To Trust or Not to Trust

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1).

There is an epidemic of mistrust in our nation. Need I list the evidence of this? I don’t think so. Just look around; nobody trusts anyone today. If this trend is not somehow reversed, it could mark the demise of our culture.

Trust is foundational to all human interaction. Without it, we can accomplish nothing. There is no “we” without trust.

And leaders cannot fulfill one of the most basic functions of leadership without trust: to bring forth the potential in others.

Without trust, we cannot develop others; we can’t even develop ourselves. This is because, unless we have certainty about what is not yet seen, we will not put forth the effort needed to cultivate that hoped-for reality.

The farmer trusts the processes God has built into nature. He does his part and then waits for the earth and the sun and the rain to do their part. He must trust because his well-being and that of his family depends on this trust. Raising his voice will not speed up the growth of his crops. Farming is about cultivation, which implies coaxing forth a desired result, aware that the forces we are trusting to create this result have a mind of their own and we cannot dictate them.

You don’t have to be around for very long in this world to have somone break your trust. A friend of mine had a partner embezzle all the funds of the company and then disappear. Can he ever trust again?

Talk about trust after an experience like that sounds like the naïve advice of the gullible. But the opposite is true. Leaders who trust are usually people who have had their trust abused on more than one occasion.

I must admit there is within me a strong impulse to distrust; but I think my drive to trust is stronger yet. Part of this is a decision I made that I would not allow those who have abused my trust to change me into someone I don’t want to be.

Distrust can exude a powerful intoxicant; it makes us feel superior in our self-preservation and judgment. But it leaves us in a weaker spot as it make us incapable of taking advantage of great opportunities that come our way.

The benefits of trusting for organizations is well-documented.

  • Increased production speed (It takes more time to check out every detail than it does to trust).
  • Lower costs (It costs more to put into place stringent controls).
  • Lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction.
  • Higher levels of energy, emotional passion, and engagement.
  • Higher levels of creativity and innovation.

In general, high trust organizations outperform low trust organizations.

Steven Covey talks about a virtuous upward cycle that occurs when a company trusts its people and its customers. He says: “A 10% increase in trust has the same effect as a 30% increase in pay.”

In Hebrews 11:1, we read,
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Paul is saying that faith (or trust, which is the same word in the Greek) is not a vague form of wishful thinking. It is an assurance about something that is not yet a reality. It is essential for capacity development because we must believe that efforts that produce no effect today will ultimately have their effect. Without trust, the need for immediate results will drive us. We will fall back on command and control to push for results.

Trust is faith in the process. It means we don’t feel compelled to force things to happen. We believe in a reasonable universe, one in which one can, to some degree, predict outcomes if we create the right environment. On a practical level, it means we believe people are trustworthy; they are worthy of trust and will usually prove themselves worthy of our trust when given half a chance.

It is based both on a perspective about human nature and also on a belief in a controlling power above human nature, a personal force that holds all things together. It is founded in the belief that the universe is not just a mass of chaos and chance, but it has purpose and meaning and direction. For the Christian, that sustaining force is Jesus Christ.

This confidence in a higher governing order (trust at the macro level) enables leaders to trust at the micro level. They can trust employees to do the right thing when given the chance.

To trust or not to trust: that is the question. But when deciding how to answer that question, be sure to count not only the risk of trusting, but also the risk of not trusting.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

Credits
Photo by Myriams-Fotos. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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