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I’ve been thinking about trust and what it means, how we build it and how it is lost. There are many words that are used to define trust. Words like belief; confidence; honesty; integrity; reliability; justice; faith; reliance; hope. Any of these words by themselves says a lot about a person’s character. The fact that so many of these words are used to define trust is insightful. Of course there are people out there who have only their own interests in mind, or have evil intent, that will never be able to be trusted. This discussion on trust is focused on those daily interactions we have with people who have a working moral compass. Confucius said this about trust, “If a man is…trustworthy in his word his fellow-man will entrust him with responsibility”. During the President’s recent State of the Union address, I noticed the words “In God We Trust” above the American flag in the background inside the House of Representatives. I did a quick search to see what the Bible has to says about trust. Most of the references I found referred to trusting God. During this search one of my favorite passages came up, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths”.

It has been my observation that some people have an easy time trusting another person yet at the same time the individual given the trust so freely, trusts no one. For many people trust has to be earned and if broken, it is lost. But where does it go? One person I know compared the loss of trust to spilling some of the water in a cup. The water represent the trust we have been given and once we spilled it on the ground we have no way of putting it back in the cup. Yet there are many things we trust without even thinking about it. Take gravity for instance. We don’t fully understand how it works but we trust that it will always be there. If gravity was suddenly turned off we would float off into the vacuum of space. There is one situation where I trust complete strangers. It happens every time I get behind the wheel of my truck. I have the expectation that the other driver will follow the rules and I ultimately put my trust in their abilities and judgment. As any driver knows, this trust is broken by at least one driver on any given trip.

So what are we to do when someone has broken our trust? I have concluded that we must first look at ourselves and admit that at least one time in our lives we have broken someone’s trust. If you are like me you would have liked the opportunity to undo what you did to break that trust. Sounds easy when it is an intellectual exercise and more difficult to put into practice. Ernest Hemingway said, “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. Ultimately if we do not forgive the person who has broken our trust we become a slave to the negative feelings we harbor inside. Buddha concluded that “he who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.”

If you have gotten to this point in this post you can see that a lot of thought has gone into what it means to trust. “Learning to trust someone is one of life’s most difficult tasks.” – Unknown