To Trust or Not to Trust

It seems as though each time we go through a political election cycle the pundits bring out the research of how little we trust our leaders. Today we keep hearing that the “trust factor” has decreased significantly between the elected and electorates. Surprised? I’m not. Trust depends a great deal on information, knowledge, certainty and expectation.  

In the age of digital and social media we have come rely on information that is more image than authentic. Most communications experts acknowledge that the explosion of new media has so dramatically changed the way we gather information that it has begun to skew the trust levels of authority, leaders and institutions. This may be because we are relying more on images and impressions rather than data or facts.


When this occurs trust decreases and doubt and uncertainty increases. We identify less with our peer groups and traditions and the foundations of these begin to crumble.


Sounds pretty depressing, right? Well, it is because trust is so important. Trust is the ultimate building block of relationships – friends, family, business and faith. Without it our efforts to go forward with certainty and hope dramatically decrease.


But trust is an active word. In order for someone or something to be trusted it requires proof of honesty and truth before being accepted. It must be earned, not just expected.


Businesses leaders should value trust as one of their greatest assets. The rewards are obvious. But it takes the action of our minds and hearts in order for that asset to be valued by our customers, employees and co-workers.


Perhaps the best example of such action is seen in one of the most famous crisis communications case studies – the 1982 Tylenol poisoning. The Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, James Burke, took a stand few business leaders would have been willing to take. When the news first broke that it appeared there was a connection between Tylenol Extra-Strength Capsules and multiple poisonings, he immediately recalled all Tylenol products, some 31 million containers, at a cost of more than $100 million. He did this without a government-required recalled or even definitive proof that the capsules (which had been tampered with) were the actual or only reason for the deaths. He knew and stated clearly that the company had a public and moral responsibility and that if their product were ever to be trusted again they had to take drastic measures. And they did. Johnson & Johnson became the first company to require tamper-proof packaging for their products and instituted extraordinary measures of quality assurance before re-introducing Tylenol publically. Today consumer research shows Tylenol continues to be listed in the top 5 “most trusted” products.


Trust is so important that it is a sacred bond. But it must be nurtured – as demonstrated by the Tylenol case. Once it is instilled it can be life-changing. That’s why trust is such a significant theme in the Bible. Time and again Scripture says that if we trust in people alone, our accomplishments or our possessions we will be disappointed. We are truly to trust in God alone because He is unchanging even when our circumstances and leaders do. Ancient texts give truth for today.


As we watch our trust diminish in our culture we have the ability to do something about it. We can create trustworthy environments that are built upon truth, conviction and faith. We can produce and require in-depth and trustworthy information. But we must require these of our leaders, businesses and families. That will create the true building blocks of a firm foundation for every aspect of our lives.