Thursday, January 24, 2013

What About Trust?

Image courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert

A veterinarian prescribed three huge pills to be given to a sick mule. “How do I get him to take the pills?” the farmer asked.

“It’s quite simple,” replied the vet. “Just insert the pill into a pipe. Put the pipe in the mule’s mouth and blow on the other end. He will swallow the pill without realizing it.”

The next day the farmer returned, looking sickly. “You look awful!” said the doctor. “What happened?”

The farmer explained, “He blew first.”

And if, like the pill, you find that story hard to swallow, then you’re in good company. A healthy skepticism is probably needed to get by these days. My email spam folder is filled with offers from folks who want nothing more than to help me get rich – even total strangers who want to send me tons of money and all I have to do is to give them enough personal banking information to make the deposit. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not willing to swallow every fantastic claim that comes my way.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip once had Calvin asking, “Who was the first guy that looked at a cow and said, ‘I think that I’ll drink whatever comes out of those things when I squeeze them’?” No, just because someone says the water is fine, I don’t have to fling myself in. If there is any truth in James Thurber’s assertion that “you can fool too many of the people too much of the time,” then I don’t need to be the first to volunteer.

But what about trust? I don’t want to become too cynical, either. I don’t want to go through life believing that behind every act of kindness there is a hidden motive, that inside every silver lining there is a dark cloud ready to disgorge bucketfuls of water on my little parade. I don’t want be wary of every stranger I meet and turn a suspicious eye to any good thing that comes my way.

Why not? Because I want to trust people. It is not nearly so important for me hone a sharp edge of skepticism as to be somebody with a keen ability to trust.

Relationships that work, after all, are built on trust. Trust in families is essential if want to raise healthy, happy children. As adults, we want to be trusted by others and our closest friends are usually people we can depend on. And what’s left in marriage when trust is shattered?

This is equally true in the world of business. My friend and business entrepreneur Bob Burg teaches, "All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” He should know. He built a business, and a life, on the principle of trust.

I am discovering that I can live far better without cynicism than I can without trust. And so I worry less these days about naively swallowing everything I hear and more about fine tuning an ability to catch glimpses of whatever good there may be around me.

In his poem “Desiderata” (1927), Max Erhmann offers this deep wisdom:

“Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism…

“Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass…
“Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

It IS a beautiful world. May I have eyes to see it.

-- Steve Goodier

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