The Psychological and Moral Majesty of Trust

When I Reflect Upon My Life, the first thing that comes to mind are the relationships of trust that are absolutely—and thus unequivocally—a fundamental part of my life.  In the language of David Hume (1711-1776), those individuals are truly a marvelous mirror until my very soul.  Indeed, there is no amount of self-reflection that can render irrelevant the magnificent mirror reflections of truly marvelous friends with regard to my behavior.  Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that I rightly grasped how I behave, it is still the case that when a wonderful friend bears witness to what I have done, the friend thereby conveys an affirmation that is ever so meaningful and equally unforgettable.

To be sure, there are successes that mean quite a lot to me.  But those successes do not overshadow a bond of trust.  Not at all.

Given how important the majesty of trust is, then what clearly follows that two of the most significant forms of psychological development on the part of human beings is (1) the deep, deep development of social perceptivity and (2) a marvelous psychological configuration whereby deeply genuine trust is possible.  Needless to say, it is with the capacity articulated in (1) that a person correctly grasps the reality articulated in (2).

The view that I hold is that trust plays a truly definitive role in all person being psychologically healthy.  Accordingly, there is no amount of intellectual ability so majestic or powerful that the significance of trust is utterly irrelevant.  To be sure, people can trust one another in significantly different ways.  Just so, the value of trust is underwritten in both ways, though there may be a difference in the value of trust or the nature of the trust.  A friend may trust me with her/his wallet.  Friends who are parents may trust me with their children.  And friends who are neighbors may trust with the keys to their home so that I monitor their home during their absence.  And of course, it is possible that a friend trust me in all three respects.

And there is the truly sublime truth that the affirmation that is constitutive of being genuinely trusted is not an affirmation that a person can give to herself or himself, no matter talented or perceptive or financially well or successful the person might be.  An equally sublime truth is that being genuinely trusted is not and cannot be anchored in having power over the person who trusts one.  For coercion is not in any a catalyst for being trusted.

A final and ever so sublime truth is that genuine trust can be ever so affirming (without occasioning any arrogance).  Indeed, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that for a truly decent person an immutable truth is that being wonderfully trusted is both a moral and psychological gift that marvelously enhances the trusted person’s determination to be live a life of moral decency.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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