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The Nature of Man – Trust

February 2, 2012

Today I am thinking of trust.  It seems to me that as a general rule humans tend to trust very easily on those items that could potentially cost them little or where the likelihood of that trust being forsaken is low.  On the other hand, for those things where a potential impact is high or the likelihood of betrayal is high then trust is not given.  While this is blatanly obvious the ramifications are widespread.

For example, one trusts as a general rule that the vehicles driving all around you are not going to hit you as you travel down the road.  The impact to you should that belief prove to be false is very high, but the likelihood based on your experience is low.  On the other hand, if you have been in an accident your trust of others on the road is very low.

Similarly, though you may have never been threatened you are unlikely to trust someone very easily if you wander into a poor neighborhood of a different ethnic background than that to which you are accustomed. Why?  Obviously because you deem the potential impact and probability of incident to be high.  You would react and behave much differently than if you were in a place of middle to higher income, not known for violence, and of the same ethnic background as yourself.

So…it seems fairly obvious that one’s ability to trust is based on two factors; stereotypes (which may be considered as societal statements of probability) and your own experiential data.  Given these factors, a generalization and a singular or series of factual data points respectively, you then perform (either consciously or subconsciously) a risk assessment.  The result of which is either to trust or not.  The examples given above seem to place somewhat equivalent weight to each factor, though perhaps slightly more toward the experiential side.

So why am I taking all this time to go through what is fairly obvious?  I am outlining this because it occurred to me today that humans excel at violating “best practices”.  (I will talk another time about circumventing evolution and “survival of the fittest”.*)  In this case I am referring to our ability to override a natural process of risk assessment and mitigating action in order to accommodate some other, often less clearly defined, need.  Take this example:

You have entrusted your innermost secrets to another and have a very real physical and emotional attachment to them.  Now consider that after such an attachment is established and you have structured your life with this person as a cornerstone you find that your trust has been betrayed.  Following the discovery you go through the cycle of intense pain, anger, hatred, and then on to acceptance of the truth.  There are two predominant paths I have seen from this point, I will take each in turn.

The first predominant response is to consider the betrayal as something insurmountable and to cease the attachment.  One never truly heals from such a betrayal but you have performed yet another risk assessment and determined that the risk of future betrayal and resulting anguish has a higher probability of occurrence than some unknown risk should you move on with your life.

The second predominant response is to realize that future betrayal is highly likely but when you perform your risk assessment you reach a different conclusion than in the first option.  In this case you weigh different factors such as personal ethics in following the other’s betrayal with what you would consider to be your own betrayal.  A betrayal to the promises you have made in the relationship as well as a betrayal to your own behavioral code of conduct.

So what comes to bear in making a decision in those cases where trust was more “personal” than “general”?   Regardless of the nature of the trusting relationship (general or personal) after betrayal is experienced the factor of experiential data takes significant priority over that of stereotypes.  To differentiate between the two then, lets consider each prior to betrayal.  As stated above, the general cases of trust seem to place roughly equivalent priority to the two governing factors (stereotype and experience) but the same cannot be said of personal trust.  In the case of personal trust the two factors are almost never considered at all.  Risk assessment itself of any form is rarely performed on any level.  In other words, the heart co-opts the mind or even the subconscious and decisions are made in a manner that puts one at great personal risk of a betrayal.   Considering that humans are part of the natural order (or are they, a discussion for another time**), it makes little sense that we would have developed such a proclivity.  Therefore, it must not be a developed trait, or dare I say it one that has not evolved into our makeup.  It follows then that it is part of our original design…a created function rather than a developed one.

And there you have it…betrayal follows misguided trust and misguided trust is indicative of our creation, not our evolution.  Ergo, betrayal is proof of man as a created being.  Interesting how that works out…

Now…having said that, I could also argue that development of an ability to behave outside the confines of quantitative risk analysis shows higher conscious function and therefore evolution toward a less constrained universe.  Which of course means that evolution would be working toward a higher level of awareness…but given the ramifications in relation to the breakdown of the very “emotional” and “intuitive” substructure in support of such an ability it is unlikely that this would be a merely developed trait rather than yet again, a created one.  So again, betrayal shows an ability to deviate from rules as set forth by the natural order, which in turn puts the organism at risk of not coexisting with the natural order, which is anathema to evolution, which means that the trait itself is either an evolutionary dead end (which has not proven to be the case thus far) or it is a created ability for a created being.

In summary…humans base trust on stereotypes and experience.  Generalized trust weighs the two roughly equivalently whereas personal trust tends to ignore them entirely unless a betrayal incident occurs.  Under either trust type, a betrayal incident makes the experiential data of high priority in future risk assessments.  The course of action as to trust again or not is based on the trust type.  After a betrayal incident, generalized trusts will not be granted again based on the experiential data.  Personal trusts are often re-established, bypassing the logical course of action.  This may be construed by various means (e.g. ignoring risk assessments) to show humans as a created rather than a developed being.  Final outcome, the presence of betrayal is indicative of the existence of God.

This is not to say that God is betrayal, but as in the clearly stated case of weakness shows strength as outlined within the Bible, the presence of betrayal shows the presence of trust and trust is a product of a holy God.

So…next time you are betrayed, give thanks for the opportunity to glorify He who is without betrayal.

Topics for future discussion:

*  Violating Natural Best Practices: Circumventing evolution and “survival of the fittest”.

** Man as part of the natural order

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From → Nature of Man

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