foundation of all relationships

Written by  rabbi michael schiffman

art-bewaredogWhen I was a kid, I joined the Boy Scouts.  One of the first things you learn in the Boy Scout Creed, is that a scout is Trustworthy.  Like most kids, it was just something we had to memorize to be a scout.  As I have gotten older and somewhat wiser, I’ve come to appreciate the values scouting tried to impart to us.

Being trustworthy is so very important in all human relationships.  When you think about life’s disappointments, most of them are related to people letting you down.  People do that.  For good and not so good reasons, they let you down.  I should be extremely cynical at this stage in my life, because I’ve been let down by so many people, so many times.  I often think of the Seinfeld holiday of “Festivus,” where people sit around the dinner table and tell each person how they disappointed each other in the past year.


I am cynical about people at times, but I also try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  People can and do change, although slowly.  That’s why we need to be forgiving of others.  What they were does not mean they will always be the same.  This is true of people I knew 30 – 40 years ago.  I knew people who were jerks, and sometimes treated me badly, but meeting them now, after all these years, I discover they grew up; they matured, and are not the jerks they were growing up.  Even I am not the jerk I once was.  My hope, is that people will overlook the foolishness of my youth, and accept me for what I am, not for what I was.  I give the same benefit of the doubt to others.

Trustworthiness is something I’m still growing into.  People know they can rely on me for things, and I do everything I can to not let them down.  I try to be patient and kind, if they need me, I try my best to be there for them.  People know they can count on me for humor, and cigar smoke as well.  Because people can rely on me, they trust me.  It gives me a good feeling, and I know it helps them.

I’ve had people who promised things, and they never came through.  I wasn’t as upset with them for not coming through as for wasting my time and getting my hopes up when they didn’t come through.  It’s like they didn’t care enough to do what I was hoping for.  Sometimes they said “sorry,” and sometimes they didn’t even do that.

As in all things, trust is earned.  When people show they can not be trusted, it takes a long time and many attempts before trust is afforded again.  You can overlook one or two instances, but frequent let downs make it hard to trust anyone.

When people can’t trust you to do what you say you will do, why should they trust your words?  General George C. Marshall, the author of “the Marshall Plan,” was deeply respected for his integrity.  When he said something, people knew they could bank on it.  He never went back on his word, and was the most respected man in America in his time.  I want to be like that.  I want people to be able to take my word and know it will be done.  Trustworthiness is another way of saying “integrity.”

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