The need for trust in society

Guest writer

"Papa", my son asked me the other day, "why can't I go back to school yet?"

What could I say? Could I talk about the various reasons that the government and the teachers are giving for the deadlock? What would this accomplish? Quite simply, I believe it would foster a sense of distrust within him. It doesn't matter to me which side he would agree with, or even his rationale for why he would agree or disagree with either side. I don't believe that it is the point, nor is it relevant. And I don't say this just because he is nine. I truly believe that he is capable of understanding the issues and making his own considered judgement.

But I don't want him to have to judge either his teachers nor his government. I do not believe that is healthy. Oh sure, I think it's fine to question them, but in this case I think we would be talking about judgement.

Instead of talking about the strike directly, I decided to look at one of the most important issues involved, as I see it: trust and trustworthiness.

Despite what they are all saying about the importance of education, and putting the children and families first, the actions of everyone involved are demonstrating a simple, fundamental spiritual problem. Neither side seems to trust the other. And the question of whether either side is worthy of trust is one that I would prefer to leave to discretion of the reader.

Trust, as I am sure you are aware, is a condition you feel towards another. It is believing that others will do what they say without your having to force them to do it. When you are willing to trust someone, you don't feel like you have to control things to make it all turn out ok. Trust comes when you are willing to rely on others, and removes a lot of the fear you may feel about an issue.

But it is, of course, foolish to place trust in someone who keeps breaking promises

While you can't control others, you can always control yourself. And that leads us to trustworthiness. It is the question of whether or not you prove to be worthy of the trust placed upon you by another.

Without trust, no agreement can ever be reached. Without trustworthiness, no agreement will mean anything.

We trust our teachers to educate our children according to the standards set by the community. When we elect a politician to office, we trust that they will strive to enact the promises they made to their constituents, and act for the betterment of society as a whole, and not merely a small portion of it. In fact, we can go further afield and say that we trust corporations to obey the law, and that their various products will function as advertised. We trust scientists to be honest in their research, reasonable in their conclusions, and truthful in reporting their findings. We even trust that our religious leaders will abide by the laws and spirit of their faith, and help others move further along their path towards some form of spiritual enlightenment which will be demonstrated by their actions.

If we do not trust these various groups, nothing can be accomplished. If we are not worthy of trust, others will never know if they can believe in us or even count on us.

Any healthy situation requires both of these, trust and trustworthiness. They are a part of what makes a society function. They are a part of what makes our society function.

My son trusts that when he asks me a real question, I will do all I can to answer him both truthfully, and in a manner he can understand.

Today I told him that I cannot understand why he cannot return to school and continue his education. I explained as best I could about how there is a disagreement about the contract between the teachers and the government, but I watched as he struggled with this. I watched as he began to question the extent to which he could trust either side. And I carefully explained that one of the problems was that both sides felt they were acting correctly, and that neither seemed to trust the other.

Today I am left facing the very serious question of what is it that we are teaching our children through this strike. Are we teaching them to be nice? Are we teaching them trust? Or are we instilling the seeds that will, eventually, tear down any bonds of trust that are left within our society? If trustworthiness is the fruit of our behaviour, as one religion holds, then those seeds within that fruit are precious, indeed, and we should be very careful how we handle it.

"Trustworthiness", we find in the Baha'i Writings, "is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people."

Mead SimonMead Simon is a member of the Baha'i international communty. He is an artist, writer and dad, and is occassionally asked to give public talks. He can regularly be found writing his blog at

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