At the time we emerge form the womb, we have it. Babies instinctively reach out to a figure approaching them. We begin with the tendency to trust, and then painfully learn that the world and the some of the people in it are not beneficent, and that not everyone can be trusted. Some translate their pain into a philosophy that trusts no one – shoot first, ask questions later. Yet, to survive both as individuals and a society, trust is required. Many of our institutions and professions have been severely damaged by the actions of some members who have abused the privilege of their positions, resulting in a general loss of faith in our clergy, doctors, dentists, judges, policemen, and elected leaders. The damage is not only to the innocent members of those professions, but to the institutions, to ourselves, to our children. If we didn’t believe that most people would follow the rules, we couldn’t drive a car, get on airplane, eat in a restaurant, buy food in the store, use a bank, or have a relationship. And speaking of relationships, there is no quicker way to end one than by lying or cheating. Samuel Johnson once observed, “We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us.” As for those who are willing to lie to us, their best punishment is not that they are not believed, but that they are incapable of believing anyone else.
How many of us had the experience of giving our trust to someone else, only to have it betrayed? The pain we experience at times like these is directly proportional to the importance of that person in our lives. For some, that pain is so great, their sense of self so fragile, that they create a shell, an impenetrable barrier around themselves, for they are too afraid to again risk making themselves vulnerable to another. In their attempt to protect themselves from the outside, they doom themselves to the inner angst of being separated from the rest of humanity. For most of us, we lick our wounds, look for previously unrecognized clues in the behavior of our betrayer (so we can protect ourselves in the future,) and with great trepidation, cautiously move forward, afraid, but driven by our need for meaningful contact with another, we hesitatingly reach out again. There is a wonderful scene at the end of the movie “Annie Hall” in which Woody Allen is talking about the problem with his brother, who thought he was a chicken. “A chicken? My God, why didn’t you take him to a psychiatrist, get him some help?” asks the other character. “Frankly,” replies Woody, “we needed the eggs.” We all need the eggs.