Trust wisely, not blindly

Trust wisely, not blindly
Bicycle in colored pencils by Camille I Claux, 2016 Camille Claux

I remember teaching our daughter to ride a bike a couple of years ago. She said “Mama, I’m scared.” I told her, “It’s ok, let go and trust us.” It took a little coaxing, but ultimately she took off without training wheels.

Trust, lies, deception. Such a normal part of human nature. Yet, I usually think that most people mean well and have the best intentions in mind. Maybe I’m naïve. Every once in a while, it comes back to smack me right in the face. I do learn though. Once that trust leaves, it disappears. Forever.

It’s not that I don’t believe in forgiveness, because I most certainly do. We aren’t perfect. Naturally, with lack of perfection come mistakes. Therefore, we need to be able to forgive each other. However, we also need to learn life lessons from those mistakes. For me, one of those lessons is remembering to mistrust the ones that make you loose faith in them. It’s not that people can’t change, but truthfully it’s not the norm. Change is hard. Once somebody fails you, it is likely they will fail you again and you have to be ready for that.

I recently met somebody with whom I shared a common interest in a project. To keep it anonymous, lets just say I worked on collecting “data.” My newly met collaborator made sure that the “data” was delivered to the right people. The intended recipients were a group who really needed this data and were relying on us for help. So, we set a delivery date. The date arrived and there was a problem. He told me he needed another 3 days. Then, three days later, yet another problem. Now, it would be delayed ANOTHER 3 days (6 days thus far). After that, it happened AGAIN a third time!

Now, the first time it happened I thought: “Ok, no big deal, things happen, that’s life.” The second time I started getting suspicious. You may argue that many people may have bailed out already and confronted the person. However, I genuinely liked and trusted this person. I thought they were good and their intentions were in the right place, so I chose to trust, AGAIN.

The third time it happened I felt hurt and betrayed. I decided to take my “data” and look for an alternate method of delivery. Data retrieval was somewhat complicated. It also required my talking to his “higher ups.” I had not met or had any relations with them before. Now, they did NOT give me a good vibe. It was then that I realized I needed to cut ties with them pronto. These “higher ups” were the root of the operation and it was clear that they had ulterior motives in place.

After all was said and done, I spoke with the person to settle things. He tried to make me feel like this was all my fault and that I had ruined their “operation.” Now, I fundamentaly believe that if we are to become better, we need to be able to take criticism. We need to listed to it, then sit down and analyze it in order to get some insight. So, I took his statements to heart and did my internal evaluation. Was there any truth to his statements?

Valuable Lessons on Trust 

While I pondered, initially I felt angry at myself and at him. At myself for believing and trusting someone I did not know well and at him for making me feel like the villain here. Your word is the only thing you have. It is so important to me. Which brings me to a summary of the lessons I learned (which are pretty damn basic, but I keep forgetting):

  • If you promise you are going to do something, you better do it. Your word is gold and it defines the type of person you are.
  • Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Setting the right expectations is sooo important. Better to under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Be transparent with people, don’t lie for the sake of creating false impressions or protecting yourself/colleagues. Suck it up if you make mistakes and face the music.
  • Be careful who you associate with – in  Spanish we have a saying that loosely translated says: “Tell me who you walk with and I will tell you who you are”
  • Trust people – I still think we have to start off giving each other the benefit of the doubt – but trust wisely, not blindly.

You may think me naïve for still trusting people, but guess what? Wait for it…..

I can’t help it! It is in our nature. As a newborn, we are extremely dependent on our care givers. From birth, we depend on and trust others. We are pre-conditioned to trust. Even more, research shows that certain brain chemicals modify our “trust level.” For example, oxytocin, which is a hormone present in higher levels during labor and breast feeding, can boost our trust and trustworthiness level. In addition, animal studies have shown this hormone makes animals calmer, less anxious and more sedate.

I still think the person I was dealing with is actually not a bad person, but he was a puppet. The puppet masters were pulling the strings without him even knowing. I hope he will realize that and get out before its too late, but now with my data elsewhere, it is no longer my problem. So, I end with yet another valuable lesson: know when to let go and move on. That one is a toughie for me because I tend to perseverate on my mistakes. I will keep working on it though. After all, aren’t we all works in progress?


As most of you are aware, my beautiful island of Puerto Rico was decimated by the path of Hurricane Maria on 9/20/2017. The infrastructure and people are hurting and will be hurting for many months to come. If you are interested in helping, please consider making a donation here.

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