians, clergy, and (insert your preference here), at home or abroad.   We do this because we are afraid, because we do not trust.

One essential quality of trust is the absence of fear.

In Florida there is a young woman who is a light in dark places.  She has an amazing number of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ on Facebook.  During the recent outrages in Europe and the Middle East, and the turmoil surrounding refugees coming to the US, she was positive and encouraging.  She spoke against fear.  I haven’t met her, but I trust her.  People such as she make trust a wonderful thing.  The reason is that she radiates Love, and if she fights at all, it is against fear.  Fear is the gift antagonists would like to give us.

The type of person who propounds negativity, who is misinformed and vocal, spreads hatred and fear.  S/he spews bias and delusion, and whether you agree or not, your reaction is negative.  When distrust and fear are sown, you are likely to feel  hostility, if not for what is said, then perhaps for who said it.  People who spread such hostile sentiment play right into the hands of those whom they oppose—they provide ‘free advertising’ and spread a gospel of hatred and fear through protest and denunciation.

No one’s life is free from the taint of distrust.  Children tell fibs, friends break promises, leaders deceive—we all have experience with broken trust.  We become wiser, ‘as serpents’, and lose some of our dove-like innocence.  The damage is done.  The person who is distrustful causes others to feel ill-at-ease, and they become distrustful of him.  If trust is a kind of love, then we’ve learnt to love less.

What benefit is there in spreading hatred and false belief?  Hatred breeds hatred.  The benefit to spreading love is clear—that woman in Florida has 8000+ friends and followers.  The people who leave comments on her postings are unanimously positive and loving.  Celebrities and personalities who have a positive message have vast followings, and long careers.  They are popular because they are positive and bring out positive qualities in others.

Once trust is broken, it is difficult to restore.  Trust is like a living thing—you can’t turn it on and off like a lamp.  If you break it, it is never fully restored, and possibly, never can be.  Not only is it difficult to trust someone who has let you down, that experience leads you to greet new acquaintances with distrust.  You would like to believe them.  You would like to think them sincere and their words true, but unhappy experience tells you this is unwise.  Distrust breeds distrust.  If we distrust profoundly enough and long enough (encouraging others to distrust us), eventually we may not trust ourselves either, by second guessing—‘this is my choice, but is it the right choice? I  have erred before.’

We need to start somewhere.  We need to decide what sort of people, religion, country we want to be.  Trust doesn’t occur instantly, it has to be earned, but it’s disadvantageous for all involved when earning trust requires first removing distrust and suspicion.  If we cannot begin by trusting, might we not begin by not distrusting?  Can we take a neutral position and wait for evidence to show us how to feel, how to proceed?

In which world do you wish to live?

‘Who trusts little is little trusted.’ 

Lao Tse, Tao Teh Ching Ch 23


Paul TN Chapman
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