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January 15, 2009

The Reality of Trust

Joan Marie Aquilino

Trust a word with a million personal definitions. Here is just one: "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something."


Most everyone made New Year's Resolutions to quit smoking, get healthy, financial fitness, etc. I decided to go another direction with observations and questions that I hope promote open and frank discussions among friends, family and colleagues. Forgiveness is always easier than distrust and alienation. It's healthier, too.


Do you give trust? Or does it have to be earned? Is it all black and white? Or various shades of gray? The trust of a child for a parent is unconditional and fearless. Lovers, friends, children, family, co-workers, politicians, etc., do we trust too easily, or not easily enough?


The trust we have for our mates, making promises to protect, honor and respect. We trust that promises given are sincere and honest; but things, people, circumstances can change. Once burned or betrayed, can you trust again? I'm going to venture to say, normally we can. Our desire to love and trust outweighs the hurt from dishonesty or betrayal.


How about the trust of our elected leaders? How do you feel about the trust you put in those people? Many campaign and promise anything to garner votes. You take time from your life to educate yourself, try to understand their values, ultimately take time to cast your vote. When and how do they break our trust? How much weight does the line "after all they are only human" carry? Being human seems to account for mistakes, but should it also give you a buy on honesty? What is your personal threshold?


Do we grade our lies on a curve? Do some lies count and others not so much? Do lies only count if you get caught? If your dishonesty causes pain to someone else, is that worse? Is common courtesy considered a thing of the past? Is disappointing and letting people down no big deal any longer? Are they all forms of dishonesty, or just rude and inconsiderate behavior?


I had to convince my father he was no longer capable of driving without actually saying those words because I didn't want to hurt his ego, which was fragile enough at the time. I did it for his safety and that of others, so does that make my lie okay? It's still a lie and I broke trust. Children lie to parents at very young ages? How do they learn to do that? Is it instinct? Do we have a “lying” gene?


You promise to do something with the best of intentions. Is it dishonest if you fall short through no one else's fault but your own? Ignoring someone or something in the hopes of its just going away when the honest thing would be to just deal with it head on, is that dishonest, or just a flaw or weakness in character?


We've all encountered the, "Do you think this makes me look fat" question. Oh, for goodness sake! If you have to ask, then obviously you already know the answer. Do you tell the truth or spare feelings? Shouldn't the person asking know better, thus deserving what they get?


You back out on a friend when a better offer comes along. Do you ignore or make up an excuse? What about when a dear friend has come to expect a certain behavior and you do a 180 degree turn on them? Is it honest to just let them wonder what has happened?


Learn to say the word No. Have the courage to say No I can't! No, I don't want to! No, I won't do that, etc. Trust is often broken by people who say “yes, they will do anything” with no intention of seeing it through but aren't brave enough to just say No.


Here's one I struggle with. Do you call out liars or just let them go down on their own. I've called out three people in my life as liars. I believed they lied with harmful intent. I know many people who lie – little white ones, or for personal gain, to hurt others and there are those who lie just because they are breathing and the sun came up – but without hard proof, do you call them out? Lying accompanied with malice, is that over the top for you?


Trust and honesty in government and business is a whole different animal. Is it a pipe dream? Is anyone trustworthy? I believe the answer is Yes.


Friends and family involve love, faith and caring. Business and government involve lives, money and safety. No good will ever come from lying in business. Yet I think omission does have its place in business.


Is the Golden Rule outdated? If you want others to lie, cheat and steal from you, then go right ahead running your life and business that way. The trust you earn from business associates, the community and employees can make or break you. I don't mean let people walk over you, I mean say what you mean and mean what you say. Be a person of your word. Make your word count for something other than filling air space.


I've asked many questions and given few – if any – answers, mainly because I don't have them. Trust – and where we place it in our own lives – is a personal call.


All I can do is suggest where my limits about trust and honestly might fall. I can't imagine a time ever coming when I wouldn't forgive my children, or I wouldn't trust my parents. I don't believe in hurting those who love you by dumping on them just to rid yourself of guilt.


So, can omission be counted as an honesty issue? I don't believe in breaking someone's heart only to compound it by lying. The truth may break their heart just as badly, but the recovery will be faster and safer and leave them with the ability to trust again.


I don't believe in ignoring and wishing it away. Don't leave those you care about confused and questioning themselves because of your inability to be honest. Having said all that, I also don't believe in the bar or pedestal being so high that no matter what, we will topple.


Take a moment, think about your life, how you live it. We all need to do better because none of us is perfect. If trusting is difficult for you, try taking baby steps. If being honest is difficult, do that in baby steps, too.


If you think it's wrong, it is. If you think it'll hurt, it will. If you think you need to change, you do. If you've hurt someone, try to fix it. Be sincere when saying you're sorry. Trust in the power of forgiveness. You can forgive without forgetting. Wasn't it President Ronald Reagan who said “trust, yet verify?”


. . . .’til next time

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