On Trust

Every once in a while I get blasted with the reality that I am, at heart, naive and entirely too trusting of people. Today is one of those days. I’m not bragging about being trusting, it has been a real problem for me on more than one occassion.

I expect that I’ve had the luxury of trust in that while growing up it was clear that I had all of the priviledges associated with whiteness and money. Every day of my young life, it looked to me like I could expect that the world was a just and honest place. Now, as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that isn’t true – but not usually in a real personal sense. So I continue to approach people thinking the best of them until I’m proven to be wrong.

I won’t go into the gorry details, but today I learned that some people are not who I thought they were. It looks like their deception was calculated and not merely a misunderstanding. Lots of people are used to this kind of thing. I’m not. So it tends to rock my world a bit. But the old expectations are more deeply rooted than the few instances where they are proven wrong. So I know I’ll go on trusting the best about people…til the next time.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I began to learn that this issue of whether or not you approach people with trust was something that played out very differently with different people. As we usually do, I thought everyone was just like me. As I began to understand the differences, it helped me tackle some of the relationship and communication barriers I had experienced along the way. For example, as I try to get to know a young African American man I work with who grew up in New Orleans, I don’t take his occassional reluctance to engage with me personally. He learned VERY different lessons growing up. And since my line of work takes me in contact with police officers quite often, I can say with assurance that is NOT a profession I would have been suited to. Their profession and sometimes their lives depend on being skeptical and untrusting of what’s on the surface. These are just examples of some of the lessons I’ve learned as I became aware of how we are all different in this one area.

Part of my commitment to trust is that the most beautiful gift anyone has ever given to me was to trust me with abandon. This gift came from a graduate school professor who helped me “re-birth” from my condition of trusting everyone but the one person I could rely on – myself. And it was his complete trust of everything that was core in me, and the invitation for me to do the same, that opened a new path in my life. Sometimes I toy with thinking about the courage it took for him to do that. He knew he might be disappointed the way I have occassionally been. And yet he gave it freely. It meant the world to me and I’d like to think that someday I’d have his courage and be able to “pay it forward.”

Anyway, its hard for me to imagine approaching people with an eye towards how they might be deceiving me. Since it doesn’t come naturally, it would take a lot of work. And its not as if the world is nicely divided up into those who are trustworty and those who aren’t. We’re all much more complex than that. The idea that there are “good” and “evil” folks is a big part of what’s wrong with our culture these days. I think Alexander Solzhenitsyn summed it up very well:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

I’m certainly not willing to destroy my heart…or anyone else’s. So I guess you can just go on calling me naive and I’ll learn to live with that.


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  1. your insights about trust. I think this is a key ingredient in being able to build coalitions and work in solidarity.

  2. That Solzhenitsyn quote was something I also copied out years ago and it has had a great impact on me.

    Trust is very difficult and I have problems with it as well.  It takes strength, I think.  And as you imply, it also takes trusting oneself, which is even harder!

    So if you come up with answers, please be sure and let me know … 🙂

    • RiaD on October 9, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    I trust everyone also & usually must be proven wrong more than once before I ‘see’.
    I have, more than once, been like a surgeon…cutting quickly & cleanly I sever that person from my life.
    This happened most hurtfully with my sister. I haven’t spoken with her since my mothers memorial service…I only did so that day in respect for mom…I acted nice & played pretty for her…I haven’t Really had contact with sis for nearly twenty years. I have no regrets.
    Dad questioned me only once about this break- I said ‘when you get shit on, over & over by the same asshole, you either begin to enjoy the smell & feel of the shit…or you move away from the asshole. I’ve moved away.’ We’ve never spoken of it since.

    It all really comes down to self preservation…because you ARE the only one you can trust.
    I am still naiive & overly trusting, believing the best of people. The difference in me now is it takes less instances for me to see another more clearly, put down the rosey glasses.
    But I DO still trust.

    I’m Soo sorry someone has abused your trust recently. and I love your quote…I’ve saved it to print out and & add to my inspiration wall.
    thank you NLnStP

    • pfiore8 on October 9, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    trust in yourself

    you have to trust yourself, your initution, and your ability to deal with the consequences of your decisions

    in short, you need to withstand and endure your own principles

    … cause you can’t control me or define me… only yourself

    • frosti on October 9, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    then the anxiety is a killer.  Slower maybe, but it erodes the self.  I trust the best I can, but recognize there are some really bad people out there.

    Lack of trust discolors all of your relationships.  All in all, it is destructive to yourself not to trust, even if occasionally some people are not trustworthy.

  3. I would much rather give trust to begin with and take the risk of being disappointed later than be so wary.  Sometimes people will rise up to your expectations and other times you learn real quick to cut the ties.

    I do watch closely for how a person treats other people.  If a person is being nice to me while being cold, unfriendly or rude to waitstaff, for instance, then my radar starts vibrating.  It’s often the little things that will tell you a great deal.  If I see a lack of kindness in a person then I know there is something there to be careful of in the future.

    • scribe on October 9, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I learned the word “discernment” and it helped me a lot with the trust issue. I too, trust people to be who they present themselves to be, until it is proven through my own observation that they aren’t.  But now I trust “with” discernment. In other words I don’t give all my my trust to anyone,  until I have some history with them to go by. I watch how much I share of my own vulnerabilities, for example, till then. It seems a more comfortable middle ground for me between trusting too much, too soon, and not trusting at all. Good diary, Nanc!

  4. have a tendency to trust too much, too early.

    I have been burned quite a few times because of it.

    However, I look at is this way.

    The error was not in the trusting. The error was in the behavior of those in whom I placed my trust. They knew I trusted them. They chose to betray that trust. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

    So, while I admit to being a little bit smarter in who I trust these days, I still decide to go for it anyways.

    Because I just gotta be me. With all my ‘too easy to trust’ ways. Otherwise, the bastards win.

    PS – I have friends who think I’m absolutely nuckin’ futs to have this attitude, so take this with a healthy grain of salt.

    PPS – Great essay. Great topic.

    • MO Blue on October 10, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Don’t automatically trust or distrust people at first encounter. Just go with the flow until I get a feel of things. Small things are pretty much ignored as personal idiosyncrasies. Also, for me there are different levels of trust. IOW there is trust on a casual level where I don’t think someone is going to rip me off or take advantage of me and I can interact freely with them in a work environment or as casual friends. Then there is a deeper level of trust with close friends where I am willing to trust with more abandon.

    I probably distrust organized structures (government entities, politicians, organized religion etc.) a lot more than I do individual people.

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