Dare to trust

By Mathias Maurer, February 2019

Trust is a gift of love. If it is not given unconditionally, there is no love, no trust. It is nothing less than educational betrayal to say: “You first have to earn my trust.” Trust is not something that can be traded!

The small child starts off by giving an enormous advance of trust – called basic trust – and it is shaming for how long this advance lasts and for how long the love and trust of the child that is given to other people and the world is maintained, despite all adverse events, hurt, vulnerabilities and misunderstandings.

Yet we know: trust can break and be broken through plain power, suppression and violence. We then refer both to a loss of trust in ourselves and in God.

In order make ourselves unassailable, we take recourse to protective measures. One of them is control. This applies not just at an individual but also at a societal level. Tyranny, says Aristotle, can only flourish on the ground of distrust. Words attributed to Lenin appear to confirm this insight: “Trust is good, control is better” – so don’t trust anyone, we might add. Nowadays the control is substantially less obvious: through the Internet, surveillance cameras including facial recognition, political reporting offices which throw the doors wide open to informing on others.

Control might be costly but is meant to protect us in all public and private spaces; the aim is to make human activity predictable. Yet standards, structures, practical constraints exercise control over us unnoticed without us remembering that they have all been constructed by people; that is, we have forgotten their human origin and have thus lost our trust that we can control human circumstances. We inhibit our developmental potential if we can no longer have confidence in the power of trust. Instead we go so far that in general we leave the burning problems of the present to future generations rather than taking responsibility ourselves right now for the state we are in and start changing things. Instead we prefer to trust in control.

Yet trust is a power of the spirit and the soul, not a calculation. In order to be able to shape a future for and with our children, we ourselves need to provide an advance of trust. “Reciprocal confidence building measures” – tit for tat – does not take us very far. The issue of trust today is an issue of our individual will. Only in trust do we develop innovative, creative and flexible options for action, do new developmental perspectives open up. We have to encourage one another once again to place our trust in the developmental potential of each single person without expecting anything in return. Such trust moves mountains. That is revealed to us by the gift our children give us – the smaller they are, the more impressive it is.


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