Drilling Down on Simple Trust

by Kris Kile

I have mentioned that there are different kinds of trust we employ. These include (but are not limited to) simple trust, blind trust and authentic trust. Given the immense impact trust, or lack of trust, has on relationships, communities, nations and the world at large, it is worth taking a bit of time to get “in the weeds” a bit on what trust is and is not. In order to do that, we have to come to grips with the fact that there are different nuances of trust. And these differences are often unexamined….meaning we pay no significant attention to how we relate to trust. We do this at our peril.


Living in assumptions about what trust is automatically sets us up for disappointment. It is empowering to think about how we can engage trust, build healthy trust, be aware of what damages trust, and how to rebuild lost trust.


Today, we drill down on what simple trust is. The thoughts that follow primarily come from Fernando Flores and Robert Solomon’s book, Building Trust.
Simple trust is the kind of trust that most of us, most of the time, take as our paradigm. Simple trust begins and remains unthinking and unreflective. It is trust devoid of any sense of the possibility of distrust, trust as unthinking acceptance. It is the absence of suspicion. It demands no reflection, no conscious choice, no scrutiny, no justification. Perhaps it exists because no reason has ever occurred to cause us to question bestowing it.


Simple trust is naïve trust. It has no element of distrust in it. It is simple, unthinking acceptance. It could be viewed as focused optimism. Simple trust is a sort of fantasy. Often, it turns out to be false comfort extended in a situation that proves to not be deserving of trust at all. It is sort of an infantile trust.


This kind of trust remains a possibility throughout our lives, in illness, in old age, and in times of change, stress, and helplessness. At times, when we are overwhelmed or under stress, we simply choose to extend simple trust to certain things because we simply don’t have the bandwidth to consciously engage everything coming at us with the level of reflectiveness and awareness that a more authentic trust would require.


But, usually, simple trust is simply inattention, a taking for granted, a blindness to the dynamics that form the basis of our interactions. Simple trust, like innocence, cannot be recovered if lost. But rather than being a tragedy, the loss of simple trust is an invitation to reflection and understanding, and beginning of wisdom. But, often, in the moment we it is lost due to betrayal, it certainly doesn’t feel like the beginning of wisdom. It hurts, is destabilizing, and disorienting.


Simple trust is not so much given as taken for granted and unnoticed. It goes unquestioned not because there is nothing to question, but rather because it goes unattended. We often don’t even realize simple trust is happening until it is betrayed.


Giving up simple trust does not mean leaping to the opposite extreme, insisting that all trust be made explicit, scrutinized, and reinforced by agreements and contracts. In reality, agreements and contracts don’t reinforce trust, but rather replace it. They spell out the possibilities and penalties for betrayal, and are the antithesis of simple trust.


Contracts, with their clauses and enforcement mechanisms, are not the representation of authentic trust either. They are a different approach. Engaging authentic trust in relationships is more complex and intricate than contractual arrangements.


You could say that simple trust is exemplified by a well cared for dog. That is not the paradigm for us to follow, but neither is the lawyer’s fantasy of an iron-clad contract.


In our next blog post, I explore where I notice having utilized simple trust in my life. Then, in future posts, we will take a look at blind trust, then authentic trust.


Post on Facebook… What in your life do you trust with unthinking acceptance?
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