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Whatever Happened to Trust?

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A  recent article on Marketplace brings to light a rather unsettling trend: apparently, in America, nobody trusts anybody.

The article cites research from the journal “Psychological Science” that finds only 33% of adults feel that most people can be trusted, down from 46% in the 1970s. Apparently the numbers get even worse for teenagers as only 18% of 12th graders trust most people, down from 32%.

Trying to look at this objectively, one can see where some of these trust issues may come from. In our age of technology so much personal information is readily available and floating around cyberspace, and anonymous attacks and claims abound. Recent news about corporate misconduct and accountability has instilled doubt in industry and the economy. Deep rifts in politics and ideologies make our world seem more distant, and our differences greater.

Our world is a far more complicated place than it was in the 1970s. We interact in so many more ways, move so much quicker and have so much more information to sort through. One can see how this may make it harder to trust.

Indeed there is a case to be made for being frugal with trust. It can protect a person from harm in some ways, and at some times it can be safer. Trusting too quickly can leave us vulnerable, and in the end there are some bad people in the world and some that don’t deserve our trust.

Blind trust leaves us open to harm, unprotected and underprepared. Parents, and especially children and teens should exercise caution and discuss people and situations as trustworthy or untrustworthy. Learn how to exercise caution.

However trusting too little can come with its own pitfalls.

Trust is an Important Foundation

Not trusting closes us off to the world. It isolates us and fills us with fear. Some of the greatest ideas and experiences in life will come from, or be shared with others. We will grow stagnant in our relationships and limit our growth and education if we never trust. Times will come in life when we need help, when it is necessary to rely on others, and without some modicum of trust we will be isolated.

The world is not out to get us, there are merely some forces at work in some places at some times of which we need to remain vigilant.

We should not be blind in trust or mistrust. We must think critically, remain adaptable and find balance. Like so many issues in life, trust is about finding a middle ground.

By discussing general guidelines we gain a basis for the types of people and situations worthy of trust. By maintaining an open dialogue between parents and children, and sharing about our lives we help each other monitor potential issues related to trusting too little or too much.

A world without trust would be a cold, harsh world. One that would be difficult to navigate and increasingly lonely. Trust is a warm feeling. When we are trusted and when we have people we truly trust it helps us to feel safe, loved and gives us the courage to grow.

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