I define ‘trust’ here as a process of reaching a firm judgement that something is true. This is one of those instances where I don’t take the dictionary meaning as it is but I hope I can convince you in favour of this definition by the end of the post.
I already have explained in detail my take on beliefs and how it is best to deal with unverifiable beliefs and how to talk about them with children. Here I would to put light on an alternative to belief viz. trust.
I think the faculty of trust is a better guide to understanding reality than belief and here are some of the reasons why:
1. Trust is dynamic while belief is static. Trust takes time to build.
2. Trust requires an open mind while belief requires a closed mind. It requires a certain openness to experience, where it is possible that you temporarily drop your guard down, and be willing to listen to multiple points of view and evaluate perspectives by yourself.
3. Trust requires an exercise of reason, while belief requires suspension of reason. We must never forget that reason is one of the main faculties that make us human. Trust building requires objectivity in thinking, rather than subjectivity like in the case of belief.
4. Trust can be verified but a belief in most cases is unverifiable. Trust-building is a process in which one may need to set aside one’s biases and start with a foundation of trust. If someone breaks that trust or it proves not to work, one can learn from it. So, there is an element of learning in trust.
5. Trust makes you accountable. You are accountable, at least partly, for where you choose to put your trust and the consequences thereof. In belief, it is easy to blame your parents, society, religious books or community and wash your hands off the consequences.
These five simple reasons make trust (shraddha in Sanskrit) a better guide to living than belief. Shraddha is defined as the attitude that upholds and nourishes truth. To trust deeply is to truly know deeply. The trust we put in our spouse, parents or best friends to be of help in difficult times is not a belief. The trust we put in our pilots when we board the flying machine, or the trust in ourselves is not a belief. Trust is the knowledge that may sometimes take years to develop and turn into a firm judgement.
Here is a simple exercise: make a list of your most deeply rooted beliefs and subject it to its ‘trustworthiness’ using the above five criteria.
As parents, first, learn what to trust through your own research and experience. Prove it yourself first. Then tell children what they can and cannot trust, based on your knowledge and experience. And also tell children they have the freedom to put this trust to test themselves and form their own judgement.
The legacy of trust needs to stand the test of time and experience from one generation to the next.