published Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Harpe: Building our lives on blocks of trust

By Corin Harpe

The other day as I was reflecting on past difficult relationships, either romantic or failed friendships, I realized there was one aspect that contributed to their collapse. Lack of trust.

We fail to realize how essential trust is to our existence. It is exercised in every decision, from the products we buy to the ways in which we travel from one destination to another.

I have always wondered, with trust so essential to our being, did it develop or are we born with an innate ability to trust? Simple evidence such as a baby crying when a parent leaves the room reveals that perhaps we are not born with such an ability.

There are even psychological theories such as Erikson's Trust Versus Mistrust which claim that trust is learned. If children's needs are met when they cry or if they are comforted when frightened, trust is developed. If these needs are not met, the child learns to mistrust and may never be fully secure in the world.

Certain aspects of our lives, such as having our needs met as children or trusting traffic signals, have become so ingrained that we take them for granted, not even realizing that these aspects of our lives indicate a choice of whether or not to trust.

Trust grabs our attention, however, when it comes to the people with whom we share our lives. Things become more complicated in an adult world where people are inherently inconsistent. If someone important in your life claims he is an honest person, but falls short on demonstrating this honesty, then full confidence in the person will disappear.

A lack of confidence can appear for situations as simple as being stood up because your friend forgot a lunch date or having a friend who never answers the phone or returns emails.

As people we do, however, have the wonderful ability to forgive, but who is to say these incidents won't lead to a more serious one?

Consistency in one's actions, along with a stated confirmation, are essential to trust, but it is not a one-way street. In order to maintain trust, we must be trustworthy ourselves. Demonstrating that you're an honest person is not only revealed through reliability, but also by showing trust in return. If we are constantly questioning other people's actions, then we are basically telling them that we do not trust them.

What happens if our trust has been betrayed? Is there a way to repair it? Can we ever fully believe the person again? Again, as humans we do can forgive, but personally I struggle with disloyalty. It just seems to me that there is no way to completely re-establish confidence in the other person. If he did it once, he can do it again.

Perhaps we can save the situation by believing that people can change for the better. They can realize their mistakes and move on from them, perhaps understanding the damage they have done.

Communication is essential. Many times, lack of communication is a source for the lapse in trust. I have learned that, if something bothers me, I must speak up, not let it pass, because it will probably turn into a bigger issue later on.

It is easy to live in a world full of fear and mistrust, to avoid the pain of being hurt or surprised, but we must realize that trust is essential to our being and to our everyday functioning.

We should strive to cultivate honesty in all aspects of our lives and transactions because it will be reciprocated, creating a more secure and reliable world.

Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail.com.

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