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In Whom We Trust


It is my contention that trust is overrated. We as a society seem to put a lot of faith in the concept of trust, whether it be in our business dealings, interpersonal relationships, or political leaders. I'm not saying that it is meaningless, or useless, just that we tend to rely too heavily on it. Trust, in and of itself, is not necessarily a good thing.

Allow me to explain.

The idea of putting too much faith into trust first arose when I was thinking about relationships. You will often hear people say how the foundation of a relationship is trust. If it is romantic in nature, sometimes folks will proclaim that, if their partner ever cheats on them, that's it - things are over between them. Without trust, they proclaim, there is nothing. Such a sentiment is understandable, but misguided.

Imagine you have a situation wherein a spouse is completely loyal to you. They never stray, they never cheat, their eyes never wander. You trust them. That's great, right? But what if that same spouse can also be trusted to beat your kids? What if he/she physically or verbally attacks your children? You can definitely say that you trust your spouse to abuse your offspring but, in that case, trust isn't such a good thing. Nor, in my opinion, is the trust you have in their sexual fidelity anything to really crow about in comparison.

What of trust in our political leaders? As I've become more politically aware over the years, that's something I've had to contend with. It seems pretty obvious to me that trust is what guides people's choices in not only their preferred candidates/leaders, but in their willingness to go along with those candidates'/leaders' decisions. This is why folks will nod their heads approvingly at Trump doing some of the same stuff Obama did, when they previously railed against the latter. They, for whatever reason, trust Trump, and do not trust Obama.

Should trust -- especially when it comes to our world leaders -- really be used to guide our preferences? There are things that President Obama has done that, objectively, I sometimes cringed at, but passively went along with because, well, I trusted him. So now we're left with a legacy where he expanded the powers of the presidency, and now must hand over the reigns to a man whom I do not trust. Of course, therein lies the folly. It never should have been about the person in the first place, but about the principles.

So, yes, trust can be a good thing. Definitely don't discard it, as it forms one of the building blocks of all our relationships. Perhaps, however, we should put a little less emphasis on it? Don't let things slide, simply because you trust someone. Don't think of trust as simply only ever a good thing, because it sometimes isn't. And, finally (most importantly?), understand that trust is a human concept, and that humans are innately flawed. We will very likely cause situations where trust will be lost. But, if you can, at least offer the chance for it to be rebuilt.


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