When I was young, I trusted pretty much nobody. I grew up and got over that -- and over myself. And then it began to seep into my consciousness over time that maybe that early impression of "trust no one completely but yourself" wasn't altogether so off the wall after all. One wouldn't want to carry that to extremes, but one does want to exercise a modicum of caution. That isn't said with the intention of advocating pessimism, fatalism, or paranoia. Simply use common sense and discretion. Discretion is, after all, the better part of valor.
Do I trust my government? Implicitly? Not on your life. Who besides a fanatical right-winger would? For anyone who reads the papers every now and then, tunes in to the nightly news occasionally, such blind trust seems naive to the max.
They [Americans] may be said not to perceive the mighty forests that surround them 'til they fall beneath the hatchet.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"
I haven't yet had an opportunity to crack open Bob Woodward's new book. I'm sure that when I do, my already minimal level of trust in government will plummet dramatically.
Do I trust my bank, my auto maker, my appliance manufacturer, my employer, my local police department, my doctor? Not blindly, no. Human beings are prone to making mistakes. And human beings will sometimes prevaricate and mislead and take actions calculated to serve their own best interests.
Do you automatically trust the people you meet in the everyday course of living? "Automatically" is the key word. Certainly, new acquaintances should be afforded a level of trust. Otherwise, we'd all be hardened and lonely. It wouldn't be prudent, however, to trust them with the keys to your home -- or your heart -- until they've demonstrably earned a level of complete trust. In other words, don't jump into anything with eyes half shut. Give it the time it deserves to be sure it's genuine and that the friendship, affection, and trust flow both ways.
Do you unquestioningly trust everyone you meet on the Internet? If you do, you might want to reexamine your rationale. There's no way to even count the vast number of people I've become acquainted with online. The rules -- surprise, surprise -- turn out to be a bit different from the rules that apply to real-world friendships.
I've learned -- am still learning -- by trial and error the folly of fully embracing everyone sight unseen, of believing everything they say, of -- God help me -- giving out personal information prematurely.
Of those numbers of people met online, some of the ones I absolutely adored hurt me the most. Some of the ones whom I perceived as "nice" turned out to be complete idiots, while a few who seemed to have a high degree of integrity and sensibility were, in reality, total fruitcakes. There have been a few who struck me as honest and, yes, trustworthy who proved to be two-faced game players; I still haven't figured out their agendas. Some who I never would have suspected turned out to be the most deliberate back-stabbers (and it pains me to say that some of the worst offenders are members of my own sex). Some, I have learned, will say one thing and do another, while telling someone else you said something you never even thought of.
Ironically, there are another couple of people whom I immediately rubbed the wrong way, and vice versa, degenerating (I'm ashamed to say) into public shouting matches. With cursing. They are now very good friends.
Online friendships -- and the concomitant levels of trust -- are a whole new frontier. In the main, the people I've encountered online are honest and forthright and I'm glad to have made their acquaintance. There are going to be a few bad apples in every basket, though. As a late American president once said, "Trust, but verify." It only makes sense; in the circumstances, it makes the only sense.