Trust: Burden or gift

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Any movie that features betrayal as part of the plot usually features a scene where the injured party cries out I trusted you! In one form or another, it is the ultimate denouncement, the worst condemnation of another. Yet, how many times have we asked for trust, and how many times has it been thrust at us? We look at trust as a gift freely given, but I wonder if it isn’t more a burden than a gift.

When we have a child, even when we obtain a pet, we’ve accepted trust willingly because neither the baby nor the kitten or puppy, bird or fish, had any say, yay or nay, in entering the relationship with us. When I hear of a parent neglecting or harming a child, or when I hear of a person torturing or starving a dog, my blood boils because I can think of no greater crime than to betray the trust of the innocent. The child did not ask to be born. The puppy did not ask to come home.

When we are born, we enter into a relationship of trust with the world around us. We are taught that we have an obligation not to harm others, not to waste, not to destroy. But we betray that trust day by day, sometimes minute by minute, because we are consumers of raw material; we are producers of waste. But the mitigation of this betrayal of trust is based both on degree and intent. Destroying a tree to make paper is understood; destroying a city to kill one man, less so.

Such forms of trust are interwoven into our existence, an acknowledgement that life carries with it a disclaimer reading, in part …by continuing to breath, you accept that you have a responsibility to those around you; a responsibility not to be discarded without serious reprecussions….

Some forms of trust come with the roles we take on. We place a great deal of trust in those who enforce our laws; we trust them to do their jobs and, in exchange, we give them extraordinary power over us. Their betrayal, then, is when they stop trusting us.

There are forms of trust based on specific acts of mutual agreement. When we marry we enter into an agreement based on trust as much as love. When we take a job, we enter into an association based on trust – we trust the employer to pay us and to provide a safe environment, they trust us to work hard and be honest. The teacher and student accept the bonds of trust – the teacher to do their job effectively, the student to respect the teacher. In these acts, we enter into a relationship that depends on the other from the first moment, a contract of trust if you will.

Friendship is where the exchange of trust is at its most complex. At some point in a friendship, there may be an exchange of trust. Or there may not be. Two people can call themselves friends and be friends for life, but never trust each other. Another two may meet and in five minutes exchange trust and with it the intimacies that go with trust.

Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith was based on religious belief, but for me the truest leap of faith is when we give our trust to another person and call them ‘friend’.

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