August 18th, 2004

Postbox Fairy


Apparently, on the trust metric that's going round at the moment (I haven't done it), the top rating is the commonly-used description 'I would trust this person with my life'.

It struck me that this is not actually a terribly good measure of maximum trust. The thing is, I'd trust practically anyone who seemed fairly decent and responsible with my life (that is, whether I'd live or die), because it's fairly obvious that it's something important, something they'd need to take seriously.

The true test, in my opinion, is whether you can trust someone with something that you know appears utterly trivial to them, but which is nonetheless terribly important to you. That, to me, is what trust is about - the faith that this person will recognise and respect your needs, even if those needs differ from their own; that they have the self-discipline, intelligence, and sensitivity not to take advantage of the power you've given them: not only that they won't use it for their own advantage; but that they won't try to take over and do things 'for your own good' which they know you wouldn't approve of.

Edit: It's also occurred to me that this apparently-trivial-or-nonsensical-but-actually-important instruction is a standard myth/fairytale motif - an instruction which is invariably broken with dire consequences. Admittedly, the person giving the instruction rarely explains it, so perhaps the moral is 'if you want someone to be trustworthy, explain things to them'
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