“Trust as given,” “trust as extended,” and the existential costs of both.
Looking up, there is a sense in which we trust the sky is overhead, but this trust seems different from when our brother says, “I’ll see you tomorrow at two, downtown.” We indeed must trust we will see him, for it isn’t yet a fact that he will be there at that time. If we do not trust our brother to be true to his word until it becomes certain that he is true to it, we do not really trust him; rather we set ourselves up to acknowledge facts (“he is here at two” or “he is not here”). Considering this, trust isn’t so much earned as it is assessed, and furthermore it generally can only be assessed accurately in circumstances of clear, verbal exchange. Trust can be confirmed and given but not really earned, for relationships themselves can only be confirmed and given. At the same time, there is a kind of “trust as living” which seems relevant, as well as “trust as extended/given,” so how might these two trusts interact and interrelate? A good question, one that will lead into critical sociological considerations.
In a sense, for us to pick up a cup of coffee is to trust it will not spill all over us; to walk down the street is to trust the ground beneath us will not cave; to speak with others is to trust they will understand what we’re saying. To exist and function in the world is to trust. Yet, this kind of trust isn’t so much “trust” as it is “fact acknowledgment”; furthermore, this supposed “trust” cannot be earned, only assessed, since facts like this are integrated into the very fabric of reality.
A fact is not really trusted but exists. We do not trust that “2 + 2 = 4” because we “know” “2 + 2 = 4”; if “2 + 2 ≠ 4” and rather “2 + 2 = 5,” we would know “2 + 2 = 5.” Trust is a non-variable. As with the world around us, we do not trust facts but acknowledge or assess them, which is easy to confuse with trusting (retrospectively). Yet when “trust” means nothing more than “accepting facts,” “trust” loses its thrust. Surely the term means something more, yes?
Much of what we believe are matters of trust are more accurately described as matters of fact. To say we “trust a coffee cup will not spill on us” is somewhat true and yet inconsequential. We don’t actively trust a cup unless we think about it (such as when a paper like this stimulates us to so think). To actively trust a cup is unnatural, as it’s even strange to say, “We trust a cup we drink out of.” Normally, we just drink, minding our own business —
And then the cup breaks.
We’re caught off-guard, unsettled, and now we feel like something was broken, something like trust. But this feeling is a trick: we never really trusted the cup in the first place; we just used it. All feelings of disapproval or anger are retrospective and unfounded, for trust that isn’t given cannot be broken. We may feel like we trusted the cup once it breaks, but we did not. Rather, it was once a fact that the cup worked, and now it is a fact that it broke — nothing more. Because the cup broke, we might be agitated and taken off-guard, but the feeling that the cup “tricked us” is erroneous. Since we didn’t expect the cup to break, it is our expectation that was thwarted, not our trust (unfortunately words do not stop us from misapplying them). Yet it wasn’t the cup that provided this expectation, but rather we who self-imposed it on ourselves via habits to our notions “of how things (should) work.” We had reason to do this seeing that cups are made to stay together when used, but the mistake is to retrospectively interpret this as a relationship of trust versus a product of “living.” The cup made no promises and simply “was”: for us to get mad at the cup is unfitting.
Trust was never granted to the cup: we “lived” and accepted facts as they manifested (keep in mind that we don’t usually accept facts actively: they simply “are,” and we absorb what “is”). It is only when the cup breaks that we can retrospectively add intentionality and expectation, and then we come to believe that we held that orientation all along (we “self-delude” ourselves, as expounded upon in “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment”). Perhaps we could say the act of picking up the cup was the act of trusting it, but then “trusting” means “living.”
Heidegger pointed out that we do not notice a doorknob until we reach out to turn it and find it broken. Similarly, we do not notice “living” until something goes amiss, and then we glance back at our “living” as “trust.” We deem our trust broken, when in fact no trust was ever given to be disappointed. Again, we simply “lived.” Trust, if distinct from “living,” necessitates the active granting of an expectation. When a person inactively believes a cup will not break when used, the person doesn’t trust the cup; the person “lives.”
We do not need to trust that a bucket outside is full of rainwater if such is the case, and if tomorrow the bucket is no longer full, this doesn’t mean the previous fact “abused our trust.” It is simply the case that, today, there is no rainwater in the bucket (facts became facts). Naturally, expectations are only actively granted toward what entails regular uncertainty. Since cups don’t usually break, cups usually bring with them the confidence that they won’t spill all over us. However, people entail regular uncertainty, so toward people the word “trust” can be more readily applied. When we think our trust is broken when others break inactive trust versus active trust, that individual sets others up to hurt him or her and to (perhaps unfittingly) feel wronged.
Humans cannot fully know others like humans can fully know if a bucket is empty or not. A person can be assessed, but a person will still always have a “hidden bucket,” per se, which makes full assessment much more difficult if not impossible. Is the bucket full or empty? No one can directly say, which is why it is best not to assess regularly, as to avoid judgment. It is better to interact with others in a way that fills his or her bucket regardless of the circumstance, which makes assessment unnecessary even when it doesn’t slip into judgment. However, if a person makes some degree of the bucket visible, an assessment can of course be made. That said, assessment (if it must be done) needs to be done carefully, and better yet silently and privately, because without discernment and wisdom, assessment can quickly become judgment or be received as judgment. This could be caused by the way in which something is said or in how, once spoken, the receiver of the assessment can read into it. This reveals how to trust also means to hear what another says and to not immediately assume the comment is judgmental. However, this is very hard to do, as sometimes people do mean something beyond a simple observation when they speak (and often unknowingly imply a judgment in an assessment).
“You’re wearing a strange dress,” for example, could be an assessment but also a judgment of the outfit and the person’s decision to wear it.¹ An assessment received as a judgment could then cause the receiver to not trust the framework the receiver used to interpret assessments, for by virtue of the fact that she chose to wear the dress, she must have assessed it as worth wearing.² In the exchange, the person making the verbal assessment may not be trusting the choice of the dress-wearer; simultaneously, the receiver of the assessment may not trust that the other person is simply making an observation. Either way, such an exchange can lead the person receiving the assessment/judgment to lack trust in his or her self. (Please note here that a society lacking “shared intelligibility” thanks to sociological “givens” is more likely to fall into these kinds of ambiguous situations, as discussed throughout Belonging Again by O.G. Rose).
“I am shorter than all the other kids at school” could be a self-assessment, and the boy thinking this might not be bothered at all. However, if someone voices the same assessment to a short student with a framework that translates being short as something bad, the assessment can become a judgment. Again, this voicing may cause confusion, as the short student may no longer trust his own framework, which previously beget interpretations and self-assessments of being the shortest in school as acceptable. With repetitive occurrences like this, the student may become less confident, more unstable, and eventually feel self-deluded as the student comes to mistrust his hermeneutic framework and start to believe that nothing is what it seems. Judgmental-sounding talk can thus cause self-trust issues, not to mention issues of trust between the student (who happens to be short) and classmates. The student may then isolate himself, thinking he cannot trust his classmate to ever say anything positive. In this example, the short student ultimately can do nothing about the fact that he is short. However, the student can change how (or if) he reads into the assessment.
To encounter a person is to encounter an uncertainty, for there is always uncertainty when it comes to “reading” and/or assessing a person.³ Wherever there is uncertainty, there is either trust, assessment, and/or judgment (the latter of which can lead to fear). Trust, when it functions best, entails believing that when uncertainties become certain, what is unveiled will be good. If we don’t know whether our friend will meet us downtown at two, for example, we assume that he will, rather than think about all the times he turned in papers late, forgot to call us when he said he would, etc. as evidence for why our friend will probably disappoint us. If we’re about to begin a relationship with someone, we should assume that person will be faithful, rather than think of all the reasons the person will probably disappoint us (before the person is even given a chance). Often, it is fear that provokes this kind of mistrust.
Whenever we encounter a person, to some degree, we assess them. And because there is always uncertainty with others, there is always some degree of people that we cannot assess fully. Trusting a person entails not trying to assess further than one actually can or should. Though we can tell whether a person smiles a lot, we cannot tell whether or not the person likes to smile or is happy when smiling (it could be a mask). Also, trust entails not assuming or reading into an assessment, for an assessment that is read into can become a judgment. Once we begin assuming things, we can crowd out trust.
Like “living,” trust is facilitated by truth and/or facts. Truth must come before trust, and it also takes truth to determine which facts are valid and which are ill-founded. Truth to itself is not merely subjective, but determining what is true entails working through subjectivity. Likewise, determining what is true entails assessment, but assessment is always threatened by the temptation to slip into judgment. Consequently, regardless what we think, we often do not simply assess but also judge. Think about the iconic grumpy cat: she looks angry, so one could assess that she is angry, though she is fine. The assessment “she looks angry” is true, but the (identically worded) judgment “she is angry” isn’t necessarily true (there’s uncertainty). To determine whether grumpy cat actually is grumpy would require a relationship, which would require trust. In being only viewers of the feline, we can only rightly assess that the cat “looks grumpy,” but how hard it is to keep that from becoming “the cat is grumpy.”⁴ Furthermore, if the cat understood English, it’s likely to hear a judgment…
Consider Mary in the Gospel: an angel told her that she would conceive a very special child and was told not to fear.⁵ She received truth before she trusted. Had she not received this information, she would not have known in what to trust. Language allows for this type of interaction, but language also births confusion, not because language itself necessarily confuses but because it is “read into” and/or judged. This judgment can be unemotional or emotional, but if received emotionally, it is likely to cause a person to be even more fearful when encountering or expressing language. Fear is almost always emotional and binding; for this reason, it is an opposite of trust (reducing freedom).⁶ Trust requires truth (as discussed before), and truth sets one free (usually after hardship). Therefore, if there is fear, there is likely to be some form of mistrust occurring in one’s life, either of self or of others. Furthermore, we cannot relate to truth with certainty, only confidence, and hence trust, so if trust is threatened our relationship to truth is similarly in turmoil: trust and (a sense of) truth exist in a feedback loop. If truth feels out of reach or unreliable, everyone will be forced to rely on finding the only truth they can, and that will likely be their own individual “reality tunnel.” Into these, everyone might withdraw, looking for a sense of something they can rely on, and thus atomization will worsen. There will be less chance of “the banality of evil,” yes, but is this worth the cost? People will feel they can only trust themselves, and that means the only truth they will trust is their own.
When it comes to everyday interactions, we employ trust in believing language communicates. We trust that the sound “dɒg” means the word “dog” and that others understand. This trust is necessary because, based solely on assessment, the sound “dɒg” doesn’t equal the word “dog,” nor do either equal an actual dog. Therefore, we operate trusting that the uncertainty of words is overcome when we speak. This is both regarding believing that words mean what we think they mean, and that they will be understood as we intend them to be understood. Naturally, no one speaks believing their words will come out wrong or be misheard, and so to a person’s self, the trust put in words is indefinable from “living.” Yet it is when speaking with others that “trust” can become distinct.
Language creates room for uncertainty, for trust or a lack of trust. Unto a person’s self, this isn’t an issue, as his or her language is one with the person’s reading of reality. People do not consciously trust themselves: people “live.” Consider how if there was no verbal language, we wouldn’t be able to experience (for example) a cup other than when presented with or thinking about a cup. Furthermore, language makes it possible for someone to make us think about a cup independent of our will. In such an act, “trust” and “living” can be defined separately, for if a friend suggests that we drink a cup of tea because “it’s good” versus “because we’ll like it,” we must trust our friend means it. If our friend hadn’t said anything, we could have had a cup of tea simply because we saw a teacup, felt thirsty, or due to some other “reading” without any prerequisite or involvement of trust — but words change things.
When we experience or will to think about a cup, there is nothing for us to trust, only facts to “read” of our own choosing. We always engage with or think about entities as if trusting, but when someone else speaks “living” and “trust” can be readily defined apart. If I think, “This cup will break when I pick it up,” I seem to be trusting it would be better to not pick it up (and that a reality in which I do not pick up the cup is better than the one in which I do). In truth, I am trusting in what I believe are facts, so no actual trust is involved. Rather, I am simply “reading” things the way I think things “are.” I think it is a fact that if I pick up the cup it will break, so I use another. I do not naturally think, “This cup will break my trust,” for the cup simply is itself.
It is only natural to think in terms of trust when dealing with people, who entail regular uncertainty, and it is only right to think in terms of trust when someone says he or she will or will not do something. It is through language that trust is meaningfully employed, for it is language that results in the confusion and uncertainty that require trust to be overcome in the first place. If somehow a society became a place where “shared intelligibility” declined due to a loss of shared customs, practices, etc. (“givens”), the amount of times trust would have to be employed between people would be greatly multiplied, which would also greatly multiply the likelihood that trust was upset and people hurt. Hurt takes a long time to heal, and once people recover, they tend to be very hesitant to reenter the situations in which they felt hurt again. And so people silently pull apart; interactions decline. Atomization increases.
Trust applies meaningfully when a person tells us that he or she is going to do something, and our trust is violated if that person doesn’t do that given thing (relative to the parameters defined during the initial exchange). If a person assumes that their unspoken framework is by which the terms of the exchange are defined, the other might not violate the person’s trust if he or she seems to fail to do what the other said he or she would do. Trust is violated in such a situation to the degree the hermeneutical framework is communicated clearly, which is to say where there is “shared intelligibility.” If a friend says, “I will take care of you,” and we interpret that to mean the person will provide us with food and the person instead gives us emotional support, we aren’t warranted to believe the person is untrustworthy (however, if the person said, “I will take care of you by providing food,” we would be). Keep in mind that both parties will think that their interpretation is obvious — that’s the nature of framework discrepancies — and where “shared intelligibility” is rare, the probability of miscommunications that no one will experience as “miscommunication” will increase, causing doubt in others, self-doubt, and confusion. Silently, people will avoid confusion…
We meaningfully trust the individual who tells us, “I’ll meet you at two, downtown,” if we show up at that time and place. If we don’t, even if we supposedly “trusted the person would be there,” our trust lacks substance in not leading to action. “Meaningfully trusting” someone entails vulnerability, for in going downtown at two, we risk being in a situation where the other person doesn’t show up. A meaningful extension of trust entails risk for all parties involved. If in trusting another I have nothing to lose, I do not meaningfully employ trust.
Trust can only be verified in situations in which words are exchanged and an active expectation extended. Considering this, situations that require trust are best left to a minimum. With every expectation is a possibility for disappointment, and if such a possibility isn’t necessary, it is best left out altogether. Furthermore, if trust involves risk, and yet the likelihood of trust being violated (on accident, due to ambiguity, etc.) increases due to loss of “shared intelligibility,” then a society with collapsing “givens” is a society which will likely, gradually and through time, find itself struggling to trust. Situations in which “miscommunications obviously didn’t occur” (and yet did) will increase, and with this will grow a feeling of uncertainty about what seems obvious. To allude to a memorable line from the remarkable In Strange Woods, we will gradually lose faith in our ability to know what to do anymore.
Might we discuss a difference between “trust as being” and “trust as skill?” This language might overlay with “trust as living” and “trust as extension,” and indeed trust that is extended does seem to be a skill we must practice. Skills are hard to develop, and they take effort to employ. Perhaps today what we must develop is the skill to handle and accept the unexpected? Is trust today an ability while trust in the past was more of a state? Can we think of our world today as a movement from “states” to “abilities?” Hard to say, but where “(the trust of) living” is gone due to the deconstruction of “givens,” the remaining “hole” must be filled with “trust being given.” The loss of the “sociological given” requires a different kind of “giving-ness” to make up what was lost, but this “giving-ness” is much more psychologically and existentially taxing to extend (and likely to only be extended enough to form “tribes”). Trust must be given where there are no “givens” — a “giving” must make up for the loss — and this is difficult.
For a person to assess that another can be trusted entails seeing if the other did what he or she said would be done; for someone to earn it, the other must be waiting for the person to do what he or she said would be done before trusting. To assess is to continue giving trust while to earn is to wait to give it. Though these concepts are similar, they are distinct: the one who assesses gives trust to start and acts as if the trust will be honored, while the one who wants trust earned waits to give trust, and then only gives it until the trusted person fails to earn trust as the giver so desires. And in a situation in which trust is withheld (especially when it’s confused with “living”), trust is incredibly difficult if not impossible to gain. This is because the one granting the trust decides when it has been earned, whether it be after the first or twentieth time the person did what he or she committed to doing. Since this individual already doesn’t trust the other, it is unlikely that person will easily (if ever) come to believe that their trust has been earned. Though the other might have done what he or she said would be done in the past, the person will be hesitant to believe that the other will always do so, coming from a place of unbelief.
Problematically, trust is nearly impossible to gain from a place of unbelief because the one withholding the trust has no necessary reason to think that just because the individual did “a few things right” means the person is reliable. And from a place of unbelief, those “few right things” could easily be overlooked. Someone who asks for proof is probably evidence-driven, and by the nature of trust will find no evidence that a person “is trustworthy,” only perhaps evidence that a person “was trustworthy.” We can see that a person fulfilled or has fulfilled promises, but never that a person will fulfill promises. There’s always a lack of evidence that will seem to warrant skepticism, even if that skepticism hurts.
Worsening the problem, trust can become a euphemism for a wish that someone do what we want or think is best. This means we could say, “I trusted you,” when really we just held an unspoken expectation (versus an active expectation, as expounded upon earlier). In such instances, a person is treated like an unchanging fact rather than a “becoming,” for the person is assumed to do what is expected of him or her (like a cup that is expected not to break upon being used). Therefore, to treat people like “unchanging facts” could be to alienate them from their humanity. We should trust people to make the most of themselves (for example), not to do what we think will make the most of them. Again, to treat people as if they must do what we think they should is to treat them like a cup that we expect won’t break when we drink from it. To extend trust that is confused with “living” (as already expanded upon) is to treat people like inanimate objects.
Not every expectation is justified. “You shouldn’t murder” is not justified like the statement, “You shouldn’t be an astronaut.” The latter entails a subjective standard of value, while the former entails violating the rights of others. If I say, “I don’t want you to become an astronaut,” though the person being spoken to knows he or she could earn the speaker’s trust or approval by not becoming an astronaut, earning it in this way is likely not best. Gaining the trust of another person isn’t a good in-of-itself (say when it entails getting a murderer to trust us to help him carry out crimes): it is only a virtue when directed toward a good end (the nature of which is relative to the people involved and the general rights of others). Considering this, if people earn the trust of others rather than receive it, they likely must accept the others’ expectations of how people are to function (to be successful, right, etc.). This will likely result in alienation because someone’s expectation of what can make another happy (for example) might not match what actually makes that other person happy.
People are “regular uncertainties,” and only people, unlike animals, can speak (or at least as far as we know). In being both uncertain and verbal, trust of some kind is needed, and we can trust rightly regarding those who say they will or will not do something (as defined by the mutually understood and accepted premises, a hermeneutical framework which shouldn’t be assumed). In other circumstances, if trust is said or considered to be involved, trust might be confused with “living.” In a circumstance that involves real trust, our trust is meaningful to the degree that it demands something of us and entails action. In such a circumstance, a person must resist the temptation to “make sure” the person is going to do the thing he or she said would be done, because doing so lessens the caliber of the extended trust and makes the individual less able to show that he or she can be trusted.
This paper isn’t advocating carelessness (there is a difference between accepting the reality that no one is perfect and not granting trust). If someone who has stolen millions of dollars asks if he could borrow our car, it wouldn’t be so much an issue of trust but rather wisdom to answer, “No.” That said, even a criminal should be trusted sometimes (otherwise a criminal can never change), but this doesn’t mean we should be foolish. Considering the distinction made in this paper, recognize that to “extend” trust to a criminal is different from “living” around one. To trust is to believe the criminal will do what he said he would do; to “live” around a criminal is to take in facts as they come and to resist reading into them. When people always “live” unnaturally around them (as if the criminals were “broken cups”), this not only infringes upon the wellbeing of the criminals but also the neighbors. At the same time, no one can trust on the basis of a lie: we cannot trust criminals by pretending like they’re not criminals (for we cannot relate to others through non-reality and denial). Furthermore, this would be unwise.
There certainly might be a person who we cannot trust because that person constantly deceives or threaten us. In this case, it would be best not to interact with that individual instead of continually assuming or judging, perpetuating a bad and possibly harmful relationship. If we have assessed that someone is dangerous, then we should act on our assessment in a way that doesn’t condemn them. This is more loving than to call the person “untrustworthy” while still maintaining a relationship, for judging a person’s character results in the putting on of a “lens” through which we see all the person does and says in terms of that judgment (all while failing to solve the problem). In putting on such a “lens,” we may accidentally misidentify their words or their actions as “untrustworthy”; furthermore, this robs the person being judged of the ability to be seen in any other way, which may push that individual to embrace untrustworthiness, to their detriment, as an essential characteristic of their identity.
It cannot be dismissed that there are those who do things contrary to what they have said or promised. If that is truly the case, it is then wise to not interact with that person, to address the issue directly with the person (without a lens of judgment), and/or to continue to love the person as if the person weren’t behaving distrustfully.⁷ A person (in their self) shouldn’t be seen so much as untrustworthy versus their actions or words be seen as such, and if we take the step of judging the person their self as untrustworthy, we will likely see everything the person says as untrue, even when such isn’t the case (making ourself “untrue”).⁸
Particularly regarding interpersonal relationships, assessment is distinct from judgment. In judgment, the one being judged is assumed responsible; in assessment, the one doing the assessing is responsible. Judgment tends to cause stress and pride, while assessment has a greater likelihood of resulting in resolution. Resolution is achieved not just through “action” but “loving action,” which can demand more from the assessor than from the one being assessed. Furthermore, assessment entails responsibility: it is responsible for determining the nature of its responsibility. Consider our earlier example of the short student: the responsibility that comes with the classmate’s assessment (“He is shorter than everyone else”) is to not join the other kids in teasing the student. Also, if we encounter someone, say a friend who has done something untrustworthy, we have the responsibility of addressing this issue directly, or, say in the case of a stranger, removing ourselves from the situation.⁹
If someone pursues a different college major than us, there is a need to trust their decision, especially if it isn’t what we would have done. Where there is difference, the question of trust can arise, and if we don’t know that trust must either be something “given” or not (versus something earned), there is likely to be social breakdown. Worse yet, the very experience itself of difference can cause anxiety that seems to provide “reason to think” we shouldn’t trust, and if we decide this “emotional judgment” is correct (as is perhaps likely the majority will do when sociological “givens” collapse), then the “different person” whom this judgement is directed toward will be trapped in something from which only we can release them (through the very trust we denied them).
To believe people are untrustworthy can be to place them in an inescapable position: there is nothing a person can say or do to necessarily make us change our minds, as we have discredited their genuineness and authenticity (A/A). Since no one is perfect and a given perceiver will decide what evidence confirms or denies the perceiver’s concern, it will only be a matter of time before a person sees evidence that justifies worry and doubt. With this evidence, the perceiver could easily conclude that it is rational to keep worrying, which will make the person who is worried about feel less trusted. This is very damaging to relationships, because out of love and concern, the so-thought delusional person could be questioned and not taken seriously. Anything the person says to their defense will easily be perceived as further lying (A/A).
Judging causes problems not only for others but also for the judger. In judgment, a “person pulls out the rug” from under a person’s feet, per se, forgetting that he or she stands on the same rug. As we cause problems for others, we can cause problems for ourselves, for we can come to occupy a “self-confirming world” (A/A) that we lock ourselves inside of with the other person; furthermore, we can act as if trust can indeed be earned, supporting a standard with our actions which can later be used on us, trapping us. When we judge a person “as untrustworthy” (in their being) versus assess “an untrustworthy act,” we cannot actually “see” the person we have judged, having ruined our capacity to receive new information as the person changes through time (we see a two-dimensional façade of our own making). Ironically, we cannot readily judge unless we can see everything, as in what lies behind the façade, yet it is the very act of judging which creates “the mask.” We can however discern things with wisdom, but wisdom takes time to develop (and effort to even define).¹⁰ To trust combats the problems judgment creates, while also giving room to “discern rightly” versus tripping into a conclusion.¹¹
Requests that trust be earned are often founded upon judgment of a person’s character. Toward those a person doesn’t judge, a person naturally trusts (as “living”), while to others trust is denied until it is earned, which is never necessarily the case. The act of wanting someone’s trust to be earned can be the very act that renders trust impossible to earn: if we only trust people when they are trustworthy, we will likely never give anyone the opportunity to be trustworthy. We can only grant others a window of opportunity by first granting trust, which defeats the whole idea of earning it. Then the next step is remembering that “trustworthiness” is definable in verbal exchanges and that “untrustworthiness” must never be judged upon the very essence of a person. Once a person is judged as “untrustworthy,” a framework has been erected around that individual which will readily confirm the validity of this judgment to the judger (even when it lacks substance). If however we are willing to take a risk, “living” and trusting won’t be so hard to do: we’ll just find ourselves doing both.
Without trust, we cannot live with others, and if we follow Aristotle’s definition, without a society, we cannot be human. As pointed out by Martha Nussbaum, Euripides’ Hecuba shows us what happens when a person decides that ‘everything that I see is untrustworthy’: the person undergoes a ‘metamorphosis from the human to something less than human.’¹² The loss of trust is as consequential as “the death of God” (if not the completion of that death). Without trust, to use the language of Nietzsche’s madman, the earth is unchained from its sun, and rather we plunge continually — ‘backward, sideward, forward, in all directions’ — we cannot say, though ‘[we] feel the breath of empty space’.¹³ And the loss of sociological “givens” is likely the loss of trust — are we all Hecuba now?
The death of trust doesn’t necessitate the rise of Nietzschean Supermen — things might simply fall apart.¹⁴ Trust is in a sense the very ground of being upon which we stand, and without it nothing sustains our human being, our “living.” The line vanishes between love and manipulation, skepticism and cynicism, honesty and deceit — everything becomes one, stuck together, and unbearably confusing. If we don’t learn how to trust or to understand what it means to trust, though perhaps our world won’t completely fall apart, it will collapse in sections, and we won’t understand why or how. Things will blur, and we will lack the capacity to separate them again into conceivability.
Funny enough, as discussed in “The VORD” by O.G. Rose, the presence of a “relationship” suggests the presence of “difference,” even though “relationship” suggests “unity.” There is no such thing as “a relationship without difference,” for that would be for something to be “the same thing,” and thus no present difference to relate. If this is the case, wherever there is “difference,” there will be “relation(ship)s,” and that means “trust” will have a role, either as “extended” or in “living.” To escape the problem of trust, either everything will have to be totalized into something (like a “totalitarian State”), or everyone will have to be atomized apart — evidence for both of which I fear we can see manifesting in today’s world.
Trust is relationship, rather than something earned in relationship. To start a relationship is to start trusting; to end a relationship, to stop. If we start a relationship but don’t trust, or refrain from or end a relationship yet trust, we will find ourselves faced with problems and paradoxes. If we choose a relationship with someone, we must also choose to trust, and if we just are in a relationship with others, we are just in a situation of trust. To think otherwise is to beg for the relationship to end or become pathological, but if rather we learned to trust wisely, we might avoid the fate of Hecuba and remain human. We might live.
¹Often, assessments are presented in the form of a question, which directly shows the confusing nature of language and difficulty of defining assessment from judgment. The person receiving a question (“Are you going to wear that?”) internalizes it, and then is automatically forced to question their framework, which beget their assessment (“The dress is bright red” to mean “It is beautiful, and I will wear it”). “Questioning assessment” is not always (but is frequently) judgmental.
²A person is unlikely to have a negative self-assessment without it coming from self-awareness provoked by “other-awareness.” A child does not typically think, “I am short,” until he or she encounters another who is taller or who says something about height. Even less likely does a child consider his shortness to be a bad thing until he encounters “otherness” and/or is teased about it on the playground.
³Considering “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment”: humans are “readers” (we “read” atoms into chairs, humans into arrogance, etc.). Humans perpetually “read” entities into being, which means humans are always primed to erroneously “read into” things. Our tendency to “read into” things constantly threatens our “peace of mind,” and once we slip from “reading” to “reading into,” we slip from assessing to judging. Judgment threatens peace, while assessment preserves and authenticates it.
⁴To talk about not having expectations for people based outside of truth is an expansive topic. Since it is difficult to determine what is true for another person’s life (such as whether or not being a doctor would actually be best, etc.), it is best not to have expectations. However, when a person is a child, there are reasonable expectations of behavior, but those expectations should be based in truth. Take a rule like “have respect for your elders”: this is a truth-based expectation, because it will often bode well for the child to respect and learn from those who are older. However, if a child violates this rule, it is not seen as a violation of trust so much as proof that the child needs to be reprimanded in love and taught a lesson until it becomes a part of his or her nature. The reason this should be done is because it will benefit the child; not trusting the child would rob him or her of a chance to grow. Yet, at the same time, elders aren’t always good…
⁶Fear tends to assume “the uncertain” will be unveiled as problematic when made certain.
⁷There are many times in which we ourselves behave deserving disapproval and yet receive love: it is important to act similarly.
⁸See “Should We Get Rid of the Internet?” and the discussion it raises about children and their education.
⁹People sometimes do not talk directly to the person causing a problem, as that would risk shattering the person’s perception of reality. This reality could be a façade, fashioned by judgment, but not directly talking to the person causing the problem can leave the person behind this façade.
¹⁰Trust necessitates time as it necessitates truth, for if there were no time or passing of it, there would be no shift from something being uncertain to being certain. Nothing would be in a state of “becoming”: all would be fixed. All things, in such a case, could be assented to without trust, because there would be no change.
¹¹In this respect, falling in love is very much a type of judgment, considering how Thomas Merton associated “falling in love” with “falling into a swimming pool.”
¹²From a conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/martha-nussbaum/
12.1 Additionally, for Nussbaum, the loss of trust is the loss of the capacity for the moral life, for it is only by making ourselves vulnerable to tragedy (done to us by those we care about and trust in) that we can live “the good life.” Only the immoral seem safe from tragedy.
¹³Allusion to “The Parable of the Madman” by Friedrich Nietzsche.
¹⁴Allusion to “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats.
1. A new day cannot assure us of itself before the sun rises. Whole Foods cannot jog by our house to assure us that it will be there before we arrive. We cannot earn what is part of the fabric of reality (it simply exists or doesn’t).
2. No one knows that the sun will rise the next morning: everyone trusts it will. No one knows that they are going to wake up the next day: everyone trusts they will. No one knows the supermarket will be there when they run errands: everyone trusts it will. The trust “is.”
3. It may seem rational to trust a person only when that person proves to us that they can be trusted, but this is rather contradictory. Trust can only be something we give or don’t give. We cannot make it something people earn from us. People can show that we were right to believe in them, but we must never view this showing as earning.
4. To trust is to acknowledge the pre-existence of trust and to afford freedom for oneself and others.
5. Truth takes assessment, which can easily shift into judgment.
6. What’s the difference between an addiction and a passion? Perhaps it is the trust in one’s own perspective and the degree to which the person’s addiction/passion is beneficial to his or her emotional and physical health. A person buying many books could be going overboard — or could it be sowing the seeds for a library.
7. In a sense, to say, “You’re changing,” is to say, “Gravity exists.” We’re all changing because we’re all in time: we’re learning.
8. Mistrusting, judging, or criticizing another person can cause the person to self-doubt, which can lead to self-delusion. A person not agreeing with another’s point-of-view does not necessarily mean that person is mistrusting the other.
9. To be judgmental is to define a person’s “essence,” while assessment is to articulate experience.
10. Equipping people with wisdom and discernment is usually not telling a person what to do.
11. One who is considered untrustworthy may think, “I didn’t know there was so much riding on me doing what you thought I should do.”
12. Trust can be violated if we have a preset complex for how things should work. To elevate trust on a daily basis is to put oneself in the dichotomy of “ ‘trust’ versus ‘no trust,’ ” versus engaging in pure being (as expanded upon in “Inception, Discrimination, and Freedom”).
13. What is a true preset complex? Concerning questions like “What constitutes a good job?” or “What activity makes one happy?” people can have misunderstandings because they can answer with different “truths.” This can lead to collapsing trust.
14. When we speak negative or careless words, we can “empower problems,” making the emotions (which spurred on those words in the first place) more inescapable.
15. Time necessitates trust. If we consider our reality in any given moment, we can perceive it as existing, whereas we cannot perceive the reality of tomorrow as such. However, we can trust that the reality of tomorrow will be favorable.
16. As “constant conjunction” can never be advanced into a universal law (according to David Hume), instances of a person earning trust can never rationally be expanded to one “being trustable.” Trust can only be given and verified, as a universal law can only be “projected onto” and “verified upon.”
17. As this paper works to define “trust” so that a person doesn’t refrain giving trust from the trustable, this paper also endeavors to keep people from falling into false senses of trust. If we confuse trust with “living,” we may think someone can be trusted when an individual has not been given a verbal exchange against which their reliability can be considered.
18. If a girl decides her mother loves her because she says, “I love you,” versus because she believes it is true and trusts her mother, the girl has set herself up to believe her mother doesn’t love her as soon as her mother doesn’t say, “I love you.” Extending trust requires words, and yet trust isn’t reducible to speech.
19. As one can never jump from instances of a cup falling to a natural law of gravity (to allude to Hume), and as one can never jump from seeing instances in which a person acts trustable to believing that person is trustable, so a person cannot jump from hearing another say, “I love you” to believing he or she is loved. As one must simply believe in “natural laws” and give trust, people must simply believe in one another (how strange).
20. A person who demands an apology might have caused the problem for which he or she is demanding an apology. If the other gives this apology, that individual will take responsibility for what the other caused, resulting in a loss of truth, which can make “gaining trust” a vice.
22. The word “trust” dichotomizes (as all words do) and is typically realized when it is broken (“I thought I could trust you,” “you broke my trust,” etc.) — all terms which struggle to be defined outside a dichotomy should be examined closely.
24. If someone says, “I love you,” it’s best to believe it, rather than wait until the person says it enough times to earn our belief. If the person doesn’t seem to love us, it can be best to believe the person does and to love the person back until their love emerges. Likewise, if someone says, “I’m sorry,” believe it, rather than wait until the person changes. If the person doesn’t change, it can be best to believe the person wants to change (though the person may need loving guidance to do so). We should trust words to bear fruit and live as if what is said is true. Live risk.
24.1 If a person never says, “I love you,” this doesn’t mean the person doesn’t love you, for a person can “darkly speak” such words to another (as expounded upon in “On Words and Determinism.”).
25. “Trust,” when used positively, has many synonyms, but when used negatively, “trust” seemingly has one, primarily “disappointment.” This being the case, the word “trust” should be used with caution.
26. As a child, we are not often aware that we are trusting Mommy and Daddy: we simply exist and engage with our parents freely. Additionally, children do not read into things the way adults do. To age is to learn about danger, and if we remain ignorant we are “childish” — but being “child-like” is hard.
27. A person might not be able to force the feeling of “happiness” but can choose to be happy. A person may not feel a sense of “trust in my brother’s decision to become a mechanic,” but one can choose to trust his or her brother.
28. Trust is often discussed in the context of fear, a context which perhaps makes it impossible to discuss.
29. The question, “What research did you do for this paper?” can highlight the argument that people are more reliant on facts and research than on human testimony.
30. Is love trust?
31. Love should not simply be given in words, gifts, or rituals, but in trust; otherwise, one can only accept love with confusion.
32. If we think someone is a liar, we begin worrying about that person. Consequently, we come to wear “the glasses of worry,” and perceive all actions of that individual within the context of “expecting lies and manipulative acts.” Since no one is perfect, it will only be a matter of time before the individual says something that could be interpreted as “strange” or “false.” This can even happen retrospectively.
33. “I trust you” is to say, “I exist with you.” Trust is a metaphysical underpinning of being.
34. When we interact with a person who has been called a liar, we will wonder if we’re being lied to. The person, upon noticing a change in our demeanor, could feel our hesitation and/or criticism. This could affect how that person acts, and this will function as evidence that the person really is a liar, when in fact it only shows that the person is hurt in not being trusted.
35. Whether we think a person is trustworthy has no necessary bearing on whether or not that person actually is trustworthy.
36. If a person does indeed lie to us, this doesn’t mean we can’t trust that person again: this means that person lied to us in that instant (people aren’t perfect, as we all claim to know). We decide to what degree this “instant” spreads through all time.
37. The solution to self-delusion and the paradox of judgment is to trust.
38. Little things can be harder to handle than big things.
39. Understanding why people don’t trust can be as important as trusting.
40. It is difficult to believe we need to apologize for things that are said or done out of love. However, if something is done that is wrong, it is important that it is acknowledged as such so we can do what is right the next time. If we don’t apologize for mistakes, it is possible that we will continue to engage with involved parties as if we were right, resulting in us being “offish” and “abstracted” from truth. It is also likely that in this mental place we will see “evidence” showing that we were right and justified in our “offish-ness,” because we will still be viewing situations through a lens in which evidence is “toward” our case (as expounded upon in “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment”).
In one sense, forgiveness is “framework repair and/or replacement.” If we call ourself (or someone else) “deceived” when neither is the case, we are now deceived. Likewise, if we deem ourself or others untrustworthy, we are now such (in a way), for in existing in a state independent of the facts and truths of the matter, we have robbed ourself of the foundation which trust requires. We are “untrustworthy” not in an intentional or moral sense, but in a factual manner. Without truth, trust cannot readily be sustained.
If I call you deceived or untrustworthy, I have now incepted that idea into your mind, which may result in you abstracting yourself into an un-trustable state (in line with “Inception, Discrimination, and Freedom”). Words have power. Since this is the case, it’s important we are wise about who we choose to surround ourselves with, for each will have the power to destroy us or build us up.
41. To criticize is to try to create a world of our own liking (via “inception,” judgment, etc.). If others cave to criticism and (for example) put on a different dress after someone asks, “Are you going to wear that?” the one criticizing will feel justified because now there is supposed “evidence” that the person does indeed look better in a better dress. In being the only judge, the criticizer determines what constitutes evidence. Also, in wearing this new dress, no one will have an opportunity to say they liked the other dress, only to say they like this dress, which will justify the criticizer’s view. Also, if the person kept the old dress on and someone said they liked it, the criticizer could easily dismiss it as an opinion or claim, “They’re just saying that to be nice.” To criticize can be to create a filter through which only information that agrees with the criticizer can be processed.
42. Since trust entails vulnerability, we naturally don’t want to trust. So, in a way, we are eager to confuse trust with “living” and to discredit the trust-ability of others. The less people we trust, the less people with whom we are vulnerable.
43. Today, empirical data is often valued over human testimony. Therefore, when someone says, “They will do something,” or “They did something,” we want evidence proving such is the case. In such circumstances though, evidence isn’t always possible. When evidence can’t be offered, the person demanding the evidence may think he or she has evidence that the person can’t be trusted. In this way, empiricism might be contributing to confusion about trust.
44. If someone tells us about a book, it is unnatural to ask that person to prove to us that the book indeed says what the person claims it does. Also, forcing an individual to confirm every line the person quotes results in the conversation being unable to “climb” to the point or goal. The capacity to associate breaks down, as does the capacity to “see the big picture.”
45. It is dangerous to assess the trustworthiness of a person’s words based on that person’s recollection, because the way in which two people remember a particular event differs, and two people will likely retell it in different ways. Unfortunately, one could allow this discrepancy to cause trust issues; that is, one of the two people recounting could think the other, whose account does not match the other’s, is lying or wrong, but it is simply the case that the other remembers the event differently.
This can happen in quick exchanges between people. Perhaps a friend says, “Don’t forget to bring my earphones,” but the other not only forgets, but also forgets that he or she was asked in the first place. So, when the friend asks, “Do you have my earphones?” the other might reply, with all certainty, “You never said anything about earphones.” The friend may insist otherwise, as the other may do the same. Unintentionally, the friend implies that the other isn’t telling the truth and cannot be trusted. This is very damaging to a friendship or relationship, as (mutual) trust is the key to freedom and necessary for a relationship to flourish. That said, such a situation is common, and if the parties involved aren’t prepared (by realizing people make mistakes), there will be unnecessary ramifications of mistrust rather than an understanding that it was an issue of different accounts. To be prepared, one must practice understanding, empathy, and come to recognize truth as distinct from “living.”
Additionally, it is not beneficial to probe or quiz others to see if they recount something the way we do. With the misconception that trust must be earned, however, a quiz might seem entirely appropriate. Yet, it is very belittling and hurtful to others, because it makes them feel untruthful (and thus un-trustable) until that person remembers the details we remember and as we remember them (which might be impossible). As touched on before, trust, which requires truth, is what affords freedom. It is imperative in a relationship because without trust, there is no freedom for anyone.
46. Considering “Emotional Judgment”: a person in a relationship who is an emotional judger will be more emotionally affected by another’s lack of trust and when another (is perceived to) break trust. Thoughts (even if not their own) are not separate from emotions for an EJ; thus, to hear, “The wedding wasn’t like that” (for example), is almost inevitably going to be taken as a judgment over an assessment. Additionally, EJs are going to trust more so based on emotion versus truth. To them, a question such as, “Are you really going to wear that?” is a type of untrusting quiz question (as the question demonstrates a lack of trust in the one’s ability to make an appropriate clothing choice), implying a judgment that the outfit selected is not flattering.
47. Trust seems to be in the very fabric of reality. We use a dollar (for example), and in using it, we trust it has value. We also trust that the person receiving the dollar trusts in its value. We do all of this subconsciously: we do not normally think about how trust is involved in such a transaction. Such trust is passive. This is because trust underlies all that we do. It is our relationship to truth, and our degree of trust reflects the degree to which we believe in truth. In this previous example, the truth is that a dollar has value (man-made value at least) due to a man-made truth. We have a relationship with this truth because we use money and engage with it. If we hand a cashier a dollar for a pack of gum, and he takes it with a puzzled look and asks, “What is this?” we might have to face the fact that we trust the dollar has universal value rather than the value be a definite fact. Trust is necessary not only in the economy, but also in relationships. If one does not trust in the value of a dollar, one would not exchange it. This would cause a predicament, as most people do rely on money to acquire food. They would deplete themselves of nourishment. Likewise, if we do not trust a loved one, the person cannot fully engage with that person, starving the relationship. In a system that is based on trust, if we do not give trust, we will end up depleted.
47.1 Trust is tied up with the language of money and is associated with comfort. Yet, trust is more ingrained in the fabric of reality than money. Money is earned; trust, received. As we “live,” we trust in the dollar without thinking about it.
48. If someone tells me, “I’ll meet you downtown at two,” and I call the person at twelve and then again at one o’clock to make sure the person will be there, I do not entirely trust what the person said or at least I act as if I don’t (though few usually recognizes that this double-checking isn’t trusting). I also rob that individual of an opportunity to “show” that he or she is trustable. If such opportunities to “show” are never provided, then basically a person can only fail. The board is not well set.
49. It takes a lot of effort to resist reading into actions and words meanings that aren’t there. If someone chooses to go to Whole Foods, it is easy to conclude the person likes Whole Foods more than Trader Joes. If our boyfriend doesn’t call us, it’s easy to believe he’s upset. All such “readings” must be resisted. When individuals feel as if all their actions mean something negative, they become worried about all the possible implications of their actions. This results in that person wearing “the lens of worry” concerning how others see him or her, and suddenly this person may see displeasure on everyone’s faces. The person may conclude it must be because of something he or she did and begin trying to make everything better, when there’s actually nothing wrong. This creates a terrible sense of bondage (as it is a situation absent of trust). This person may then begin to say sorry and ask questions frequently to make sure everyone is happy and okay — and never feel this assurance.
It is essential to care for others, but this is not the same thing as being worried about displeasing others. The former includes trust, while the latter precludes trust. For freedom, one must trust in oneself and continue to fill the “buckets” of those around them (regardless if empty or overflowing), and to not worry about whether or not others are pleased by our efforts to enliven them. To avoid both confusing trust with “living” and the pain of disrupted trust, it is best to give trust abundantly. This may seem counter-intuitive, as giving trust means it can be broken; however, if trust is employed in line with its true meaning, there is a lesser chance it will be damaged in the first place. So, one must enable and foster trust in their life and the lives of others (which entails surrounding and filling oneself with truth versus preferential judgments). This can only be done by trusting, a necessary vulnerability.
50. Trust is seemingly decreasing while double-checking facts on one’s iPhone (for example) is increasingly common. As mentioned, a person’s story might not be trusted because it doesn’t match another’s recollection, highlighting how the “Information Age” fosters a sense of “getting the facts right” over taking a person’s word for it. Of course, it is handy to be able to check in which field Babe Ruth played his first major league game; however, when a smart phone is used as a “test key,” per se, of one’s words, trust is whittled down and human interaction is more about being right then it is about engaging in conversation. Of course, if someone says, “I wonder where the great Bambino played his first big game?” then perhaps we can endeavor to find out, but reaching for a smart phone, even in a harmless way, can still reinforce information over interaction.
As discussed before, trust necessitates truth, but it does not demand it be empirical. The internet, however, equips us to readily treat experiences and people with empiricism by making facts so immediately accessible, thus increasing negligence of trust and blurring the line between “living” and “extended trust” further. This doesn’t encourage interpersonal trust to develop, but rather fact-acknowledgement and further confusion of “extended trust” with “living.”
Thinkers like McLuhan and Postman discuss this notion more fully, making the point that technology causes a lack of interaction and participation. This can be extrapolated to a lack of participation in interpersonal relationships when technology becomes an element of such interactions.
50.1. As no one readily thinks they overuse their iPhone, no one thinks they don’t trust.
51. Escape from untrustworthiness can only come from trust, but when someone is believed to be a liar, no one is likely to trust that person, for that could encourage the “world of lies” in which said person supposedly exists. This is potentially ironic as the claim that the person is untrustworthy in the first place could be the lie that opened “Pandora’s Box.” Recognizing a person made this mistake takes discernment, but worry and fear cloud discernment when a person believes another is untrustworthy (making it extremely difficult to know right from wrong for all parties involved).
52. The marriage vow is not a vow to extend trust, there will be trouble.
53. If we are told that someone we’ve interacted with is a liar, we may begin to worry that we too are deceived. In this position, we put on “the lens of worry” and feel a sense of horror that everything we thought was true is false. This makes it hard to trust anyone, even ourself (for fear of this horror), and can prime us to read into words and actions.
54. When we are “holistically thinking,” we look down at the ground below our feet, smile, and then keep walking: we do not check second by second to make sure the ground is still there. As discussed in “Deconstructing Common Life” by O.G. Rose, “autonomous rationality” would have us keep studying the ground, unwilling to take a step, until we can be sure to prove its existence rationally. This is impossible, and yet it is practically required that we eventually take steps to live, which means those who function ascribing to “autonomous rationality” do so according to self-deception, illusion, and mistake.
Those who are too bent on getting a hold on the ground will be those who bend down, scoop up a handful, and lift dust. In terms of rationality, we cannot hold what holds us. “Autonomous rationality” pulls up ground into dirt; “wholistic rationality” leaves the ground for us to stand on us. But this requires a trust that requires coping with an existential anxiety that is not natural for us to accept.
55. The distinction between “trust as given” and “trust as earned” seems similar to “confidence” and “certainty.”
56. To demand proof that “trust shouldn’t be earned” might be proof that trust shouldn’t be earned.
57. The decision to trust or distrust (to extend it) only exists where there is thinking: where there isn’t thinking, only perception and experience, there is “living.” When I pick up a coffee cup to drink it, I’m not trusting the cup, though if it spills on me I can instantly start thinking about the cup and “feel like” it broke my trust, but this is a retrospective misunderstanding. Trust, along with the choice “to trust or not to trust,” was never involved with the cup, as trust is never involved regarding anything that is “invisible” to me. Using Heidegger, another way to put all this is to say that when I use a doorknob, I don’t think about it; it’s only when the doorknob breaks that I notice it (and can even think that I always thought about it, for I’m thinking about it now, and how could I use something I never thought about?). Likewise, when I’m using a doorknob, I’m not trusting it (I’m “living with it”), but when the doorknob breaks, I’ll suddenly feel like my trust was broken (for surely I always trusted it, for how could I use something I didn’t trust?). Once thought raises in quickly to understanding a situation, it feels like it was always present.
Trust, “the visible,” and thinking always go together, whereas “living,” “the invisible,” and perception stay together. To use Kantian terms, “thinking” involves “reasoning,” and “living” involves “practical reasoning,” and as we learned from “Bridging the Kants” by O.G. Rose, the two kinds of reasoning need one another to support one another (meaningfully) (as “givens” and “releases” need one another). But where we think, thus creating “visibility” and “questions of trust,” it is critical that we keep in mind that something is “lacking” outside the subjects of our thoughts, that our subjects don’t “point to” nothing. Our “models” — and thoughts are arguably mostly if not always “models” — are never complete, there is an extreme temptation to think they are, for how much simpler that makes life. If our thinking is incomplete, we always have to keep thinking (rest seems like a dream).