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Friday, 6 January 2017

TRUST AND PROMISES

I have been working on a difficult section of my current novel. A character is forced to make a rapid decision: whether or not to trust someone. Life for this character has become almost intolerable; a mere existence in a world of shadows. In a subsequent attempt to justify the choice made, an imaginary debate argues for trust on the grounds of an instinctive attraction to the person, combined with an absence of feeling threatened.

While I was writing this, I began to wonder what has, in fact, happened to trust? What used to be a fundamental value in society of any kind seems now to be something which has broken down.

As I type this - and indeed as you read it - we are trusting a number of people who have designed the devices, software and wherewithal for us to share it, not to let us down. Should we be hacked, spammed or infected with malware, our trust begins to disintegrate. In that process we lose loyalty, we feel that promises have been broken. And there you have two more expressions of trust which are becoming rarer: loyalty and the keeping of promises.

I could expand at length about how trust and its breakdown build and destroy marriages, businesses and even nations. Currently society is fracturing on a huge level, and much of this is due to what is commonly regarded as a betrayal of trust. I won’t bore you; instead, I want to address the question of what creates trust in the first place. If you examine your own trustworthiness, by asking the question: ‘why would someone trust me?’ what are your answers?

Back in those heady days of being an accountant, I was entrusted with all manner of secrets, some of which will go with me to the grave. Trust forces a certain degree of withdrawal from others, because you may not pursue that very human desire to gossip. It’s not easy, and at times it can be a burden. My advice to anyone considering whether or not to be the recipient of a secret is to ask yourself whether you will be able to keep it to yourself. If you find this impossible, it may be easier to decide that you don’t want to know! If you take on a secret it is vital, if you want to be someone whom others trust, never to give it away. The wonderful but often over-used phrase: ‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…’ comes to mind.

I believe social media has contributed hugely to the decline in trust. Every day you can read stories of people who have been betrayed by giving out too much information and failing to stop and think about what they are doing. This is partly why, in my writing, I decided to make my character commit so rapidly to trusting the newcomer. We are at our most vulnerable when life isn’t going well or there are circumstances beyond our control which generate a desperate need for another person in whom to confide, who will understand and sympathise. We’ve all been there, and I expect virtually all my readers have experienced some form of betrayal of trust at some time. How can we begin to reverse the trend? If I knew that, I’d be in politics, not scribbling stories. My only suggestion is for all of us to lead by example to try to rebuild trust as a fundamental necessity in today’s uncertain world. We need to keep our promises, to be discreet and above all to be good and faithful friends. We can try, anyway!

So will my character’s trust be betrayed? Ah, we’ll just have to wait and see…


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