Friday, August 3, 2012

Who Do You Trust?

If you are over the age of 60, you may remember an early television show entitled "Who Do You Trust?" It was the first time most viewers had seen the young host, some guy named Johnny Carson. "Who Do You Trust" ran from 1957 to 1963 and our family often tuned in. It was a silly game show but like Groucho Marx in his own show "You Bet Your Life," the two guests and host often exchanged humorous quips. It was the conversation that caused most people to watch.

The title of that show came to mind recently and caused me to think about trust.

Trust plays an important part in our lives. Many of us have attended some type of conference which required interactive participation by all attendees. This often included the "trust exercise" in which one participant falls backward toward someone else, counting on the other person to catch him. Eventually everyone had to take a chance that someone would prevent their hitting the floor.

Complete trust is apparently unnatural.

At certain points in every life, trust is necessarily blind. Infants have many needs but are unable to make their preferences known. As a result, they trust that their parents will provide food and shelter and hopefully affection.

As we grew into childhood, we trusted many things. We trusted that our parents had our best interests in mind. We trusted that healthy food would be provided, that we would sleep safely in our own beds, that our parents were honest and forthright. We trusted that our teachers were there to guide us and if we goofed off in school, teachers would share that information with our parents.

We trusted in less significant matters, too. Our textbooks would provide correct data and information. The clock would tell us the accurate time to leave so that we would not miss the bus which we trusted would always be on time. Attending church and being involved in extracurricular activities were good for us. Susan and Tom would always be our friends.

When you think about childhood, there are countless situations and relationships that revolve around trust. Occasionally, those trusts are violated. Sometimes getting over such violations takes considerable time.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when my blind trust came into question.

When I graduated from high school in 1965, many boys in my small town shipped out with the military to service in Vietnam. Some boys enlisted and others were drafted. It was something they did without too much fuss, trusting that the future freedom of our country depended on fighting in the rice patties half way around the world. People supported the war and trusted that the government wouldn't ask us to do something that wasn't in our mutual best interest.

That is when some of us began to question whether everything we were told was to be trusted. Thousands of soldiers met their deaths in Southeast Asia and yet nothing seemed to change. Soon many people began questioning our involvement. By the time the war wound down and President Nixon resigned, big holes existed in our trust.

There is nothing wrong with questioning what we are told. A certain amount of cynicism is healthy. A friend of mine nearly died because he trusted his health to a doctor who happened to make a huge mistake. Many of us lost retirement funds to financial advisors who happened to make bad decisions during a dire period. Many of us trusted a spouse/friend/confidant when our decision making skills were lacking. Trusting matters without question is often a bad idea.

If we trust in every one and every option, we miss the opportunity to control our own lives. We should ask questions.

Like the saying goes, if something sounds like it is too good to be true, it probably is. If you are not a person who tends to ask questions, you might want to think about becoming one.

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