Trusting, verifying, risking
Questions of trust are on my mind these days. Whose word do we trust, and by what authority? How do we trust ourselves and each other? Do we listen to our own instincts? Are our own instincts trustworthy? How do we protect ourselves and each other? What do we risk by trusting? What do we risk by not trusting?
On general principles, I tend to be a skeptic. Paradoxically, my skepticism sometimes makes me vulnerable. Or even gullible, when I tell myself “You’re too skeptical,” and then go too far the other way. Yet I’d rather be gullible than cynical.
Trust, verify, risk. These are imperatives for building relationships and for living in this world.
We build trust in each other by being reliable and trustworthy, building relationships of trust over time. Boundaries and accountability help give us reason to trust within the context of those relationships.
Our trust is verified through the truth of the relationship that is established. And even when a relationship of trust is established, if our experience and instinct give us reason to question, then we need to ask questions.
Some level of risk is inherent in our lives, and without some level of risk we wouldn’t be able to walk outside our own doors. Or even stay inside them, for that matter.
Of course, there are some risks we do not take. We protect our children’s safety through policies and practices that minimize risks. Yet, taken to extremes, over-protecting our children would mean stunting their development as human beings having their own experiences of the world. We “manage” risks, but we can never eliminate them.
We risk ourselves every time we put ourselves out in the world, trusting the promise that the world offers us. We make a sort of cost/benefit analysis. Is it worth the risk to trust?
Even as I ask questions, I want to be open to life, even if that makes me vulnerable.
As a passage in our hymnal (#658, from an anonymous author) reminds us,
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk exposing our true self.
To place our ideas—our dreams—before the crowd is to risk loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
To live is to risk dying.
Let’s trust, verify, and risk. Let’s laugh, weep, reach out, put forth ideas, love, hope, try, and live.
In faith and hope,