A matter of trust
Like breathing, it’s something we do all day, every day. Like breathing, it’s something we rarely stop to reflect on. And, like breathing, it’s absolutely critical to our existence.
It’s called “placing trust.”
Every time we drive down a street, we trust that our fellow drivers will stay in their lane, stop at signs and lights and not deliberately run into us. Every time we open a carton of milk or any other packaged food, we trust that it is what the label says and that it is safe to use. And as for me, when I went into surgery last week, I placed my trust — literally, my life — in the hands of strangers, but strangers I had good reason to believe would only do well by me.
New England may “run on Dunkin’,” but our society runs on trust. A measure of that is the extent to which we feel betrayed when that trust is not honored. Sadly, the media brings us stories daily of instances where trust is violated. An ob/gyn physician who, for over 20 years, secretly videoed his patients, a police commissioner who took bribes and made hires on the basis of political connections and payoffs, a math teacher who abuses a young student, and many more such cases.
The word “trust” comes to us from the Old Norse language and means “having faith or confidence in the loyalty of a person or thing.” It suggests a readiness to put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation without knowing all of the factors that may be in play, including the motives of the other person or persons. It suggests believing something rather than knowing something.
As we in New Hampshire once again enter the political season, we shall be challenged to make our way through the thickets of campaign promises, positive and negative TV, online and radio ads, and, yes, even personal appearances by candidates. And while we may come prepared to the latter with a set of questions, we will be trying to dig deeper. We’ll attempt to “read” the body language of the candidates, their tone of voice, eye contact and overall appearance in order to judge whether they are worthy of our trust.
Yes, there will be the candidate’s public record to scrutinize, those who know the candidate well with whom we might talk, and other means. But ultimately our final decision will be on the basis of the person’s integrity: that quality of character that inspires trust.
We owe it to ourselves and to others to do that due diligence well. The stakes are too high not to.
Stephen Reno is the executive director of Leadership New Hampshire and former chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As seen in the July 31, 2014 issue of the Hippo.