Monday, August 11, 2014

Trust? Me?

Actually, please don't!  Not because I intend you harm.  Not because I seek to mislead or coerce you.  Not because my motives are concealed.  In fact, the reason why I don't seek to be trusted is I have come to find trust entirely untrustworthy.  During three separate meetings within the last seven days, I encountered trust (or the lack thereof) in highly divergent venues and, in each instance, I found it entirely lacking. 

In the first instance, I was spending time with a gentlemen with whom I've been working to gain financial literacy around his capabilities to take responsibility in his investments.  Having recently seen the egregious evidence of a breach of trust at the hands of a celebrated investment advisor, he was conveying his experience of our interactions to others.

"What does David want for helping you?", he was asked by a friend.

"He hasn't asked for anything," was the truthful response.

"Then I wouldn't trust him if I were you," the friend replied.

A corrupt puppet President convinced a Parliament to pass a natural resources bill thoroughly entangling a corporate interest into the very fabric of law.  While denigrating his citizens as incapable of understanding legalese, he called on them to trust their leaders who, failing to read the massive bill, were acting in their best interest.  Dripping with condescension, this former priest administered an odious elixir of corruption as he offered up his land and his citizens to his patrons.

"The problem with what's happening here is that I don't trust you!"

This sentence punctuated an impassioned expression of total exasperation in an exchange within a relationship.  At the culmination of an intense dialogue on divergent experiences of life and perceived reality, the frustration of feeling that there was no shared grounding for expositions between two individuals resulted in the impulse to undermine all preceding exchanges with the blanket declaration of an absence of trust.

Why has trust become an agency of division in our social discourse?  Presented in either form - a declarative punctuation seeking to end further inquiry or objection ("trust me") or an affirmation or rejection of surrogated discernment and judgment ("do/don't trust you") - a central problem with "trust" is that, in its profligacy, it has been encrusted with prima facie evidence of its absence.  Our collective anaphylaxis towards trust is not without ample justification.  Wars, governments, churches, businesses, judges, religions have all appealed to trust (and its incarnate twin 'faith') when open inquiry and transparent disclosure do not serve the occult purpose for which all of these institutions are frequently organized.  Tragically, from a mismanaged billion dollar family office to a coffee table rending of relationship, not only do we eschew trust but we actually often settle into the comfort of known abuse, injury, and predation.

Ironically, often the only thing we seem to trust is our certainty in its manifest absence.  This paradox is fascinating on many levels.  If we receive kindness from a stranger or disproportionate care from an unexpected interaction with an associate, why is our instinct to question what ulterior motive must be present?  Is it possible that knowledge or life stories could be shared for their own sake without an expectation that they must belie an unspoken metaphor or occult meaning?

I wonder if the reason why we mistrust trust is because we despise the subtle hierarchy that so frequently attends its propagation.  The person imploring for trust may be cloaking true intentions and we're pretty sure that this is most likely the case.   By casting aspersions on interpersonal trust, the Agent Orange effect exfoliates every plant laying barren any semblance of verdant fellowship.  And once unleashed, mistrust has a lingering toxicity as, at any moment, it can be used to undermine intent, expression, or character.

We're probably at a state in our social systems where trust needs a to take a sabbatical.  Not that we don't need what it represents in an ideal form but, at present, it's capacity to evoke its antithesis is compelling.

In its place, I ingest and suggest the antidote of explicit manifestation devoid of contemporaneous exchange.  By this I mean developing devotion to service in which a counterparty can experience the evidence of integrity, fidelity, and loyalty without appealing to, or self-critiquing the absence of, trust.  Seldom is this practice more robust than the explicit interaction between people where value is exchanged but no mercantile impulse is denominated.  When the description of the context in which an impulse to exchange arises and explication of the relationship between and among parties is the sole focus of engagement and interaction, confidence - not trust - becomes possible.

What we want when we aspire to trust is most likely the confidence of those within our community or our sphere of influence.  However, community is likely more often harmed then helped when it's asked to set aside exhaustive inquisitiveness or blindly offer benign assent to a petitioner for trust.  Rather than pleading for or imposing a cognitive displacement aspiration in others, it's high time that we recognize the incomparable value of manifest evidence.  And, lest you infer that I'm optimistic, I'm not.  When you do this, it's still common for others to question intentions or incentives.  The difference is that if you recklessly engage in transparent, generative interactions in the world, you leave humanity somewhat more enriched than you found it.  And I trust that a few of you actually boldly enter that world with untrustworthy, integrity-filled abandon. 


  1. Hey David, Anytime I have acted or helped simply because I could and the act in itself is it's own reward, at least for me it is. Many times especially in the last 20 years I was met with suspicion, but I allowed for consistency of my actions to speak for itself . Along with self inquiry as to "why" I would help no strings attached has kept me honest infusing things with a genuine energy that dispels the suspicion.
    David do you think distrustful people distrust. Can trustful people really have a large amount of distrust towards people they choose to interact with that would require trust? Do you think self honesty and trustworthiness to be intertwined? Do you think self knowledge would give good discernment skills where other people are concerned? Clarity has been something I prize dearly and I find that an environment of untrustworthiness it's impossible.
    Your vocabulary would make my mother glow! It's incredible and while reading your blog it gets a good work out from me! Thanks David

  2. Clarify a statement above, I left out the word "dictionary" This gets a good workout when I read your posts and for this I thank you!


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave