A recent newspaper article I read referenced a survey that determined two-thirds of Americans believe other people cannot be trusted. [1]  Only 50 percent felt that way in 1972.  The article noted the consequences of this attitude.  It harms our political climate because political compromises are more difficult if you do not trust your political opponents.  It harms our economic climate because it diverts our dollars to protecting ourselves with security systems, gated communities, and legal maneuvering.  It is very destructive to our personal lives such as when we discover a friend or spouse has deceived us.

Why are we less trusting of each other?  The article mentions several causes such as technology which keeps people to themselves instead of socializing at community gatherings, the 24 hour news coverage of near and distant violence which enhances our sense of the untrustworthiness of people, economic inequality which eliminates a sense of a shared future, and a decline of moral values where everyone is looking out for themselves.

While all the above reasons might be true, what is forgotten is that trust is earned.  We trust people based upon their pattern of behavior (which is a definition of character).  If someone constantly takes advantage of us, we will not trust them.  The article mentions Dennis Hess who runs an unattended farm stand.  The only reason he is successful in his unattended stand is because the majority of his customers are honest.  If most of his customers were dishonest, then he would be forced to close the stand or make it an attended stand.

Asking why we are less trusting of each other is the wrong question.  The question should be:  Why we are less trustworthy?  We do not solve the problem of trust by blindly trusting others.  The solution is for each of us to demonstrate we are trustworthy regardless of the political, economic, technological, or moral climate.


[1]   Connie Cass, Associated Press, “Poll:  Americans less trusting of each other, Tulsa World, December 1, 2013, p. A8.

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