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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Trust

trust  (trĊ­st)n.
1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. 
Also:
1. reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth, reliability, etc, of a person or thing; faith. 


"Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot." Proverbs 25:19 (NLT)

Yes, I know that not everyone out there is Judeo-Christian, but I have to start somewhere and Proverbs is mainly a collection of accumulated wisdom.


We all deal with trust in our daily lives, consciously or not. Every time you read or watch the news, you are making decisions on how much you trust the source. When you drive down the street, you trust that people will stop at the red lights. Mistrust is as useful as trust in most situations - you may be able to trust someone to be/do evil as well as good, so I will refer to them both as just "trust". 

All of us have been screwed over at some time in our lives and the more often that happens, the harder it becomes to trust anything again. Likewise, after trusting someone for a period of time it becomes harder to imagine that they might betray your trust and it hurts more than if it was a stranger. Children trust everyone until they figure out that they're not safe doing so. Older people tend to be less trusting than the young; they've had more experience at being betrayed so it may take longer to earn their trust. Knowing that something can happen is the first step to being prepared for it if it does happen.

Trust comes in a wide variety of forms and levels of importance. I may trust my neighbor to borrow my lawnmower for a day, but wouldn't trust him with my credit cards. The specifics will vary from society to society, but there are levels of trust involved in all human interactions: 
  • Trust in your team. I'm basically a loner, but I have friends that I can call on to get bigger jobs done. I literally trust them with my life and the lives of my family and they have the same trust in me. This is not something that comes quickly - it takes years to get to this level of trust.
  • Trust inside a family or "tribe" (I need to do a post on that one word alone) is of paramount importance. You need to be able to trust the people you're living with as much as they need to be able to trust you. We all need to sleep sometime, and you'll sleep better knowing that you can trust the people who are sleeping around you.
  • Trust in a small community or population of others around you is important because no one person can provide for all of his/her needs. There will be a need to communicate and trade with others in the event of a drawn-out crisis. Get to know the people around where you are or plan to be, establish communication at least and start on building trust with the ones you can. Believe me, after living in one small town for 10 years, I was still the "new guy". It takes time-more in some parts of the world than in others.
  • Trust in government. OK, when you get done laughing, we'll continue. Remember what I said about mistrust being as good as trust? Yeah, you can trust that someone is going to try to govern and that they will mess it up. Trusting that they'll be a bunch of "more equal" pigs gives you a base from which to build your interaction with or avoidance of them. This is human nature; some people just naturally think they are destined to govern.
  • Trust in whatever it is that you choose to worship. If you believe in a higher being, your trust in that will be a comfort in times of trouble. Human history has plenty of stories of people who got through really nasty things by having faith and trust in their God. It also has plenty of stories of people doing really nasty things based on their faith and trust in their God.

Trust is something that is built between people and groups. Trust, like respect, is earned and not given. Under normal conditions, basic trust can be built rapidly or even be assumed. When things are a bit more dire it will probably not be safe to trust people you don't know. The exchange of honest information and gifts has always been one of the ways to build trust. A person who honors his vows and oaths will be more deserving of your trust, and time spent around others will show you how they treat people and will give you clues about how far to trust them. 

This cuts both ways - the longer people have to watch you, the more they will be judging your trustworthiness. Showing that you have no evil intent is the basis of good trust - being a complete ass is a good way to build mistrust. Actions are more important than words when it comes to building trust (politicians come to mind). When life starts to get harder and the results of choices start to have larger impacts, trust will be harder to come by. Would you trust a stranger with the location and size of your food cache? How about a family member with a drug addiction? Would you trust a strange man to give your daughter a ride home?

As things start continue to fall apart, barter will make a comeback (another post topic) and there has to be a certain level of trust involved between traders. Say George has eggs that he wants to trade Sam for whiskey. George has to trust that Sam hasn't watered down the whiskey and Sam has to trust that George isn't giving him month-old eggs.  Having a reputation is inevitable once you start dealing with others, and being trustworthy will lead to more opportunities for trade. People who are not trusted may not be allowed to trade, or at the least will be offered less for their goods.

Trust can rarely be forced, so we invented contracts to provide an "or else" to trust in. Humans have had a variety of systems of contract enforcement through the ages, from the King's Court to tribal councils. However, having an impartial mediator that both sides trust is the hard part to acquire. I know people hate the term "social contract", but that's what most people run their lives by - a standard expectation of behavior for polite society. The "or else" clause in a social contract is usually shunning, banishment, or violence. Play nice or the other kids won't play with you any more, and might just kick your ass for good measure. 

Work on building trust within your own group and then start to branch out. Now is the time to get this part of your preparations in order (like all of the others), before you need it.

The Fine Print


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