Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. The word “faith” can refer to a religious belief itself or to religion in general. As with “trust,” faith and belief involves a concept of future events or outcomes manifested over time, and is used conversely for a belief “not resting on logical proof or material evidence.”
Informal usage of the word “faith” can be quite broad, and may be used in place of “trust” or “belief.” Faith is often used in a religious context, as in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality, or else in a Supreme Being and/or this being’s role in the order of transcendent, spiritual things.
Faith, belief and trust is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true and or factual. It is the belief and the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, based on his or her authority and truthfulness. The English word faith is dated from 1200–50, from the Latin fidem, or fidēs, meaning trust, akin to fīdere, which means to trust (making your words count!)
From this perspective, trust, faith and belief is a mental state, which cannot be measured directly but can be seen when follow-up and follow-through takes place. This means that this is all happening in your mind. Confidence in the results of trusting or having faith may be measured through behavior, or alternatively, one can measure self-reported trust, faith or belief (with all the caveat surrounding that method). Trust, faith and belief may be considered a moral choice, as in the legend of Damon and Pythias, or at least a heuristic, allowing the human to deal with complexities that outgo rationalistic reasoning. In this case, machine-human trust is meaningless, because computers have no moral sense and rely on rational computations.
A second perspective in social theory comes from the classic Foundations of Social Theory by James S. Coleman. Coleman offers a four-part definition:
- Placement of trust allows actions that otherwise are not possible (i.e. trust allows actions to be conducted based on incomplete information on the case in hand).
- The person in whom trust is placed (trustee) is trustworthy, then the trustor will be better off than if he or she had not trusted. Conversely, if the trustee is not trustworthy, then the trustor will be worse off than if he or she had not trusted (this is reminiscent of the classical prisoner’s dilemma).
- Trust is an action that involves a voluntary transfer of resources (physical, financial, intellectual, or temporal) from the truster to the trustee with no real commitment from the trustee (again prisoner’s dilemma).
- A time lag exists between the extension of trust and the result of the trusting behavior.
The strength of Coleman’s definition is that it allows for discussion of trust behavior. These discussions have been particularly useful in reasoning about human-computer trust, and trust behaviors.
A critical element in studies of trust behavior is power. One who is in a position of dependence cannot be said to trust another in a moral sense, but can be defined as trusting another in the most strict behavioral sense. Trusting another party when one is compelled to do so is sometimes called reliance, to indicate that the belief in benevolence and competence may be absent, while the behaviors are present. Others refer only to coercion.
Coleman’s definition does not account for the distinction between trust(worthiness) as a moral attribute and trustworthiness as mere reliability. It is Annette Baier (Trust and Antitrust, in Ethics, 1986) who characterizes contexts of trust as structures of interaction in which moral obligations act upon the trustees.
The substantive conflict in the social sciences is whether trust is entirely internal, and only confidence is observable, or whether trust behaviors (and self reported levels of trust) can meaningfully measure trust in the absence of coercion. Note however that many languages (e.g. Dutch or German) do not distinguish between the words trust and confidence, which is complicating this issue. The distinction between trust and confidence is an unsolved issue in current trust/confidence research.
In general, trust is essential as Social institutions, such as governments, economies, and communities require trust to function. Therefore trust and altruism are areas of study for both economists and management scientists although these concepts go beyond strict rational economics.
In psychology trust is believing the person who you trust to do what you expect. It starts at the family and grows to others. According to the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson development of basic trust is the first state psychosocial development occurring, or failing, during the first two years of life.
Success results in feelings of security, trust, and optimism, while failure leads towards an orientation of insecurity and mistrust. Trust is integral to the idea of social influence: it is easier to influence or persuade someone who is trusting.
The notion of trust is increasingly adopted to predict acceptance of behaviors by others, institutions (e.g. government agencies) and objects such as machines. However, once again perception of honesty, competence and value similarity (slightly similar to benevolence) are essential. There are three different forms of trust.
Trust is being vulnerable to someone even when they are trustworthy; Trustworthiness is the ability to trust, and trust propensity being able to rely on them in relationships and risk taking. Once trust is lost, by obvious violation of one of these three determinants, it is very hard to regain. Thus there is clear asymmetry in the building versus destruction of trust. Hence being and acting trustworthy should be considered the only sure way to maintain a trust level. There is much research has been done on the notion of trust and its social implications:
- Barbara Misztal in her book attempts to combine all notions of trust together. She points out three basic things that trust does in the lives of people: It makes social life predictable, it creates a sense of community, and it makes it easier for people to work together.
- In the context of sexual trust Riki Robbins describes four stages of trust which we will cover later on in this article.
- In the context of Information theory Ed Gerck defines and contrasts trust with social functions such as power, surveillance, and accountability:
In addition to the social influence, in organizational settings, trust may have a positive influence on the behaviors, perceptions, and performances of a person. One factor that enhances trust in a human being is facial resemblance. Evidence shows through manipulation of facial resemblance in a two person sequential trust game that having similar facial features (facial resemblance) enhanced trust in their partner. Structure often creates trust in a person that encourages them to feel comfortable and excel in the workplace. Working anywhere may be stressful and takes effort. By having a conveniently organized area to work on, concentration will increase as well as effort. Structure is not just a method of order. It increases trust and therefore makes a workplace manageable. A structured, ordered environment produces trust as one may contain increased cooperation and perform on a higher level. (On a personal note, this is why my sales and marketing organizations grow each week.)
People may work together and achieve success through trust while working on projects that rely on each individual’s contribution. Conversely, where trust is absent, projects can fail, especially if this lack of trust has not been identified and addressed.
This is one facet of analysis: This thinking framework is used when studying information systems. Identifying and dealing with cases where information providers, information users, and those responsible for processing information do not trust one another can result in the removal of a risk factor for a project. One’s social relationship characterized by low trust and norms that discourage academic engagement are expected to be associated with low academic achievement. Individuals that are in relationships characterized by high levels of social trust are more apt to openly exchange information and to act with caring benevolence toward one another than those in relationships lacking trust.
An important key to treating sexual victimization of a child is the rebuilding of trust between parent and child. Failure for the adults to validate the sexual abuse contributes to the child’s difficulty towards trusting the self and others. Trust, belief and faith is often affected by the erosion of a marriage. Children of divorce do not exhibit less trust in mothers, partners, spouses, friends, and associates than their peers of intact families. The impact of parental divorce is limited to trust in the “father” figure. In all kinds of relationships leadership is required and needed. Leadership skills are developed over time and thus promote trust, faith and belief.
Some philosophers argue that trust is more than a relationship of reliance. Philosophers such as Annette Baier have made a difference between trust and reliance by saying that trust can be betrayed, whilst reliance can only be disappointed (Baier 1986, 235). Carolyn McLeod explains Baier’s argument by giving the following examples: we can rely on our clock to give the time, but we do not feel betrayed when it breaks, thus, we cannot say that we trusted it; we are not trusting when we are suspicious of the other person, because this is in fact an expression of distrust (McLeod 2006). Thus, trust is different from reliance in the sense that the truster must accept the risk of being betrayed.
The Four Stages of Trust
by Dr. Riki Robbins, Ph.D.
Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.
The first people besides ourselves that we learn to trust — or mistrust — are our parents. If they behave with integrity, tell us the truth, and keep their promises, then we are inclined to believe that other people will do the same thing. If our parents tell us to trust them, and then break their word, we may never learn to trust at all.
When Cathy, a college professor, was betrayed, she experienced total mistrust at first. She asked me, “Can I trust anyone: myself, other people, or even God?” I asked her if she remembered feeling this way before. She thought for a moment and then replied, “Yes. When I was a little girl. My father was a minister devoted to spreading the word of God. Yet he beat me and my brother regularly. It seemed so crazy to me. How could someone who was supposed to be so good act so bad? If I couldn’t trust him to back up his words with actions, then I couldn’t trust anyone else.” Since I fully empathized with how Cathy was feeling, it was difficult to disagree with her. But I did tell her that unless she changed her attitude she wouldn’t have healthy love relationships in the future.
None of us become adults and retain the perfect trust we were born with. But that doesn’t mean we have to go to the opposite extreme. As my good friend author and public speaker Cheewa James puts it, “I trust everybody at the beginning. I assume everyone is loving until proven otherwise.” For best results, start off a relationship with the assumption that the other person is trustworthy. Be careful to protect yourself, but give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt.
Damaged Trust, Belief and Faith.
Inevitably, the person you love will violate your trust. The most common warning signs include: Withholding vital information. You say, “Where were you last night until 2:00 A.M.?” “Nowhere special.” Lying. He says, “I was working late,” but when you called his office, there was no answer. Giving you mixed messages. He denies your accusations but doesn’t look you in the eye. Refusing to negotiate. When you ask, “Will you promise to stay away from her?” he says, “Leave me alone,” and walks away.
Deep in your heart you know that trust has been damaged. When you find out about a betrayal immediately after it happens, trust is broken. But it is not necessarily devastating. Especially if it is a mini-betrayal, you and your partner can talk about the incident, agree that it won’t occur again, and reestablish a bond of openness and loyalty.
When your partner violates your limits and behaves in a way you find morally unacceptable, your trust is completely broken. Typically this happens after a betrayal when you’ve been cheated on, lied to, and treated with profound disrespect.
Devastated trust is a crisis. The first time it happens you may totally regress. You feel as if you’re five years old as you re-experience your original fundamental loss. You ask yourself, just as Cathy did, “Whom can I trust?” You may answer your own question, “Not my mother or my father, not even my partner. Who’s left?” Before you can think about trusting yourself and other people, you have to deal with the situation at hand. Can trust possibly be restored? If not, you will have to end the relationship despite any remaining good qualities.
What happens if you suddenly find out that you’ve been betrayed long ago? This happened to Edith, a newspaper editor. After her husband, Joe, returned from a weekend personal growth seminar, he decided to “come clean” about his previous sexual infidelities. Late one night, he told Edith that when he had visited an old out-of-town girlfriend five years ago, the two of them had sex. Furthermore, they had both discussed the possibility of ending their marriages so they could have a serious relationship together. “I could never trust Joe again after that,” Edith told me. “If he had told me at the time we might have been able to salvage something. But to find out five years later? All this time he’d been withholding vital information. How could I possibly know what else he is hiding now?”
Francesca, a computer technician, was offered a choice. Her husband, George, told her, “During the early years of our marriage I committed a few indiscretions. I’d like to tell you so I can get them off my chest. Is this all right with you?” Francesca thought for a while before she responded, “You can tell me if you like. But if you do I’ll never believe another word you say again. The time to tell me was when it happened, not now.” Of course, simply by bringing up the subject, he shattered her trust completely.
If you suspect that your partner betrayed you, you should confront him as soon as you can. You may rationalize, “I don’t want to hurt him, get into an argument, or rock the boat.”
Short-term pain is long-term gain. Every moment you wait, trust is eroded. Conversely, if you betray your partner, either reveal it at the time or else take a vow of eternal silence. Sharing a betrayal farther down the road devastates trust.
If trust is repeatedly broken can it be restored? No. Harriet, a registered nurse, had a tumultuous courtship. Her fiancé, Ira, left her to go back to a former girlfriend. When they broke up, he returned to her, promised her an engagement ring, and asked her to marry him. Two weeks later, he spent the weekend with another former girlfriend. Upon his return, he announced that he wanted to postpone their engagement because he wanted to continue dating. Harriet waited patiently until he gave up his second girlfriend. Six months later, she married him. It was a mistake. Harriet said to me, “I actually believed that Ira and I could ‘start over’. But it wasn’t true. I had lost all respect for him. My trust had been violated so often that I found myself waiting for it to happen again. And Ira continued his habit of having other sexual relationships behind my back. For our relationship to survive it was up to him to take the lead in restoring trust. And he didn’t.”
Can you restore sexual or romantic trust once it is damaged or destroyed? It’s possible, but difficult. You don’t get past a betrayal overnight; it takes months or even years.
The good news is that the aftermath of a betrayal is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. If you and your partner openly talk about what happened, you will open the gateway to deeper intimacy. While you cannot be positive that you won’t be betrayed again you can certainly minimize the chances.
Discuss your partner’s motives for betraying you and your own involvement in the cause. Honestly share how you feel, and what you need at the present moment. Express your concerns about the future, let each other know what you expect from now on, and state your limits about what you will and won’t put up with. If you can’t have this kind of conversation by yourselves, then get professional help right away. Don’t wait; mistrust can become a habit. A qualified therapist, psychologist, or marriage counselor can guide the two of you as you explore why the betrayal happened and how to prevent another one.
Gradually you’ll start trusting each other in small matters — and then in bigger ones.
One thing’s for sure: You can’t turn back the clock. You and your partner don’t feel the same way toward each other anymore. Trust has been broken and it’s difficult to fix. As you put your relationship back together, both of you see each other differently.
You think, “Maybe I can trust this person again but from now on I need to be careful.” Your trust is not as complete as it once was. It may be:
Guarded trust. You think, “I’ll trust you again, but I’ll be on guard for another betrayal. If it happened once it could happen again.”
Conditional trust. You think, “I’ll trust you again under certain conditions, such as if you never communicate with the accomplice again.”
Selective trust. You think, “I’ll trust you with money but not with sex. You can continue to write checks on our joint account as you have in the past. But I want detailed information and frequent reassurance that you’re being faithful to me.”
By making one of these agreements, you take a big first step in the right direction.
But suppose you can’t restore trust? What if you feel that you can’t trust anyone ever again? Janice, a writer-editor whose trust had been recently devastated, answers: “Since my husband cheated on me I realize that I can be betrayed at any time. In one split second my life can turn upside down. But I don’t choose to focus on the uncertainty. If I did, life would be too difficult. I couldn’t have a love relationship with anyone. So while I’m aware of the danger of trusting other people, I don’t obsess. I continue to reach out even though part of me shouts, ‘Watch out’.”
Next Week we will cover, “How to Create Trust”.
Thanks again for your time and comments
Adam Vincent Gilmer