A matter of trust

Humans are by nature skittish creatures. We tend to be wary of new things, seeing change as dangerous or at least something to be suspicious of. For that reason we approach new acquaintances with some trepidation – trust is generally not gained easily. Just like a points system in a sporting competition, trust has to be earned through effort.

People who are considered trustworthy have gained that distinction normally over an extended period of time. By contrast, people considered untrustworthy could well have broken trust just once. There’s a handy refrain which wraps this up nicely for us:

Trust increases incrementally, but decreases exponentially.

Trust means different things to different people, and trust is broken in many different ways. For example, an seven year-old might break trust by saying “no mummy, I didn’t get told off by the teacher today” whereas a fourteen year-old might stretch things a little further; “no dad, I wasn’t smoking”. Generally the lies people tell which break trust et bigger as people get older. For example “no darling, I didn’t just put this months rent on a horse” or “John, I still love you but there’s someone else…”. You can see in all of those examples that trust takes some damage.

The outcome to people breaking trust, whether through their words or actions (we, perhaps fortunately, don’t know what each other are thinking all the time) is the same. People retreat, go into self-preservation mode. Phrases such as; “you lied to me. How can I trust you any more?” are used. The pain is real, the effects tangible and long-term. Like penalty points on a driving license, breaking trust takes a long time to be forgotten about.

Trust increases incrementally, but decreases exponentially.

Of course in the home we have the advantage that we’re bound by blood to our family. Trusting comes more easily there, even if betrayals are worse. The business world relies on trust, too, but has a much harder time generating it. For one thing many businesses, especially large multi-nationals, are seen with some suspicion. They are clouded in mystery, with impenetrable hierarchies and structures, unimaginable amounts of money and power, and the man at the top who very rarely says anything to the average person.

Of course not all businesses are like that, but many are stuck in Old Ways of interacting with customers. You know they story; you want to find out some information about your account, but the company seem manically opposed to telling you anything. Or you wonder where your investments are going, but the documentation is so convoluted and long-winded that you give up, just as much in the dark as you were before you started. Or you ask for a refund for a broken product, but are told that the warranty covers everything *except* what actually happened.

All of these scenarios erode trust very quickly. And when you hear nothing but empty platitudes and see nothing but faked smiles from employees, it doesn’t de anything to help redevelop the trust the company has so effectively destroyed. Remember:

Trust increases incrementally, but decreases exponentially.

When it comes to religion we have an even bigger mountain to climb. After all, religion has taken a lot of flak in recent years when it comes to the trust issue. And, unfortunately, we’re just as bad as large businesses at generating trust. We’re responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history, but we rarely admit anything is wrong. We’re deeply divided by innumerable issues, but we say we hold to the same faith. We’re constantly saying that the world needs to be a better place, but we rarely do anything about it. And we’re clouded in mystery, with impenetrable hierarchies and structures, unimaginable amounts of money and power, and the man at the top very rarely says anything to the average person.

There’s a global movement gathering pace that demands some tangible evidence on which to hang it’s trust, whether trust in a company or a religion. People are becoming less like sheep as the years go on, thanks in part to growing worldwide communication. Many won’t just follow blindly for no reason, although of course many still do. Instead they want to know “why” and “how” and “when” and “who”. They want answers, they want to be involved, they want to put their trust in something that is trustworthy.

We have a fantastic opportunity to be honest about our faith, to give the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Let’s admit where we made mistakes, admit where we could do things better, be transparent about our dealings and opinions. And, above all, be honest about what Christianity costs. Jesus said that the person who follows him must take up their cross. A cross isn’t something to be carried lightly, it takes real trust to start a journey with one of those things on your back. Only when we treat other people’s trust as a serious issue will we find them putting their trust in us.

Chris Taylor develops software for the web deep in the bowels of Yorkshire. He is happily attached to his partner Katharine, and they have several thousand children between them.

He can be found online at