trust \trəst\ n 1: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something 2 : one in which confidence is placed
“Friendship- my definition- is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.” – Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Charles Blondin is the famous tightrope walker that crossed Niagara Falls on a rope – a quarter of a mile. In 1859 he walked 160 feet above the falls, back and forth several times to the amazement and awe of adoring crowds.
If walking across wasn’t enough, he crossed once in a sack, once on stilts, another time on a bicycle, and even carried a stove and cooked an omelet while suspended above the falls.
A version of the story says that after going back and forth across the Falls, enough times to convince people of his expertise, he asked asked the audience if they believed he could do it again pushing the wheel barrow. The crowd screamed out, “Of course you can.”
Then he asked if they believed he could push a person across the Falls. “Of course you can,” the answer came back. Who will get in the wheelbarrow and let me carry them across,” Blondin asked.
No one volunteered.
Whether that part of the story is true, it deftly illustrates the role that trust plays in our relationships. Either you trust or you don’t. Blondin could not have pushed half a person across the Falls.
Trust’s component parts are important to know because they help to understand the strength or weakness of relationships.
- Trust is fragile. It is easily broken and requires ample amounts of grace and mercy to restore. Governments know this when they violate another country’s sovereignty by tapping their phones or hacking their security. Marriages are equally fragile, if not more so. So also friendships.
- Trust can’t be faked. It’s a binary virtue – either a one or a zero. It’s a toggle switch that is either off or on. “Trust but verify” isn’t trust. It actually means that I’m afraid to turn my back on the other.
- Trust is defined by actions. For a parent it is giving the keys of the car to a teenaged child. It is seen when friends leave their children with each other and trust the children will be safe.
- Trust, for some, is an incredible act of will. Prior experiences, fear, insecurity, or even arrogance can make trusting another person difficult – in spite of the fact that the Other may be totally trustworthy.
Stephen Covey calls trust “the glue of life and the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” You could argue that love alone lacks a dimension that completes relationships. Trust is the element that gives the keys of one’s life/car/children/government to the other. Absent this, you have nothing more than a business relationship or a polite agreement.
In the words of George MacDonald, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”