29 October, 2008

This Year’s Word: Trust (2/3)

As I mentioned in the last post, it became evident that it was time to go off and find out what Trust actually is, from both a theoretical, as well as, a practical point-of-view. I gave myself this year to study the scholars, to converse with friends, and to participate in solitary contemplation about the meaning of trust, and its importance in life.

The Oxford dictionary defines trust as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. How do I know whom I can trust? How do I decide, not only to what extent I can trust someone, but what this person can be entrusted with?

The easiest answer to the question, “How do I know whom I can trust?” is to ask, “Who do I trust at this moment?” and “Who have I trusted in the past?” If the list of people you trust presently contains the same names as the people you have always been able to trust, you’re probably one happy trooper.

In my case, I tend to trust people near-and-dear to me with information or in situations where I need a shoulder to cry on, or their truthful opinion, or their knowledgeable judgment. Sometimes I have trusted wisely, at other times very unwisely. What I have learnt is that even though it would be wonderful if we could trust our loved ones with everything, it is not always prudent to do so.

This is because trust has many dimensions. First, we must find someone who is equally committed to the outcome of the situation we are entrusting them with, as we are. I trust my husband with my worries about my impending unemployment (my work contract is coming to an end in two months’ time), not only because he loves me and cares about my concerns, but because our financial livelihood is dependent on my contribution.

Secondly, the person we trust has to have the required skill or ability to carry through that which we are entrusting them with. It is not prudent to trust someone with my life-savings, if they’re always living on the brink of financial disaster. Lastly, there is always an element of unpredictability, or risk, when we trust someone to do something. If there weren’t risk involved, then we wouldn’t be entrusting them, but just instructing or informing them.

When I reflect back over the last ten years on situations or persons who have failed to live up to my expectations, I asked myself why did they fail: lack of commitment or lack of skill? And, as it turns out, it is nearly always the lack of skill that is the central cause for the failure. Not only their skill is lacking, but also my sense of judgement. Why would I trust someone with something they have no ability to succeed in?

Going back to the Oxford dictionary definition of trust (a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something), the question is where does that firm belief come from? I can only conclude through experience. Since childhood, I’ve trusted those near to me: my parents, my siblings, and my friends, with aspects precious to my wellbeing. And, the outcome of those experiences becomes memory.

No matter how distorted these memories are, they are all I have to navigate by. Thus, it is important to consider what I remember about these people, particularly their abilities, when I decide to ask them for constructive help and quiet solace. It is as simple as that.

1 comment:

  1. (I'm having trouble opening your note box again.)

    RYN: Not just me, but everyone is horrified. It's happening now. Mary is basically gone, and everyone waits for her daughter to come down and pull the plug. Until then, she lies there in a continual state of seizures. It's awful.