The Power of Trust

Here’s me with one of the co-founders of this  trust movement

Here’s me with one of the co-founders of this trust movement

Last week I gave two talks on Kindfulness at the Make the World Great Again Festival in Amsterdam, organised by my friend Spencer who helped us kick start our Museum of Happiness four years ago.

The idea of the festival was to be empowered to take collective action to live more consciously - change to a more ethical bank, reduce food waste, practice yoga and meditation and much more. I loved the idea of collective action to create a better world - I hope the idea spreads! In fact, we may even start a London chapter.

Whilst enjoying a street market to get some lunch before the festival started, I came across a lovely shop dedicated to spreading more trust in the world. It really opened my heart.

I immediately stepped in because I’ve always felt that trust is the heart of relationships and relationships are at the heart of what it means to be a happy and healthy human being.

What is Trust?

A gratitude wall in the shop, celebrating trust.

A gratitude wall in the shop, celebrating trust.

Here’s a definition:


Noun - firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something:
"relations have to be built on trust"

So positive relationships are built upon belief. Belief that our friend will be reliable, truthful and do what they say they’ll do.

Trust is a belief in the good of others.

The Three Core Benefits of Trust

Professor Barbara Misztal, in her book called ‘Trust in Modern Society’, attempts to combine all notions of trust together. She points out three basic things that trust does in the lives of people:

  • It makes social life predictable

  • it creates a sense of community

  • it makes it easier for people to work together

If your social life is unpredictable, you don’t have a warm sense of community and find it hard to work together with others, perhaps trust is the cause of the issue? Either you’re not trusting others enough or perhaps you’re with a circle of people that are just not that trustworthy?

Trust and Happiness

Description: Trust is Peace Post-It

Description: Trust is Peace Post-It

There’s a link between trust and happiness. The countries where their citizens are most trusting of each other and outsiders were found to be happier. Top of the list? The Danes of course! They trust others more. Even outsiders. And they are rewarded with the warm feeling of happiness as a result.

Trust as core to happiness isn’t surprising to me. Imagine a world where we can all fully trust each other? Our doors would be open, food would be shared, and security checks would never be needed. Relationships would flourish and joy would be a more common state of mind.  Sounds idyllic, but as we have seen, some countries are better at it than others. And I don’t see why we can’t start working on ways to increase trust. What are your thoughts?

My recent challenge with Trust

gratitude wall trust.jpg

Being in this lovely shop made me think about my own recent challenges with trust. A close friend of mine started doing things I would never have dreamed they would have done, and challenged my trust in them.

I practiced forgiveness, which I often find quite easy, but the trust hasn’t fully returned. Is that right?

Should I trust someone who has broken my trust? I think I should, and I’ll explain why.

The reason for the breakdown of trust was too much stress, an inability to cope, saying things that were not meant to be said and a lack of communication. I believe there is always reasons for people to behave the way they do. They don’t intend to harm others intentionally. This links to one of my core beliefs:

Everyone is always doing the best they can, with the level of awareness, wisdom, compassion and motivation they have at any one given time. - Shamash

So even some who’s so called ‘evil’, thinks what they are doing is right. Or feels compelled to do bad. Or just doesn’t have the compassion within them to do good.

If you believe everyone is intrinsically good, but their behaviour is bad, there is hope for them to change. And what they really need isn’t punishment, but understanding. Science seems to agree - when you look at babies, one of the core traits they have is kindness, across all cultures! They naturally want to do good and help others. It’s what has helped us survive as a human species. How sweet!

Even Charles Darwin agrees. Darwin was misquoted as saying ‘survival of the fittest’. He never said it. In fact, he believed in the opposite. Darwin said in his later work:

“For those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.” - Charles Darwin

Even from an evolutionary survival perspective, being sympathetic (meaning kind or compassionate in this case), is the way to go.

This gives us hope to begin with trust. Most people are trustworthy. And if they’re not, it’s not because they’re untrustworthy at their core - they’ve just suffered their way through the journey of life and their hearts are no longer quite as open as they once were. And you too may be in that category.

Trust Story

Here’s a lovely story from our friend Ajahn Brahm on Trust, as it makes a powerful point on trust.

A woman found out her husband had lied to her.

She asked: “Should I trust him any longer? Should I just divorce him?”

Brahm asked two questions back:

“How long have you been married? And what do you do for your work?”

She answered “3 years of marriage, and a teacher of maths.”

“So, three years of marriage is roughly 1000 days and you are probably told about 20 things a day. So he’s said 20,000 statements to you and he’s lied to you once. So in terms of probably, he only lies 1 in 20.000 times. That’s maths! There’s a 20,000 to 1 chance he’s telling the truth every time he speaks to you! What do you mean you can’t trust him - that’s great odds!”

There was no reason to take away her trust in him.

Yes, people do make mistakes once in a while. Everyone does. But perhaps we need to focus more on what people do right rather than what they do wrong.

When you give trust, the other person gets better at receiving that trust and being more trustworthy. Trust grows with trust.

Failure is Allowed: The Secret to Trust-building

People make mistakes. You do and I do. Nobody’s perfect. But if you base your trust on people being perfect, how can you or I trust anyone! We can’t.

So our practice needs to be to stop controlling others so much. Allowing them the space to make mistakes. And if they are allowed to make mistakes, then they don’t get overwhelmed by fear.

Fear is the heart of the issue. When people are scared to make mistakes, they are more likely to make those very mistakes. And trust quickly breaks down.

Let’s try the opposite. Allow your friend or partner to make mistakes. Allow your children to make mistakes and learn from them. Give trust and don’t punish mistakes too much. If you punish mistakes, you generate fear and all the problems that go along with fear.


Trust Yourself First

To build trust in others, learn to trust yourself. By remembering you’re an imperfect and beautiful human, just like everyone else, just like the trees and grass, the flowers and rivers, you begin to feel you are good enough just the way you are. You see things as they really are. Yes you make mistakes, but you do so many things right too!

The fact that you’re reading this blog is so wonderful - you’re nourishing your mind and heart with an uplifting and important topic. In this way, you do so many good things. Trust that things will turn out for the best. And even when they go wrong, they don’t really go wrong - no matter what happens, there’s something to learn from it. If Victor Frankl could take something positive from being in a concentration camp, so can you with your life and circumstance too (Check out his book, one of the best books of all time in my opinion, Man’s Search for Meaning).

So I urge you to start today, and with yourself. Trust is an inner journey.

Wisdom on Trust

I’d like to finish this article with some of the more popular quotes on trust, from some very wise people.

Let’s start with Shakespeare:

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
― William Shakespeare

For Shakespeare, trust is a precious commodity and we need to be careful how much we give out.

Hemingway had an interesting thought about trust:

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway

I think he’s right. If you don’t trust, you continue to question, question, question. But perhaps open your heart slowly and see what happens. I’m a fan of kaizen - step by step let your trust in others and yourself grow.

And let’s finish with Maya Angelou

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou

That’s perhaps the hardest of them all. Give yourself time to heal, fill your heart with love and compassion and then when you’re ready to do so, trust love one more time.


Having written this article, I feel much more open to trust my friend and forgive the one big mistake she made compared to the thousands of big things she did right too. If someone has broken your trust, I hope this inspires you in the same way. Let’s trust more and fear less.