Who Is Worth Trusting?

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody–it saves so much time.
– Rudyard Kipling

One of the most emotionally taxing things we experience in our lives is trying to decide if we should trust people or not.

Trust is not just critical to our well being, it truly forms part of who we are. We tend to be either the kind of person who trusts people or the kind who doesn’t really trust anyone. We all like to think that we are between the two extremes, but seldom are we.

The trouble with trusting people is that they will, inevitably, disappoint us. Every single person we trust will eventually–and to varying degrees–disappoint. Maybe even betray our trust. Not that it’s in our nature to disappoint others. On the contrary, few would say that disappointing those who count on them is acceptable. It’s just that we’re fallible. Agonizingly and repeatedly fallible.

The greatest reason why we disappoint others–and why they disappoint us–is that we forget. This is forgetfulness in a major way. Why have we all become forgetful? News and information sources such as the Information Superhighway not only give us access to incredible amounts of information, some of our commitments require us to absorb enough data to drown us. Many medical doctors, for example, spend one day each week (often more) updating their information and skills. We not only expect it of them when they care for us, we demand it.

Doctors have no choice. We can choose, most of us, but choosing to ignore most of the information available to us makes us stupid. Not immediately, but eventually. First we pass through a stage of progressive ignorance, a condition most people don’t realize they are in. By the time real stupidity is upon us, we are little more than moving, noisy protoplasm. Then we think the rest of the world is wrong and we are above it all.

Simply knowing, understanding and accepting that many people will disappoint us will help us to adjust when they do. It should be considered a life skill to be able to accept that people make commitments they have every intention of keeping, but they break those commitments due to forgetfulness or unforeseen circumstances.

Not trusting people causes us to lose much of the deeper values of life. Distrust forces us to shut down our emotions. While shutting down the emotions that would cause us to feel disappointment or grief when someone lets us down, we also shut down our ability to appreciate positive emotions such as love, joy and happiness. Either we have a broad range of emotions or we don’t. We can’t have a bit of the bad and a lot of the good. Life doesn’t work that way.

The best approach to trusting people seems to be to begin by trusting everyone, as Kipling said. If a few people betray our trust repeatedly, we may have to consider putting distance between us and them. That distance–social distance if not physical distance–means that those few people cease to play major roles in our lives. Instead of shutting down our emotions because we have been betrayed, we close out the individuals who have proven that they no longer warrant our trust. Keep what we want, cast off what we don’t.

Living life to the fullest means hanging our emotions out there on the edge. There they can pick up crap and get battered around, but they can also gather treasures in ways that we could never imagine by remaining within the safe zone.

It’s also important to understand that the treasures we find out there on the edge don’t look like treasures as they approach. They may look like space junk. Remember, gold and diamonds don’t look impressive when first dug out of the ground.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the important lessons of life, such as trusting people. The book gives specific guides for both parents and teachers (and grandparents).
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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