Chaplain's Corner + Where Has All the Trust Gone?
I recently heard an interesting commentary on a local radio station on the erosion oftrust in today’s society. It raised the question in my mind: Where has all the trust gone? I immediately made the connection to a folk song popular in the mid 20th Century, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone.” The lyrics refer in part to the horrors and loss of life experienced by the Cossacks living in the River Don region of Russia during the period of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. While not on the same level as the loss of life, we now, in the beginning of the 21st Century, can lament the widespread loss of trust in society.
This was all personally meaningful to me. A child of the mid 20th century, I grew up in a very small upstate New York village. Not only did we all know each other, but doors were always unlocked, a sure indication of trust. I remember being able to walk into a friend's house and make myself at home. We would depend on each other and come to each other's aid. Our word was our bond. Trustworthiness was a common virtue. Now, a generation later, I employ every security measure I know for personal and home protection.
The commentator pinned the cause of the degradation of trust in today's generation to the many ongoing scandals of persons previously held to be (and who should be) pillars of trust in society. These scandals, of course, are broadcast and magnified by the proliferation of social media. He pointed out that it started with Watergate, moved on to the various incidents of sexual misconduct by high level politicians, executives and clergy, and then to the rapid spread corporate and political greed, corruption, thievery and partisanship. He offered an interesting example: what would have been sealed by a handshake a generation ago, (which is quite consistent with my childhood milieu) now takes a multipage legal contract.
The damage that loss of trust and diminishment of trustworthiness cause in the modern world, in both large, public ways and smaller, more subtle ones, may be a significant reason to re-establish religion in our lives, families and in society. A pre-Watergate President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, said: "This is what I found out about religion: It gives you courage to make the decisions you must make in a crisis, and then the confidence to leave the result to a higher Power. Only by trust in God can a man carrying responsibility find repose."i What I like about Eisenhower's understanding is that it emphasizes one's personal responsibility to make the correct decisions in life for oneself, but always with trust in God and with a moral compass that includes determination to be a person worthy of trust. I pray that such trust can be re-established in society by heeding the words of another United States President, Thomas Jefferson, who said: "The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they shall have gotten hold of us."ii
To actualize this in our lives let us keep before us the words of King David's psalm: "As for my God, his way is undefiled: the words of the Lord are fire tried: he is the protector of all that trust in him." (Ps 17: 31) In the words of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, a contemporary father of the Eastern Church: "Is there any greater insurance than trust in God? When man entrusts himself to God, he receives a constant supply of "super gasoline" and his spiritual vehicle never stops; it runs constantly....pray and entrust yourself to God, and He will help you in every difficulty."iii
iii Elder Paisios of Mount Athos. (2008) Spiritual counsels II, Spiritual Awakening. (p. 304). Thessalonica, Greece: Evangelist John the Theologian Monastery.