One of the standout personalities of my time, instantly recognizable (sound and sight) to people of my generation, that has particularly fascinated me, and who over the years I have come to admire, even if I have not always agreed with what he said and did, and there are many who would have found his style abrasive, is the Irish politician, Rev. Ian Paisley. In the past week or so, two types of incident have occurred that are quite different but where there is a common theme. One concerns the reports, and exhortation by those who share them that I need to take a certain view in the light of those reports, concerning what is happening in Gaza. The other concerns people who I feel have somehow betrayed my trust and as a consequence this has affected how I tend to interact with them.
It can be said that moves toward peace in Ireland in the light of sectarian division have come a long way in recent years. As a leader of one of the sectarian factions, Ian Paisley has made considerable contributions to the peace process, not just by arguing but by the power of his personality. In the early days of the peace negotiations, there was a much publicized rift between Ian Paisley and the British Prime Minister of the time, John Major. While details of what caused this are not all known, it seemed as an onlooker that Major wanted Paisley to trust him and Paisley wouldn’t, which rather miffed Major – an unauspicious start to building a relationship. Later when the two factions came to together as part of a power sharing agreement, an unlikely friendship began that involved Ian Paisley and his arch enemy, IRA leader, Martin McGuinness. The difference between the two situations was that in the first trust was absent and in the second trust was present and had been earned.
One of the things I try not to do in my blogs, at least more than is necessary, is to moralise, yet it is is almost impossible given when we come to a view, moral considerations are often not far away, especially if morality happens to be a driving force, which it frequently is in my case. The dilemma I face regarding Gaza reporting and how I am to respond, is deciding which report to believe, which requires me to check out facts wherever I can, including the world view and axioms of those who make the reports. This is made more difficult when those making different reports are people that I would otherwise trust. The dilemma I face when people betray my trust or have yet to prove themselves trustworthy is I have to be cautious in my dealings and, even though my inclination is to be fully open, much preferring agreements based on handshakes than written contracts. My fear is that if I were to open up to some, this would be twisted, used for a purpose not intended or promises will be made that will be broken. This calls for wisdom: on one hand we want to give people the benefit of the doubt whenever we can, but the sad fact of life is that too often people let us down, even from those who we might expect to be least likely to do so. And when that happens, as it surely will, we need to forgive. We also need to find the balance between trusting too much and not trusting enough.
Trust is a wonderful thing. The most important trust is that in God, who is fully trustworthy even when we don’t understand his purposes, and one of the greatest wonders is if we are servants of God, as we are called to be, he trusts us to carry out his purposes in this world. The next important trust is between a husband/wife and his/her spouse, and come to think of it any family relationship. Often the root causes of most relationship breakdowns is whatever trust that did exist, somehow got betrayed. Then comes trust between people. There are those I trust fully, some I trust partly and some I don’t trust at all. Sometimes, in order to get things done we have to work with those we don’t trust, but it is usually better to work with those we do trust. Surprisingly perhaps, some who I do trust I don’t always agree with and some who I don’t trust might share many of my core beliefs. Irrespective of differences, being able to trust and to be trusted is something very important.
One of my earliest excursions into community activism was the setting up of the charity: Trust Links. The title almost says it all: we were about getting disparate groups to work together for the common good on the basis of trust, something that carried on when Community-in-Harmony was later set up. Trust is often missing in this world of conflict. One wonders, for example, how different it could be if there were those with influence on opposite sides of the Palestinian conflict who trusted one another, just as happened with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness. The challenge for all of us is to become people who are trustworthy, who earn the trust of others. This is the way we will be able to change the world for the better.