Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The past several weeks have been, shall we say, interesting. A rolling series of overlapping, short deadline projects at work have left me feeling a little like Indiana Jones: you know he's not going to get flattened by the boulder in the end, but while it's happening you have your doubts. A few weeks ago my boss made a comment about the necessity of building trust with our customers, and what we as a department need to do to accomplish that. It left me with a question: why do we trust? What exactly is it that causes us to trust?

You may be surprised to know that I think trust, in most cases, is actually a thing very easily given. The dictionary defines trust as "firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing." That definition is a little redundant in my opinion, but think about it: you walk into a room for the first time and there is a chair. You have never seen it before, but you sit in it anyway without a second thought. Why? Because you trust that it has the ability to hold you up. Your trust is based on previous evidence of other chairs holding you up but nevertheless, this chair gained your trust simply on the basis of its innate claim of being a chair. Talk about easy. No, what I think is hard is keeping trust. Keeping trust requires not just a claim, but evidence and action to back it up.

When you're picking a doctor, the first thing you probably do is go to your insurance company, or maybe even the phone book. Somewhere, on some piece of paper with the heading "Doctor" you find the name "Dr. Stanetsky, M.D.". Based on this endorsement you head to the address listed to have Dr. Stanetsky treat your lacerated knee. Perhaps when you get there Dr. Stanetsky has a clean office, some sterile sutures and a prescription for antibiotic ointment to back up his (or her) initial claim: trust kept. On the other hand, if Dr. Stanetsky turns out in reality to be Madame Gerta, the beaded woman who practices "medicine" out of her tent by the river, you'd probably change your mind and limp to the nearest box of Band-Aids instead: trust lost.

In among all the claims and evidence, there's another key element that also affects trust, or lack thereof, and I touched on it briefly in the (admittedly cliché) example of the chair: people tend to generalize. After sitting in a hundred different chairs, it's a lot easier to trust the next chair you come across based on the evidence of the previous ones. On the other hand, after you've visited one Madame Gerta, or two or three, you are likely to be much more cautious about the next doctor you visit.

There are entire industries based on these ideas. Marketing and advertising companies exist to help other companies make the right claims about themselves to obtain the trust (at least initially) of their target consumers, as well as present themselves as different enough from their competitors to seem a viable alternative for dissatisfied customers.

I have come to realize that all of these ideas (yes, even the advertising part) apply in the area of interpersonal relationships as well. In a perfect world, we would have the ability to trust everyone completely, and everyone would be completely trustworthy. The truth is, your past relationships affect how much you trust the people you meet and how quickly you come to do so, but as we get to know new people, we come to trust them as they prove themselves not to be what we expect. Though not as often as I might wish, I am grateful to say that I have learned this from experience.

I cannot leave off a discussion of trust without talking about God, because it is he who has made the greatest claims, and he who has offered the greatest proofs, and yet it is also he in whom we (even Christians) also have the most trouble placing our trust. Jesus is the fulfilment of every promise God has made, and the whole world stands as evidence of God's power, and his provision is made evident in our lives every day: all this and yet we still very often struggle to trust in him. We struggle because, living in a painfully imperfect world, we have no experience with perfection. We struggle because the only experience we have with gods is with the ones that aren't real. However, there is good news: all relationships grow, given time and commitment. Our relationship with God is no different, and he has already demonstrated his commitment. The more we come to know his nature and the more we experience him in our own lives, the more we will find ourselves able to trust him.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

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Anonymous dan said...

This post is mislabeled, unless of course the label is meant ironically. Because it is neither foolish nor nonsensical. Though, I guess Paul may agree with you, for it is Gospel wisdom that he refers to as "foolishness." Well done. Thanks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 1:27:00 AM  
Blogger April Lynn said...

WORD. Excellent post!!!!
Loved the ending - it keeps the reader engaged...and not lamenting over past relationships that resulted in loss of trust...


Wednesday, June 20, 2007 2:33:00 PM  

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