Among teenagers and young adults of the upcoming generations, the level of trust in interpersonal relationships have been waning and it is starting to become a trend. Evidently, we see articles or conversations online about the fear to love, the loss of faith in friendships, and humanity. When we broach conversations about the topic of trust, what do you hear most often? What I found as a common theme among this group of people is that; it’s scary. The idea of trusting someone and opening up to them is dangerous, it’s risky, it puts you in a vulnerable position for someone to hurt you and that’s why people are afraid to put their trust in others.
How is Trust gained?
There are many ways on the internet about how to trust people, or how to earn someone’s trust. But in general, there are 2 ways a person learns to trust someone new;
Trust is earned
A vast majority of today’s modern society falls into this category, where trust presents itself only after some trials and tribulations of an interpersonal relationship. This group of people tread carefully in the minefield of interactions because they’re afraid of putting their trust in the undeserving and getting themselves hurt in the process. It may be hard to gain the trust of this group of people, but once you’ve earned it, you also gain their undivided & unwavering loyalty.
“If we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin in doubts, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties”Sir Francis Bacon
Trust first, worry later
Very commonly, this group of people are dissed to be gullible or soft-hearted because they choose to believe in the good in humanity; that people are good by nature. They believe that people aren’t born with malicious intent to bring harm to others. This group of people sometimes get taken for granted because they’re seen as the “nice guys”; and because their trust comes so easily, people forget that their trust is just as precious as the ones which they had to earn. However, if you break their trust, it’ll be hard to regain it.
“The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show him your distrust”Henry Lewis Stimson
Why is there distrust in our society?
The environment & new media
With the modernisation of society and civilisation, humans no longer live in closely knitted communities unlike the past, the disparity between the rich and the poor widens, thus giving rise to the social problems we know today. People grew distant from one another, and the collective will to contribute to a better world gradually diverted to fuel the individual want to make things better for themselves. In short, we grew selfish to our own needs and ignoring the repercussions of our actions on others.
And in recent times, the exponential development of technology and access to the new media highlighted the imperfections of our society. Scams, crimes against humanity, failed marriages, stories of betrayal etcetera have been granted increased visibility to the world as we now have more access to information. Such environmental influence changes our values and perspective as we naturally seek self-protection, and distrust looms over all human interaction.
The way we grew up
We all know for a fact that all parents are protective of their children. As we consider the discussion of the downfall of humanity, who wouldn’t be? And not just parents; we are all guilty of such instinctive behaviour to be protective toward the people that we love. But there is a fine line where our acts of love sometimes become acts of harm. For a big part of our childhood, we are told not to do certain things or act a certain way, for fear of being harmed. Remember how you were told not to talk to strangers? Or warned that if you travel to less developed countries, you’d likely be a target of robbery or a con. And for ladies, remember how your parents told you not to date boys who act or dress a certain way? All these were said in an attempt to protect our loved ones from potential harm. Yes, there are some truth and wisdom in those words, however we humans tend to extrapolate, and we generalise the entire demographic to conform to the perceived norm. This is how easily we lose trust. And as these lessons follow us through our childhood, we unknowingly carry these values and assumptions into adulthood, and pass them onto our children and the vicious cycle continues.
For those of you who reads articles on Psychology, you would’ve probably heard of the Pleasure Principle in Freudian psychoanalysis. The gist of it essentially means that humans tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain, and this is a strong driving force in one’s behaviour. This innate nature coupled with our ability to learn from experiences, a phenomenon known as Operant Conditioning, happens. As we learn through our growing years that broken trust typically causes us to feel hurt, we are motivated to avoid it. And we metaphorically build walls around ourselves, approaching the world being guarded and sceptical. Again, we extrapolate and avoid trusting others for fear that we would get hurt when that trust is broken.
So, what’s next?
It is almost certain as we see the progress of the world today, that Trust would be one of the rarest commodities in our society in the generations to come and it is barely any intentional fault of ours. But what we fail to recognise, is that Trust is not a currency, its not something you give while expecting for something else in return. And that’s a big problem today; “Why should I say good morning if its not going to be reciprocated?” “Why do we have to do this if we’re not getting paid?”. We ask a lot of “Whys” and not enough “Why nots”, we ask for what we get in return but not enough of what we can give to others. People are defined by their values, and that guides us through making the right decisions. The day we forget our values, and let our actions guide our values instead of letting our values guide our actions, that is the beginning of the downfall of humanity.
The world is as good a place to live in as we make it out to be, one small act today could multiply to make a huge difference tomorrow. Regardless of however we learn to trust, Trust is something given out of faith and not as a currency. Before we witness the downfall of human interaction right before our eyes, it is up to us however small an impact that we may contribute a step toward utopia.