On Trust

Recent events and discussions with others indicate that I ought to explain something for the sake of helping others to understand. I’ll point to this piece when needed in the future, in order to be time-efficient and avoid redundancy.

Growing up in the inner city, I learned early and almost innately the meaning of “watch your back” — trust must be earned, not just given. Mostly I still think that way. Been there, done that, seen it all…I’ve witnessed too much betrayal, dishonesty and backstabbing, too many mind games and control tactics and manipulation attempts in multiple settings (including being targeted with all of the above in an important past relationship), and it reinforces the notion.

This is not a cynical or bitter existence either. My trust wall is so automatic anymore that I give it little conscious thought. In fact, I live a quite happy life in a great marriage with one of the very few people on Earth whom I ever have had reason to trust completely and unconditionally. She is so genuine and real that I trust her far more than I trust myself (again, simply because I have seen too much). That’s rare, and a blessing.

I also trust my Lord unconditionally and without reservation; after all, God is perfect, all-knowing, and all-caring. He has guided me through many tough situations after thoughtful and deliberate prayer (which does work…best if your expectations aren’t selfish or short-term in nature). What I do not trust is our broken and sinful world, and most people in it. I love my fellow people fundamentally as humans, and have helped and will help strangers in need as I see appropriate situationally. However, strangers’ and acquaintances’ intentions and motivations being largely unknown, and human nature being inherently sinful, trust is another story. Want me to trust you? Well, I used to live in Missouri, so “show me” that you are trustworthy. It can be done and takes three things: time, authenticity and integrity. [Notice I did not say “perfection”, for that is impossible in a human. However, my standards are very high.] Simple, but not easy!

The positive to this level of understanding of people is that I don’t get taken advantage of; I can effortlessly spot a scam or detect shysters, call them out without inhibition, and alert others who are more gullible to prevent their being taken for fools by such people and situations. It serves one quite well in many situations (personal investment, choosing charity, scam avoidance, BS detection, advising friends, etc.). This has prevented a lot of trouble, both for self and others. In those regards I am blessed.

The flip side: Outside of a very few trusted friends and colleagues, people generally are kept at arm’s length or longer, and in specific compartments or ladder levels of trust. This is just who I am. I fully admit this, and you just have to deal with it, if you want my friendship or favor. I am quite secure in my own skin, and don’t need any particular relationship to validate my well-being or self-respect. Therefore: if investing in earning my trust is too much trouble for you: not my problem…see ya! [One other thing you need to know is I am brutally honest, which you can see readily by reading previous BLOG entries going back a decade.]

See, I have to conscientiously, actively force myself to trust, to take risks in people, in any sort of relationship (personal or professional). Again, it’s not cynical or bitter at all…it just is. This is a different perspective of origin than most, but I’m completely at peace with it. If you are too, we’ll get along fine on whatever level of balance we shall reach.

This also ties in with my personal Facebook policy, which is part (but not all) of what motivates this entry. I post personal things there at times, though I am very measured and deliberate about what, and am careful not to reveal too much. My Facebook wall is not a democracy; what happens there is entirely on my terms, and at my discretion. Even still, I only accept “friend” requests from people I already know or who come highly recommended by mutual friends. If I ignore a request, it’s nothing personal against the requester. I just don’t know you well enough…simple as that.


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