Trust versus mistrust

Many years ago, I was given an assignment in middle school to write about someone famous. Of course, I went right home and looked up Adolf Hitler.

Now, in my mind, Hitler was famous, and I had been working through the H in the encyclopedia, so easy-peasy, right? When I turned in that assignment, my social studies teacher sent it back for me to do a re-do with the notation: “Famous not infamous.”

It is easy to get that mixed up and the same difference exists between trust and mistrust.

Trust is:


  • Waking up in the morning and knowing you can swing your feet out place them on the floor and the floor will be there
  • Being willing to tell your family something difficult and knowing that they are willing to hear it, even if it is hard and it hurts, but that they will still be there
  • Not hearing from your partner for a time longer than the usual and knowing that something must have happened outside the norm, but it’s not a bad thing and they will tell you whenever you both speak again

Trust is taking a risk, with someone or something, but having a solid belief – such strong belief that you know, that you have certainty – that it will be okay, that it will turn out alright, that it is all fine. Trust is not about proof in advance; trust is about about belief and hope. It is about faith.

Now let me tell you its the tricky opposite, mistrust. It masquerades as trust, but is truly not a friend of any type.

Mistrust is:

  • “Knowing” that nothing ever changes, so when an opportunity presents itself, you let it go by, because what’s the point?
  • “Knowing” that if you tell a sibling a secret, that it won’t be a secret very long, and so you don’t confide in them… or anyone
  • “Knowing” that people will always leave you, so you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it drops, you just give up and walk away

Mistrust is about not taking risks, with anyone or anything, and having a false belief – one so strong that you know, that you have certainty – that it will not be okay, that it will never turn out alright, that it is not fine. Mistrust is about taking a single incident or two and letting it override any sort of hope, and letting it erode all of your faith in a better world.

Mistrust helps, no, it demands that you live a life smaller than you should or you can, because it makes risks outsized and terrifying. It turns molehills into mountains and turns mountains insurmountable for it morphs them into monsters and planets. It feeds on fear and breeds it like rabbits. It makes you afraid of every bump in the night. It tells you don’t put your feet on the floor because you never know when it will disappear.

So you try nothing. You do nothing. You risk nothing… which means, you get nothing. Nothing always equals nothing, because you cannot make something out of nothing.

While I never again mixed up famous and infamous, I must confess, for too many years, I did mix up trust and mistrust. I thought I was right. I was certain. I thought I knew what was true and real. But, when I look back, there were just a lot of years of nothing, and frankly, it wasn’t fun anymore.

So, I stopped. Well, I’m stopping. Life remains a work-in-progress, a daily navigation between what I knew and what I know, some days more troublesome than others, but most of them not.

Still, it is nice to wake up each morning and put my feet on the floor without looking. I trust that it will be there. I trust that it will be okay. All of it.

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