While seated on the window bench of my sister’s house, yesterday, I watched the family cat, “Random Kitty”. He was stretched out, reclining on top of my feet. I’m guessing that Random does this to prevent me from leaving him. It feels endearing to have a cat behave this way. This gesture of trust makes Random Kitty’s feisty nature easier to tolerate.
As I sat immobilized by “cat paralysis”, my thoughts meandered into the fragile concept we know as trust. Why does Random Kitty trust me? Why did the other cat, “Sunshine” take a long time to trust me? Perhaps the reason is that Random has known me his entire short life and Sunshine met me after she matured past kittenhood.
Our human relationships are deeply rooted in matters of trust. I grew up in a relatively “normal” family environment. My parents were the two people I’d known my entire life. The trust that they would feed, clothe, shelter, and love me was a given quantity. My childhood relationship with mom and dad was not one of betrayal. In this instance parental trust was affirmed each day by my reliance upon their actions. I was never given any reason to question my confidence regarding the parent-child relationship.
I looked at Random Kitty and wondered if he felt some similar cat emotion like this. The seven-month old cat has been a difficult pet. Scratching and biting are major aspects of his relationship with humans. I’m wary of him when he has a certain look in his eyes.
There are also a few rare times when that look suddenly softens and I know he will not attack. Then he leaps onto my leg, places his forepaws onto my shoulders and bumps his nose onto mine, this is a display of trust. I don’t have words for this exchange. It seems like both of us are in auto-pilot with the nose-bumping coming out of nowhere. He’s not a tactile cat, so after a few seconds, Random Kitty jumps onto the floor and resumes his crazy ways. How can both of us become so open to affection so quickly after his outbursts? What is the cause of such mutual trust?
We humans have a strange relationship with trust, itself. How is it that we trust other people? Why do we trust and lose trust in each other and social institutions?
There is widespread distrust of government, business, and religion in much of the West these days. It’s easy to feel ambivilant about our relationship with politicians, even those with whose alignment we agree. Most of us have been burned in some way by the banking and business sector. A good number of us have been betrayed by our religions.
On the other hand we have new ride sharing services coming into existence like “BlaBlaCar”, “JustShareIt”, and “Zimride”. We display trust by sharing our vehicles with complete strangers or they trust us by sharing their vehicles with us. Yet, we were taught at a young age to never enter a stranger’s car.
Even more amazing are room sharing services like “Airbnb”, “Flatshare”, and similar services. We open our homes to strangers needing a place to stay for the night or we trust other strangers when we need to have a place while we travel. Normally, we don’t allow strangers into our homes, nor do we usually trust the motives of strangers who invite us into their homes.
Regardless of the nature of our relationships, our trust can instantly vanish. All it takes is some form of betrayal. some organization, government, or lover does or says something that makes us doubt their trustworthiness. Why is it, that something as valuable as trust is so very easy to lose?
In that ethical behavior enhances trust, trust is much more than ethical behavior. There is some sort of faith in the reliability of another person, creature, or thing. Trust is more than confidence about safety and reliability. It seems more like a discrete emotion on its own.
Once trust is lost, it’s incredibly difficult to regain.
I glanced down at Random Kitty after he moved off of my feet. I noticed that he was looking longingly at me.