In therapy last week, I stated that I don’t trust many people. I won’t lend many people money (if I thought you could pay me back, you wouldn’t need the loan) or tools (if you don’t have a working vacuum cleaner, there’s probably a good reason) and, most importantly of all, I distrust everyone else’s opinion at least a little bit, and the more espoused you are to your opinion, the more seriously I will question it.

It’s a common mistake to think that, because people trust you, you are, therefore, trustworthy. Therefore, the way to be trustworthy is to get people to trust you. Consequently, we see a great many people doing all kinds of unethical things to get people to believe them, and many more people falling for it.

But I digress. The meat of this essay concerns you (the reader) and me (the writer), personally, directly, intimately. I don’t trust you. I don’t think you, specifically, are as capable as you think you are, of making sense of the world, and of drawing correct conclusions from the evidence presented to you. In fact, I think you pretty much stink at figuring out what’s actually going on based on the information at hand.

The pious are quite fond of this. I’m sure it’s not intentional, but they’ve made a real game out of getting people to trust them while distrusting everyone else–lean not on the arm of flesh, after all. (But me? I have your best interests at heart! Really, I do!) (Aside: My belief in God didn’t provide me with anyone who I actually could trust, and without that belief, there isn’t anyone to trust, which is a pretty sad thought.)

I’ve adopted, as a rule of thumb, that the more insistent a person is that they have my best interests in mind, the more sure I can be that they don’t, and that there is some ulterior motive at play.

Which brings us back to me. (Imagine that! Me talking about myself on my own blog.)

In late February of this year, I signed up and became part of a program by Landmark Education called the Introduction Leaders Program (ILP). The program ran from February through September, though I was no longer part of it as of mid-June (that’s another story) and it’s only now I’ve started to confront the real reason I signed up. I had something to prove.

The point of the ILP is to become a new kind of person: one who listens to people, who understands them, and who is empowered to offer them something that will really make a difference for them; something that will assist them in fulfilling on their inmost and honest desires.

For most of the time I was in school, I was the best student in my class. I finished every test the fastest AND got the most questions correct; I was the best at math, spelling, science, reading–everything that you got a grade for beyond just participation. And then, when I was in ninth grade, that changed, and very suddenly, I was performing much worse than students I’d run circles around in eighth grade.

Now, it’s natural for someone who’s the big fish in a small pond to find themselves closer to the middle of the curve when they move from the pond to the lake, but usually, it’s because they’re suddenly exposed to a community of people like them, or smarter. My oldest sister was an example of this, going from West High School in little old Salt Lake City to Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

But that’s not what happened with me. My experience was with a couple of really key teachers who had something to prove themselves, convincing me that I wasn’t good at math, or language, or music. “You’re not as smart as you think you are,” one teacher actually said to me. And for a while, I believed him.

That particular teacher, it turns out, didn’t like me because I was smart, and therefore, I got in the way of his chasing the tails of the girls in his classes. That was his only year teaching there.

Is there a point? Yes. The point is that I am driven to be the best at certain things, and that I invented that drive for myself, and it exists to cover up my perceived failure: the areas where I am the best are all I’ve got. I see myself as the very epitome of failure when it comes to things that happen outdoors or involve physical strength.

And where did that come from? That’s a story I made up about myself when I was probably six, and the other boys played rough and I didn’t like playing rough, and I didn’t like when they hit me, and to them it was no big deal. (Today, I find, I actually have a higher tolerance for pain than most of my peers.) I was not “hefty, hefty, hefty!” I was “wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!” And this story plays itself out today as I sit and think about how I really should go to a gym, how I’d really like to put on some muscle, tone some things, improve some things, and the inexplicable anxiety I have around the whole thing.

You see, I trusted my own judgment about myself.

One thought on “Trust

  1. naptastic says:

    Sorry, that's a longer post than I like to make. I make every effort to keep them about half this long. This topic just needed the extra space. (And I could have used more.)

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