Trust me all in all…, or not at all

EmPulse for Week of April 18, 2011

Trust me all in all…, or not at all   -Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Alfred Tennyson, Baron I of Tennyson, was Britain’s Poet Laureate during much of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901). He is best known for his heroic poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, and numerous other quips that remain to this day.

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost…, than never to have loved at all.”

            “Theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die.”

            “The old order changeth, yielding place to new.”

Though not of noble birth, Tennyson, fourth of 12 children, was educated well by his father, a country Rector in the Church of England. When just 17, Alfred and two of his older brothers, Charles and Frederick, published their first collection of poetry. At Cambridge, Alfred was awarded the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for one of his first pieces, “Timbuctoo.” Quite an accomplishment for a young man of twenty.

The quote I’ve chosen, Trust me all in all, or not at all. bears some scrutiny. Is it possible to trust someone partially? Obviously, trusting someone to perform open-heart surgery on you does not make her/him just as reliable when it comes to valve stem replacement on your car’s engine. Nor does a good lawyer necessarily make an equally good confidant or counselor; though we often use them as such. Trust is restrained within the relationships of expertise and proficiency. We do NOT buy our gasoline from the Good Humor Man—so far. In a world where peace negotiations are channeled through arms dealers, who knows!?!

No, Lord Tennyson’s challenge concerns the nature, breadth, and depth of trust between individuals. When you are asked “Do you trust me?” what runs through your mind? He has to ask? Are you kidding? I don’t know you that well yet. Or, of course I trust you. Trust is not blind, oft referenced as blind-trust, where the character of one individual elicits implicit trust from the other with little hesitancy. That kind of trust is best reserved for our relationship with the God who made us. Amid human interactions, trust comes after a significant period of observation, of experiences of follow-through, a track-record of trust, etc. To be sure, trust often is instantaneous in a crisis (you’re hanging to a limb in a raging flood) or on a battlefield (another soldier drags you, wounded, across a mine-field to safety). But generally, trust must be earned. And earned again. And again. Betrayal is no small matter when a trust relationship is broken. It is a knife to the heart.

As you move through your days, weeks, and life…, through family relationships, business associations, supervising subordinates and inspiring those around you, remember Tennyson’s clever witticism. Trust me all in all, or not at all.  It simply comes down to— Am I trustworthy? and, Do I know how to trust another… all in all?

Have a nice week.


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