As my friend, the dictionary, would have it, trust is the following:
firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
“relations have to be built on trust”
synonyms: confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence; More
Trust is also tricky. Trust is built on tested truth, but testing that truth requires granting trust. Put another way, you have to first rely on someone to test their reliability as it applies to you.
Truth becomes a tricky element here. Once you’ve taken the leap of faith to place your trust in someone so that you may build on it and test the foundations of your relationship, truth becomes assumed and that is a very dangerous thing to do. Assuming truth, no matter how prevalent it has become, nor how fashionable, is an act which borders on madness. The assumption of truth can in fact lead us directly into madness if one is to define it with the adage, “Insanity is repeating the same action, expecting different results.”
For example; Assumed truth, running the following program will result in a solution.
Step 1. Add 2 + 2,
Step 2. Total the results, if less than five return to step one and begin again.
Result, an infinite loop of self-justification via circular reasoning, much like the following.
“Our greatness is greater than all other greatnesses of all the other skools combined! And it’s that greatness that makes us great!” – Invader Zim Episode: 24B
This same behavior can be witnessed in political parties, social clubs/cliques, religious organizations, some scientific studies, but more cuttingly, it can be witnessed within our own relationships, be they “physical” or “platonic.”
Reliability isn’t often treated as terribly glamorous in the present day. It’s given more of the “old shoe” treatment, in the sense that, yes, it’s comfortable and worth keeping around but you certainly wouldn’t go out looking for it. My direct experience has taught me that the prevailing attitude is painfully shortsighted and in many ways ultimately defeatist. It seems to be derived from the unspoken sense that people are like cogs and there are so many now that we can simply interchange them without consequence or end. Creating a sort of functional anonymity wherein we no longer own our actions, and our personally defined or chosen actions are no longer personal responsibilities as we abdicate them both functionally and ethically to the artifice of bureaucratic legal wrangling.
Let me step away from the hyperbolic precipice and bring this into tighter focus. Say you have a newly sparked love affair, or a newly vested roommate – I’ll trust that most readers will have experience with one or both of these things – how do you interact with that individual?
If you take a protectionist stance – one wherein you do not rely upon the other individual, in short one which is not based upon trust – you sow seeds of discord from the beginning and constrict the growth of this nascent interaction. If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen to place your trust in someone, you offer them a blind eye, the benefit of the doubt, within which you’ve exposed yourself to the possibility of thoughtless, deceitful, or inconsistent treatment.
I’m not much for religious idioms but, “The Devil is in the details.” Let’s move on to the line-by-line as my friend, Aaron, would say.
Inconsistent – Inconstancy in a relationship seems fairly innocuous at first blush, or at least in the flower of my youth, it seemed so to me. Inconstancy, however, plays on, and provokes deep primal disquiet. In training studies inconsistent frequency of a response or reward results in the highest level of action and energy being devoted to seeking that result. So, if you want to manipulate someone into being more devoted to you – focused on you – be inconsistent and you’ll artificially increase their focus on you, at least until you burn out that relationship. This behavior also assumes you don’t rate their well-being as comparable to your own in worth or value, because not only are you creating a heightened baseline of distress for your prospective interaction partner, but you are also drawing energy and focus away from other actions or activities they may have otherwise accounted for, thus opening them up to greater risk from factors outside the sphere of your own interactions with them.
Thoughtless – The apologist response to all thoughtlessly inflicted harms is, “But s/he meant well,” or alternately “…didn’t mean any harm.” I’ve no indictment of these claims when it comes to their legitimacy. In fact, I fully believe they are often true– at the tangible baseline– however, the difference becomes increasingly semantic. There are only so many times someone may hit your hand with a hammer before you suffer broken bones, even if every hammer blow is entirely free from any shred of malice. Once is a mistake. In my experience we all make those, but a harmful pattern without intent to harm is quintessentially inconsiderate. A consistently inconsiderate friend or spouse could rightly bear the monogram, “With friends like these who needs enemies?” for they can do every bit as much harm as someone with deceitful intent, but when recognized as harmful, their behaviors are harder to remove ourselves from. The perpetrator is, after all, someone whom we care for and who does not desire to do us any harm. Who, not infrequently, would not even see their actions as harmful or even relevant to our own status or well-being. Many abusive individuals don’t actually intend to be harmful, at least not the majority of the time, but, sadly, that does nothing to prevent their actions from being harmful just the same.
Deceit – The antithesis of trust, lies and deceit are the surest way to poison the well for any trusting relationship. This is straightforward enough that most often it is also unexamined. Deceit is nowhere near as simple as outright lies, nor is it only toxic to trust when directed at you – it can wither your ability to trust someone just as surely when you’re the one employing deceitful actions.
Worry and doubt over faith placed in someone is as natural as waryness over your next step on an unfamiliar rope bridge. Such worry can understandably give rise protectionist impulses which feature the other individual in a role of ‘soft villainy,’ allowing us the luxury of petty justifications such as, “If s/he’s done thing wrong then s/he has nothing to hide.” So we can search a child’s room, read a roommate’s mail, or go through a lover’s phone/correspondence. While we’re “laying our doubts to rest,” with our guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality. It’s convenient and easy to ignore that our doubts are based largely on internalized emotional patterns which chant their discordant hymns even when they’ve no ground to stand on at all. Of course, there’s a catch, because being worried without a proof-substantiated motive doesn’t mean that there is, in fact, no actual reason for such concerns. As a further layer of this tangle, feeling someone might be acting with deceit towards you leads most of us nearer the desire to respond in kind, thus opening to door to a self-perpetuating cycle which, if allowed to run unchecked, will salt the earth in most any relationship.
This brings me to the insidious phenomenon of the aptly named “white lie.”
The actions described by this glibly self-justifying term are wonderful for disguising other lies. Perceptions of us are constantly being refined, rebuilt and contextualized, with the first indicator that we’re being dishonest often being an out-of-character behavior, but if we lie systemically about comparatively “smaller” matters, we introduce an effect like white noise into our context, which may shield us from being discovered in a lie but also threads some level of distrust throughout the relationship. The second part of why “white lie” is so aptly named is because it is, every inch, in fact a lie. This second bit is rather often glossed over in a pretense of thoughtlessness, as if somehow by “meaning well” – which, in fact, is usually, meaning to avoid stating an uncomfortable truth – we’ve excused ourselves from responsibility for a direct abuse of the trust placed in us by another.
I have, more times than I can readily count, been turned to for my perspective or advice on difficult or complex personal events. I mention this not as some attempt at ego masturbation but because of the common themes present from those who’ve sought me out at such times. The specific choice of words is unique to each individual, but the overarching meaning is that they’re talking to me not because I’m an expert or some sort of omniscient sage, but simply because they know I won’t sugar-coat – another surprisingly apt turn of phrase – my responses with white lies.
I suppose for those who are invested in what they can get out of an interaction, rather than being grounded in or intent upon who that interaction is with, this may be of no tangible merit. For those who, like myself, value getting to know other travelers throughout life even when it comes to exposing our shortcomings our sour notes to each other, and thus opening the door to the possibility of further growth, the removal of all lies from our interactions in which we’re fostering trust and depth is beyond key– it is vital.
Conclusions, of a sort:
I’ve abdicated one of my personal guidelines in writing this article, I’ve written about a subject rather than written to make some specific point. I hope that the dispersion effect upon the thoughts of the article has not been so pronounced as to make it less valuable to read.
That having been said, there are a few points I would like to briefly close with.
I have traveled a fair amount, and despite my dyslexia, read even more.
I’ve wandered the halls of museums, both natural and artistic, contemplating creations both historical and contemporary. I’ve gathered so much music I often find entries in my collection I no longer recognize, and I’ve listened to volumes more than I’ve ever collected. I feel enriched by all these things, thirst for them with a craving and intensity so deeply-seeded I honestly have no words sufficient to the task of building a description.
All of this is true, and none of it would mean much without the common note resonating throughout, the refrain of seeing the naked experience of another being, of catching a glimpse behind the facade to see the real individual inside, and to offer the chance at a real, honest connection. Because in the final analysis what else is there?
So, trust– what is it? A key and a door. The only way I’ve found to touch the vital heart which makes drawing breath worth while, which also makes it the single best way to be grievously injured by another. I advise you to pick up this double edged sword, I exhort you to wield it, but wield it with care, for make no mistake, it is sharp and its edge is the truth. Which is to say, its edge is merciless.
About the Author: Justin Nafziger
Hello everyone. I’m much better at self-analysis than self description; besides, you’ll get an idea about my views in reading what I post. I’ve grown up traveling and in all the time I’ve spent seeing new places, people and things I’ve come to one clear conclusion; real meaningful moments and interactions don’t have to be permanent to be valuable, but they do have to be honest or they’ll be leached of meaning. Oh and that ethics (aka integrity in action) is a very personal proposition and cannot be successfully codified or dogmatized.
“There are as many truths as there are drops of water in the ocean and grains of sand on the beach.”
Reality is collaborative, truth is personal.