Lesson 69: Trust

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, April 15, 2010

It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.

Samuel Johnson

Theres an age-old fable about a scorpion and a frog. The scorpion wants to cross a river but cant swim, so he asks the frog to give him a ride on his back. The frog at first refuses, saying, Youll sting me while Im swimming, and Ill die.

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That would be foolish, replies the scorpion. If I were to sting you, Id drown, because I cant swim. This reasoning makes sense to the frog, so he agrees. The scorpion climbs aboard, and the frog starts swimming.

Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. Why did you sting me? cries the frog incredulously. Now well both drown.

I cant help it, says the scorpion. Its my nature.

This simple story carries several lessons for us if we look closely. One is that you cant expect someone to change his or her nature. But there are also a couple of lessons having to do with trust.

Can you trust everyone? Clearly not. But you cant distrust everyone either. Life is built on human relationships, and relationships are built on trust trust that reaches out both ways. It starts with you: by being worthy of trust, you make it possible for others to trust you.

But then you have to extend trust to others. Some people never trust anyone; that course is both foolish and self-defeating. If you know in your heart that youre trustworthy, doesnt it make sense that others are as well? Yes, you might say, but which others?

Ah, theres the rub, isnt it? Sometimes you cant know the answer to that question until after the fact. Like anything else, there is a balance here.

You may be deceived if you trust too much, Dr. Frank Crane once wrote, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.

Frankly, Id rather trust too much and perhaps be burned occasionally than not trust enough and live in fear that everyone is out to get me. The stakes probably wont be as high as those of the trusting frog in our story and you may be surprised at how often your trust is rewarded.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.