Reflections

“Trust…”

Powerful word; shaky concept.  What does it actually mean to “trust” someone, or some thing?

Trust is a common enough word, bandied about in conversations, essays, politics, and video exposes (read expo-say-s; I can’t find that little carat character anywhere!)…  If we mention to someone that we trust them, they get all warm and fuzzy inside, but if we suggest we don’t, claws and teeth are a more common result.

We are told that relationships must be based on trust to last.  “In God we trust” somehow conveys strength and justice to our cause or country.  Trusted brand names are imbued with some mystical quality that makes them better than any other similar product.  And learning to trust ourselves is the penultimate spiritual goal…  So what are we actually saying here?

Taking on my role as devil’s “ass” (because I’m about to make a lot of assumptions), I’m going to say that most people define “trust” as that belief that the other will take no actions that would knowingly harm us.  We trust our parents to care for us.  We trust our partners to be honest with us.  We trust our neighbors not to steal from us.  And we trust our governments to act in our best interests abroad…

Perhaps, given that, trust might better be defined as naive or gullible…  But we keep trying to believe, don’t we?  We trust that eventually we will find someone who is trustworthy.  And we all believe ourselves to be that person…

Being trustworthy means we can be counted on to “do the right thing,”; it means we are moral people with an ethical code not easily abandoned.  “Yes, yes, you can trust me,” we insist.  “I can keep a secret!…  Now dish the dirt, please.”

“No, of course I would never cheat on you!  And I will always tell you the truth!”

“I didn’t do [that]!  I swear!!”

Well…  You get the point, I assume…

There is a difference, I believe, between morality and integrity: morality is what you publicly profess to be right and wrong, while integrity grows out of what you do when you’re alone.  Take stealing, for example.  Most of us have been raised to believe that taking something that doesn’t belong to us (without permission or paying for it) is wrong; such an act is a crime in both legal and moral senses.  And yet…

And yet, I went looking for silver crucifixes for a customer the other day, only to discover that 19 had been stolen in the last 3 months!!  Nineteen!  Crosses and rosary connectors – stolen?!  Am I the only one to see the irony here?

Or how about a roommate who uses your coffee, in a house where everyone buys their own?  Is that not stealing?  Deny it all you want, but if you take it, because it was there and you “needed” it, without asking for or paying for it, you are stealing!

Integrity, on the other hand, occurs when you’re staring at your roommate or co-worker’s creamer in the fridge, and your cup of black coffee, and the thought occurs to you that they’d never notice…  But you choose to drink your coffee black, because there is no one around to ask for permission…

Morality is an agreed upon set of ideals that allow us to live together in groups, but integrity is what allows us to live with ourselves, even when we’re alone.

And trust is just another word for expectation, one heavily connotated in my favor.  So yes, I trust people.  I trust people to be who they are, to look out for themselves, first and always.  And I am rarely disappointed.  When I say “I trust you not to hurt me,” what I am implying by those words is “so long as it serves you, and doesn’t conflict with what you really want in that moment of decision.”

Am I cynical?  Maybe.  But at least I am honest.  And when I tell you your creamer is safe with me, I actually mean that, because I do have integrity.  Trust me on that!

And when I look you rare few in the eyes, holding back the tear in mine, and say to you with all the earnestness I feel that “I trust you, and I need you to know that,” what I’m really saying is that I value the integrity I sense within you.  And that is the highest praise I can offer you!

And next week on “Lisa Preaches” we will be considering the topic: “Nice Guys Finish Last – True or False?…”  (HINT: if you cannot answer this correctly at this point, I’d ask you to go back and re-read the preceding article, and save me having to write another 800 words on human hypocrisy.  Please and thanks!)

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5 thoughts on ““Trust…”

  1. We are close in agreement on your discussion. “Trust no one, not even yourself.” (foundational teaching from “the Teachers”) And when I asked why not, this was the explanation: trust is a burden you impose on another, or which another imposes upon you. It is a burden no one should take on because no one can bear it as it can never be guaranteed. Think about that.”

    Secrets are made to be told, else what purpose do they serve? By the same token, trust is designed to be broken or it serves no purpose. Banks, the least trustworthy institutions of mankind, call themselves trusts. If trust needs to be asked for, promised or given, then it is implicit by those acts that it is not trustworthy. Since I know I cannot trust myself even (to always think, say and do what is absolutely right) then by nature I am not trustworthy, nor would I ever allow anyone to trust me. By the same token and awareness of human nature in a completely corrupt and dysfunctional society, how could I ever trust anyone else, or anything? Because earth exists under a predatory system, I can’t even trust nature, let alone man. Trust is not possible here, not is it desirable. “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything added is evil.” Paraphrase of a scriptural saying.

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    • I’d say we are in complete agreement actually. The only difference really, as I see it, is that I’m willing to “trust” that people will disappoint, including myself. Your “trust no one” is the same principle.

      And the “say what you mean” scriptural saying seems to me like an example of integrity, which is much more valuable in my eyes than trust in any form. But lacking perfection, as all of us people do, makes even integrity a variable quality; one worth seeking and expanding upon, but likely never fully achieved… 🙂

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      • Yes, as you explain it, we are in agreement. We live in a world where “absolute values” cannot exist, whether as physical properties, or moral values. It’s a curse that accompanies lower evolved worlds and lifeforms. If we were not aware of abstract reasoning then it wouldn’t matter. But our ability to conceptualize absolutes makes many come to believe that they can live with absolute values. Love, faith, trust, integrity – these are absolutes. Should we use the bits we think we can handle and ignore the greater aspects? Take love. No one can actually love, so the concept is broken down. There are many aspects of love. Some even give lip service to unconditional love – without realizing that love is either unconditional or it isn’t love! Mind games. Trust is also a mind game based on the hope (another chimera) that the trust given or accepted will be carried to its end. That’s all it can ever be: hope. Challenging discussion, thanks!

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  2. What an interesting post this is. Once when I was a late teenager I was walking down a pathway behind some man and he dropped a great big roll of money out of his pocket somehow, and didn’t notice: I’m guessing it would be well over a thousand pounds . Anyway, without thinking, I bent to pick it up and said to the man, “Excuse me you dropped this” and he turned and looked at me with the blankest and most aggressive stare it is possible to imagine and took it from my hand without even thanking him. I cannot imagine what the life was behind that stare but he was so aggressive I sometimes regret handing it back to him, although I would almost certainly do the same thing again

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    • And that, my friend, is the very definition of “integrity”! To do what is “right” by our own standards, and to do so consistently, is really the best we can ask of ourselves and others. At least in my opinion, of course… 🙂

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