Who do we trust? Do we trust our spouses? Our kids? Our parents? Ourselves? Or, do we trust strangers? Experts? Journalists? Government? This simple question has vexed human kind since we could first consider our own existence. Perhaps it harkens back to time in the cave when we most had to rely upon one another. If we chose a weak or irresponsible member to our clan, we’d likely not survive very long in the harsh reality of a saber-toothed world. So, we developed mechanisms to measure the veracity and reliability of the promised commitment of others. The most successful of us became acutely aware of deceit and chose to align with those more worthy of our confidence. The trust in us of others became crucial to our flourishing. Even now, centuries later, political candidates vie to convince us of their genuineness in a desire to advance their own agendas.
But trust affects not only the trusted but also the beneficiary of that bond. Isn’t one who expects, demands or even profits from the trust of another in turn responsible to be trustworthy themselves? For example, isn’t one who expects honesty and integrity from their own children creating a compact whereby they are held to exhibit that same honesty and integrity themselves?
Of course, one can only be held to account for our own actions – we are not our brother’s keeper. Yet, if we are honorable, can’t we expect honor from others. And if we choose to prevaricate, shouldn’t we expect others to practice treachery? Even then, we are never sure of another’s uprightness. Perhaps this reality roots the maxim, “in God we trust, all others must pay cash.” People are flawed and truth requires difficult choices. But even in a realm lacking a carnivorous threat, can we hope to survive without trust?