Minister’s Musings – February 2021

Dear Ones- Our theme for the month of February is “Trust”.  And I have to admit to you, I’m finding the task of writing about “trust” difficult.  But the reason isn’t because I don’t have trust- we all have trust of one sort or another.  Rather, it’s because the word seems so simple at first glance, yet when looked at more closely, becomes extremely complex.

Let me explain:  As I think about the word, my mind goes to questions like, “What is trust?” and “what is the difference between faith and trust?”.

So bear with me as I grapple with this for a moment…

Let’s start with “what is trust?”  My on-line Miriam-Webster dictionary (does anyone still use an actual book-type dictionary?) defines trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something”.

There’s also “a property interest held by one person or organization (as a bank) for the benefit of another.  But I’m going to ignore that one as irrelevant to this discussion.

So back to that “firm belief” part.

In an article from Psychology Today, Paul Thagard, Ph.D. writes:

“Trust is a central part of all human relationships, including romantic partnerships, family life, business operations, politics, and medical practices.  If you don’t trust your doctor or psychotherapist, for example, it is much harder to benefit from their professional advice”.

If you’ve ever done something to lose someone’s trust in you (and I admit I certainly have!), or if you’ve ever had occasion to no longer trust someone, you know how difficult it is to maintain a relationship.  Regaining that trust may not even be possible.  Everything the person does is weighed against that breach of trust.

Thagard goes on to say, “Trust is rarely absolute, but rather is restricted to particular situations:  Pat may trust Sam to pick up the groceries but not to perform surgery.”

Trust, then, has its limitations.  When someone says “they have complete trust” in anything, they probably haven’t thought the matter through, or are very naive.  I don’t actually believe it’s possible to have “complete trust” in anyone.

On the other hand, of course, we must trust someone sometime.  We’ve all met or know those folks who trust no one and nothing.  They live sad, miserable, lonely lives.  As Thagard says, it is central to all relationships, and for most of us, relationships are crucial to a “well-lived” life.

This, then, brings me to my second question: “What is the difference between faith and trust?”

It seems, at least on the surface, that there is no practical difference between the two, other than a grammatical one: “trust” can be used as a verb, whereas “faith” cannot.  You can “trust” someone, but you really can’t “faith” that individual.

Also, too, it seems that “faith” has a more theological/spiritual connotation then “trust”.  The difference is subtle, but to my ear at least, definitely there.  One can certainly either say they “have faith” that their car will start, or they “trust” that their car will start.  But the two sound a bit different, don’t they?

I think the difference is one of degree.  Faith feels more compelling, more dynamic, more powerful, more absolute.  When I say I have faith that the Sun will rise tomorrow, there is no qualifier attached.  I can’t prove that the Sun will rise, I certainly “trust” that it will do so.  But I also have faith that it will.

One blogger I read, Mara Shapsay, told a story of Charles Blondin, a famous tightrope walker who performed acts over Niagara Falls.  In one show he asked the audience if they would be interested in seeing him push a wheelbarrow over the tightrope.  To which the audience yelled, “Yes!”.  But when he asked who would be interested in getting into the wheelbarrow, no one volunteered.  For Shapsay, the difference between trust and faith is the difference between her willingness to trust that pushing a wheelbarrow across a tightrope can be done, and her willingness to get into the wheelbarrow.

As a Humanist, I’ve grappled with the concept of “faith” for a long time.  I admit I don’t know what faith is.  I feel more comfortable talking about trust, since it’s somehow less “loaded” and leads to fewer arguments.    I certainly don’t trust that humans won’t annihilate ourselves, that we won’t be stupid, or petty, or horrid to one another- I’ve seen far too much evidence to the contrary. But I do have faith in humankind – faith that there is a force at work through all creation; that ultimately, it’ll be OK; that life will continue-somehow/someway; that the Sun will come up tomorrow.

And, in the end, I suppose the difference for me truly is, indeed, a theological one.

What do you think?

Wishing you safety, peace and blessings,

Rev John

One thought on “Minister’s Musings – February 2021

  1. Lennart Elmlund

    Hello John, Hello, John,
    Interesting discussion of the words trust and faith.
    I am one who still use my printed version of The Oxford Dictionary, (the concise version). As a boy scout I learned the importance of being trustworthy. Or being a person one can rely on. To have faith has a similar meaning but in my view relates more to a person’s inner persona. Faith may also have a religious meaning, as in Jewish faith, Christian faith. If we then add “faithful” to our discussion, we equal this to being loyal, trustworthy.
    Well, I may not have helped you getting a clearer interpretation of trust vs. faith, but so be it.

    Stay Calm, Move Forward and Mask Up

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