In the last few months, I have encountered instances of how trust in a person can be misused and even abused. I have also seen the other side, where I have come across instances of trust inspiring and motivating.
Same word — ‘Trust’ that is like two sides of a coin and is seen and experienced in almost every interaction in our lives.
To start at the very beginning — children have complete trust in parents and caregivers.
And then, remember the secrets that were shared as children with the ‘God promise’, that the secret will not be shared with anyone. ‘Don’t tell anyone, this is between you and me.’ Most often, the secret was promptly divulged to someone else, thus breaking the trust between the two. But then one also comes across children who will not betray a trust and remain tight-lipped to keep a promise.
As we grew older, the word ‘secret’ turns to ‘confidences’ and maintaining ‘confidentiality’.
- Teachers’ confidentiality
- Doctors’ confidentiality
- Counsellors’ confidentiality
- Lawyers’ confidentiality and so on…
You see ‘TRUST’ pervades every aspect of one’s life.
What does one say to a student who says, ‘I don’t trust my teachers? How did ‘this’ teacher refer to an incident I told the ‘other’ teacher about. This is one kind of trust — to trust a person with our secrets and confidences.
There are so many other kinds of trust.
The trust between husband and wife in all matters –
- Faithfulness and fidelity to one’s spouse.
- Financial trust that money earned is for the wellbeing of the family.
- The trust that right decisions will be taken in a crisis situation.
Let us not forget that trust is the bedrock of a good marriage.
Connected to this is also the trust between Parent and Child — this works both ways. Child trusting the parent and parent trusting the child.
Roderick M Kramer in his article ‘Rethinking Trust’ in the Harvard Magazine 2009 states that ‘A child trusts so readily. We human beings are naturally predisposed to trust as it is in our genes. To trust is human, it is a survival mechanism.’
Yet the trust placed by a child on a parent is often abused or misused. How safe does your child feel in your presence and in the home? A parent too trusts or mistrusts a child mainly on account of behaviour from genuinely good behaviour, to manipulation or misbehaviour. An answer to this would be ‘open communication’ and ‘being approachable’ — to know the child, teenager and the young adult.
Down the ages, we have heard of scams and frauds occurring in financial institutions, organizations and where there is an employer-employee relationship. We have often used the phrase, ‘pulled the wool over my eyes.’ How can a person do this and how does one allow it to happen? On what basis do we trust? This intrigued me and I did some research. Referring to the same article by Roderick Kramer the research study says — ‘we are heavily influenced by the social stereotypes that most of us carry around in our heads. These stereotypes reflect (often false) beliefs that correlate observable cues — facial characteristics, age, gender, race, etc. with underlying psychological traits like honesty, reliability, likability, trustworthiness, etc.’
These stereotypes can be harmless, yet can also have far reaching devastating effects. For e.g., if the employer trusts an employee implicitly based on any stereotype, does not question any decision, has no checks and balances in place, thus providing opportunities for the employee, to take advantage, misuse and abuse the trust of the employer.
I think the willingness to trust completely leaves one vulnerable to problems and troubles.
I hope I have not given the impression that it is only employees who break the trust of the employer. Employers have also the power and status and this can often lead to decreasing honesty, playing on the vulnerability of the employees.
As a counsellor, I often hear students say, they are careful or are choosy about making friends as friends are not trustworthy. They backbite, and are users, time servers. It all comes down then to a choice between trust and distrust. If I choose trust — then I should be aware of the possibility of being exploited. If I distrust, — I think that is a terrible way to live, constantly looking over one’s shoulder.
What does one do then?
Possibly turn to God. We are often told to trust in God. Everything will be all right if we pray and trust in God. I pray too, but I am not sure if I have total trust in God because I continue to worry.
I am reminded of this little anecdote that many of you would have read or heard. There was a lack of rain and drought in a particular area. Therefore it was decided by all the people in that village to gather at a particular open ground and pray for rain. All of them did gather but only one little boy carried an umbrella — such was his trust and faith in God. Perhaps we need that childlike trust that God indeed can solve our problems.
However, I am certain that God wants us to use our faculties in order to discern whether to trust or not to trust. It all comes back to oneself — Do I trust too much for if I do it is quite likely that I would disclose sensitive information that I should not. And consequently become vulnerable. This is asking for trouble and can result in grief and dangerous consequences.
On the other hand there are people who distrust / mistrust everyone. They assume the worst and are extremely cautious in making connections. It is most often guided by their past experiences resulting in fear that they may place their trust in the wrong people.
To fall into either category of total trust and total distrust can not only be dysfunctional but dangerous. Is there something in between that we can think of?
Yes there is something. A wise and erudite Priest told my husband recently. Experience is always a teacher. But more important is
‘Knowing, that God has a sovereign control over all life’s circumstances.’
Based on this — Can we not develop the courage to trust a good deal more than we do?