Trading Trust for Calculated Risk
In light of the Department of Homeland Security’s recent call for “trusting the authorities” and literally labelling those who don’t as “threat actors seeking to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions” (lol), may I remind everyone that, as the most patriotic Americans I have ever met (my Great Grandma and her second husband who met during WWII) used to say, “you can trust the government as far as you can throw it.” This post originally appeared on my messages to millennials blog. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I like to think Grandma & Emmet would 🤍
What if I told you that you can’t trust other people — and not because there aren’t awesome, wonderful, reliable, true-to-their word individuals in the world — but because trust is not a concept anchored in reality?
Let’s define risk: the possibility or probability of danger or loss. This is why lenders will call the history of your borrowing and repayment patterns a “credit report” but have their in-house Risk Management department evaluate it when you come knocking for a mortgage or line of credit or car loan, etc. Your consumer credit score is, in all its statistical error (because it is calculated by human beings who are not omniscient), a pretty good predictor of your future behavior, but let’s acknowledge here that no lender “trusts” any of their borrowers. Instead, they assess the risk that they may not be repaid and if the risk (the statistical probability) is low enough, they choose to lend the money anyway. The use of the word “credit” makes it sound like the lender believes in you or has faith in you. Rest assured, they see your repayment history in the light of wholeness and have chosen to take the financial risk (which is the definition of a gamble) because of your “good” past behavior and despite the slew of unknowns that may affect your behavior in the future. Imagine for a moment what the credit/risk report of every relationship in your life might look like. Who always comes through and does what they say they will do? Whose credit/risk scores would be low?
When our hearts are open, we take risks anyway. Why? Because we know that even if those risks don’t pay off, and we end up experiencing loss, delay, sadness, and/or danger, we will have all the strength, perseverance, inspiration and drive to keep going and succeed the next time. And before we risk the possibility of having an unsuccessful love relationship, we acknowledge that probability, whether low or high, and reflect on whether or not we want to spend our time on this person, time (in the currency of hours and minutes) that no repo agent can get back for us. When the heart is open, we are filled with faith in ourselves and know that no matter the risk, we will make it through any pain caused by a financial or emotional risk that ends up going sour.
The next time someone asks you to trust them or asks why you don’t trust them, you’ll know how to explain that trust is not a true concept in reality. It is an illusion that allows us to deny the risk of loss — of time, money, love, or life. Now imagine if your parents and any other authority figures on whom you were dependent for guidance, food, shelter, and survival while a minor (or if you are a minor, are still dependent on) had never said, “just trust me,” and instead had consistently provided you with a logical reason to follow their directions. Imagine how you might view life and chance and luck and autonomy if those elders had separated their desire for your happiness from their desire for your compliance. If instead of hearing, “because I said so” or “just trust me on this one — someday you’ll understand,” you’d gotten guidance along the lines of, “I love you and desire your happiness. That’s why I’ve measured the risk in this situation and want you to take precaution to reduce it (by driving carefully, not hanging out with criminals, not flying a kite during a storm, not playing hide and go seek in a meth lab, etc.). This has nothing to do with trust and everything to do with risk. I wouldn’t be telling you to (wear a life jacket/helmet/mittens, save 10% of every dollar you earn, look both ways before crossing the street, etc.) if I didn’t think it would increase the quantity and quality of your life. I love you, I desire your happiness and that’s why I’m telling you these things: in order to take action to ensure that your happiness is the most probable outcome.”
Going back to repossession, there’s no telling when we could lose someone we love. One day they’re gone from our life and eventually we realize they were never truly ours to begin with. (Would this make God the ultimate repo man?) And any time we bring new life into the world, we are taking a risk. The probability is low, but remains nonetheless, that a child’s life could end before ours. When our heart is filled with faith, we know that even if we end up experiencing loss, delay, sadness, and/or danger, we will have all the strength, perseverance, inspiration, and drive to keep going. Whenever we give love, we’re taking a risk that it won’t be returned or reciprocated, just as when we give time or money. When the heart is open, we give love freely rather than lend it which is why forgiveness is the most generous gift of love we can present to another person. While the heart is closed, you may feel the need to “be able to trust” someone. When the heart is open, not only will your risk detector (your survival instinct via physical reactions in your gut, stomach, heart, or via the hairs on the back of your neck) be more accurate, sometimes you may choose to take the risk anyway, with full faith in yourself and the knowledge that you will confidently handle any outcome (even a default or total loss).
I use the word faith a lot and aren’t faith and trust the same? I would say no. Trust is the denial of the possibility of disappointment. Faith acknowledges the possibility and indeed its probability.
Faith says, Yeah, and I’ll take the chance anyway. Bring it on.
I’m closing, here’s a photo of Grandma Aanonson who taught me so much about strength, perseverance, and patriotism.
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