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The Virtue of Trust—What Most People Don’t Know

What is the definition of trust? I’m not talking about the dictionary definition. I’m talking about the practical definition—what trust really is and how trust works within intimate human relations. I submit that some people misunderstand what trust really is and how trust exists among colleagues, friends, coworkers, and lovers. Some may tout trust as their foremost guiding principle among friends or business professionals, but do they give equal attention to its twin virtue of honesty? After all, the virtue of trust is not possible without honesty. 

Criminals, gang members, and adulterers share something akin to trust with each other. At least it somewhat resembles trust. They “trust” each other to lie, steal, and cheat together. But complete trust never exists among those who ignore the virtues of moral living and full fidelity.

In the end, criminals or gang members will steal from each other or kill each other if they feel disrespected or if they hope to gain something more, whether money or power. Where is the trust in that? Those with criminal intentions and those who live a life of crime and debauchery will easily brush aside their supposed trust for the right price. 

Likewise, cheaters may “trust” each other to not tell the others’ partner or spouse about their moral indiscretions, yet if they get together and ditch their spouses with whom they cheated on in the first place, how can complete trust ever exist? In the back of their minds will always remain the luring question of trust. Because if they cheated before on such a significant thing like marriage, will they not cheat again?

When we hope others will espouse the same moral values and principles we do, we feel completely blindsided when they don’t. We pass our moral code unto another, believing they have the same understanding and values that we do.

Trust is at the center of that equation. We hope and trust that is the case. When bad things happen, as they sometimes do, or when someone completely ruins our trust in them by their actions or inactions, we begin to limit those who enter into our circle of trust. That inner circle remains only for those with whom we completely and totally trust. Imagine concentric circles, like a bullseye target with multiple rings. In the center is full and total trust.

When trust is broken, it is hard to win back. Regaining trust must start with honesty and complete fidelity. Honesty lies at the root of trusting one another. Suspicion or doubt of another person’s loyalty and trust is anchored in the hope and reality of that person both telling the truth and remaining honest. Thus, assurance of trust cannot exist with any sort of deception or lying. 

Since the brilliance of white, like a beautiful white cloud, is often associated with purity and cleanliness, so-called whitelies or white collared crime are, in fact, misnomers. Even a little lie can darken a cloud and destroy trust. Those who lie a little or cheat a little can quickly fall from an elevated standard where only the highest form of trust can dwell. Always telling the truth fortifies and strengthens trust. 

We may be tempted at times to lie. We may lie when we feel embarrassed or want to hide something that will embarrass us. Temptation to deceive by withholding information or knowingly giving false information may come because being fully and completely honest may ruin friendships or destroy lasting relationships.

Telling the truth may get us into trouble or it may hurt other people. Lying is an innate protective factor. Lying can also easily become habitual. There are those who lie just for the sake of lying. They have lied so much and so often about so many things that everything they say, every word that escapes their lips, could be called into question. Their actions and misdeeds have compelled them to lie in the first place. Lying becomes easier and easier every time they lie and when they seek to cover up their immoral actions. 

Lying is the antithesis of courage. It takes courage to always tell the truth. The habit of honesty is a coveted virtue. Honest people can be trusted. Completely honest people can be completely trusted.

Honest people have no reason to lie. When they live their life in ways that they don’t have to lie, they are free from the burden of guilt and shame.

The truth makes them free. The truth fortifies them against misdeeds and acts as a shield against temptation or anything that goes against their value system. The habit of always telling the truth protects, preserves, and safeguards their relationships and their integrity. With truth as their watchword, they have no need to conceal their actions and trust blossoms.

When they always tell the truth, relationships can be healed and repaired. When they tell the truth, they begin to trust themselves and others will trust them, too. Thus, the definition of trust begins and ends with always—always—telling the truth. 

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times,, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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