trust (n.) Look up trust at
c.1200, from O.N. traust “help, confidence,” from P.Gmc. *traust- (cf. O.Fris. trast, Du. troost “comfort, consolation,” O.H.G. trost “trust, fidelity,” Ger. Trost “comfort, consolation,” Goth. trausti “agreement, alliance”). Related to O.E. treowian “to believe, trust,” and treowe “faithful, trusty” (see true). Meaning “businesses organized to reduce competition” is recorded from 1877. The verb (early 13c.) is from O.N. treysta “to trust.” Trust-buster is recorded from 1903.

I think about trust all of the time now. Understanding where a word comes from and its related connotations can be very helpful. I see words like comfort, consolation, belief, faithful, alliance.

Intangible concepts like trust can be deceiving because you never know what the other person’s experience might mean when they use words like this. Love, hate, joy… these are nuanced concepts that can not be trapped by denotative definitions that really lock down their meaning. Scientific materialists will suggest that because of this, they are not real. They are simply biochemical. The random firings of neurons which are interpreted by a mind that by definition does not know what reality is.

I dispute that. Evidence? Nah. I don’t trust evidence. Evidence evolves, just like the rest of the universe. Any shallow dip into the history of science will show you that yesterday’s evidence is today’s absurdity. Evidence is nice when you need to prove Material things, but not everything is Material. Spirit is involved. Yet another intangible context that is all too easily rejected.

I have broken trusts. I have broken my word. I have done things that diminish the confidence of people I love. I regret these things with all of my heart. Morally, ethically, spiritually, I feel I have failed them.

In a lot of ways, this breaking of trust is basically an ego-driven manifestation. It is a refusal to acknowledge that the self we think is our self is nothing but a mask. We spend so much time trying to fortify that image that we forget about the system we live in, a system of souls like our own. Our ego-self, mask-wearing self wants to define itself, to scream out its individuality, to foreswear all allegiance to any other individual. I am ME! And Fuck the rest.

It never works. Respect works. Respect always works.

I am not an island. I have not arrived where I am by myself. The good things in my life are not the product entirely of my own actions. There is a web of interdependency that informs every single good (and bad) event of my life. And when I break Confidence with another person, I invoke consequence (karma) which results in diminished returns. (Even that is an ego-driven conclusion as it postulates that returns are the goal. It’s hard to escape the ego. Give it a try. Don’t be scared, I guarantee it will be there when you get back.)

Is trust a currency? Can it be bought? Or is it more like Faith, a belief in unseen and unproven things? I don’t have answers to these questions. I am interested in what you think. Some people say trust is something you give someone until they break it. But there are complexities there, too. I don’t trust everyone I come in contact with, nor should I. I have been places where that could be deadly. I don’t immediately abandon trust when someone does something that I do not like, or that harms some part of me. There are mitigating circumstances; intention is a weighty consideration.

But here is the one conclusion I have reached. Like most things (even models of a scientific materialist universe) these are only words. Words are so much air without action to back them up. Trust is a cumulative account of the actions a person has taken in relation to you. It seems reductive to analyze this in such purely economic terms, but there is a sense to it. As I think back on the people I have wisely or unwisely trusted, I find a catalogue of actions that I consider.

How have they treated me? Were their actions moral? Ethical? Life-affirming? When they were not, was their intention to harm me? Or were they just dealing with their own shit and am I being narcissistic to think that it has a damn thing to do with me?

I realize this isn’t very conclusive. I don’t really understand variables like Trust. I only have questions. It is an ineffable quality, much like Love. And utterly related. They appear to be functions of one another. Without love, I feel no compulsion to trust. The phrase “trust, but verify” seems to be completely contradictory, but it is how we treat the people who are not part of our genuine relationships. It seems in that phrase, there is a persuasive rhetorical feel that is simply trying to mitigate the fact that it’s nice to keep using the word trust, but I don’t really trust.

All I know is this: only my actions can restore trust. My sincere commitment to be an ethical, moral and trustworthy human being are all I can offer. I am too handy with words for anyone to trust me on that basis alone.

So tell me, why do you trust? And when you do, is it like faith, subject to doubt and loss?

And when it is lost, do you feel any obligation to restore it; and why would you?


~ by Shane Harris on November 14, 2012.

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