The deterioration of social order in America has been led by the loss of trust over many years. It was happening long before it was recognized by the institutions of civil society or leaders of thought. This is not simply a symptom; it lies at the heart of our difficulties.
We must try to understand this. In the present moment, however, we must recognize that the profound loss of trust can foreshadow civilizational collapse.
Trust is essential to the integrity and well-being of any society, and trustworthiness its first requirement. Without trust no family or community or nation can survive.
At the present extraordinary turning point in history, we are confronted with a broken society in which trust has been steadily degraded. The meaning of trustworthiness has ceased to be understood.
Trust is learned over time through our experience with active interpersonal relationships. Civilization depends on it.
We face a multi-layered challenge. Building trust in personal relationships depends on genuine dialogue and our lived experience with one another. But we rarely find this possible in our lives today. Clearly, it is necessary to re-establish trustworthiness as the foundation for the character and prosperity of American society.
Learning to trust is most possible in functional local communities—because this is where genuine interpersonal dialogue and loyal engagement is most possible. When the going gets tough, local communities are where trustworthiness truly matters.
When we build trust in important relationships, we gradually bring it to life in ever-widening circles and relational circumstances.
Trustworthiness becomes real as we experience its dependability. We will want it because we need it. Yes, this will take a long time. There are no shortcuts. Building a stable, prosperous society will take as long as intelligent and determined people need to make it so.
This is the first challenge on the path to creating safety and resolving problems. To seek interpersonal dialogue where distrust and alienation prevail, requires courage and foresight. Only then will solutions follow.
Kind words can open doors and penetrate hearts, but making this effort requires steadfast patience. An interest in genuine understanding, and the willingness to be the first to listen, makes many things possible.
Even the most stubborn attitudes can be penetrated with curiosity and generosity of spirit—however long it might take. When we encounter pain or defensiveness in others, respond compassionately. Make it clear that you have heard and tried to understand.
When others are not ready to listen or respond, leave them to themselves. We must keep moving on.
But remember: Personal integrity and trustworthiness live and grow through interactive engagement. They are created in thoughtful relationships. Relationships that accept the mystery of differences and diversity need not be threatening.
The greatest tests on this rocky road are those that call for grace, constancy, and generosity of spirit. No one is asking us to change our views and our values, but only to seek dignity for others as well as ourselves.
This is indeed honorable. But we are called to something greater.
Trust can grow from the smallest of beginnings. People want to be able to trust. And the light we bring to their lives can be a great gift. The integrity that takes root in dialogue—in the honest engagement of interpersonal relationships—soon spreads to implant itself in the character of the world around us.
A nation led by fear is a nation destined for tyranny. The choice between freedom and fear, between empowerment and defensiveness, presents us with a fork in the road to the future. This is the choice that leads to safety; the understanding that makes loyalty and cooperation possible, whatever the hardships and challenges we are made to endure.
Note to readers: You may watch for the next post on or about July 1.