Keeping with my 2014 promised theme of breaking down the 12-Points of the Boy Scout Law, this month I want to hone in on Trustworthy. Trustworthy is the first point of the Law and very simply states… a Scout is Trustworthy. However, how is this attained for a Scout or anyone and how do you teach such an important character trait so it has meaning and value?
Having a trustworthy reputation is something that must be earned over time. A history of reliability and honesty are personality traits that earn the trust of others. The degree of trust others have in you is based upon positive interactions with that person. Trustworthiness is earned, not granted. Others will not trust you just because you are nice, friendly, or serve in an important position. Trust is based on historical interactions over a period of time.
Trustworthiness joins several other factors that require personal action, action such as integrity. You simply cannot expect others to just trust you… you have to give them reason. For example, you have to be honest with yourself and with others. Personal integrity is necessary and honesty demonstrates integrity. The ability of others to trust you hinges upon your individual honesty and integrity. Reliability fosters trust. People are assured you will follow through on your word when you put your money where your mouth is. Keep your promises and be reliable. If you say you will do something, do it.
In Troop operations, these three factors are very important when taking a team of youth into the wild. Everyone has assigned tasks (before-during-after an event) and it is important that each sequenced task be executed in accordance with the plan. When one individual cannot be trusted to follow through, it affects the whole, and chaos ensues, not to mention whining, yelling and finger pointing. As an adult leader, this is a beautiful thing, as we sit back and watch the boys try to work through their issues. Ultimately, it is this way in life for all of us, so building a foundation of being trustworthy early in life is paramount. This is what Scouting teaches through active involvement and team interaction.
Some other considerations in trust building, be fair in all of your interactions. Taking advantage of those at a disadvantage breaks the trust others have in you. People are watching so treat others, as you want to be treated. Be consistent in your interactions with others. Realize that open and honest dialogue will be reciprocated. When you instill a sense of openness with others, they become more candid with you and trusting relationships build.
Understand that being compassionate breeds trust… my personal point of weakness. Take an interest in the struggles others encounter to foster a genuine sense of caring. Realize that your faithfulness to a friend, family member, co-worker, boss or subordinate earns their trust. Defend or protect others when you have the opportunity to do so. It is the right thing to do. Recognize that others have faults and make mistakes, giving them the opportunity to fix their errors and move past it.
Finally, never be the “know it all.” Attempting to portray your expertise in an area you are unfamiliar will end in disaster. No Scout knows it all, although sometimes a campfire conversation reveals a budding Einstein. Each Scout has to learn to rely on the other and use teamwork. Trust is earned when you acknowledge your own limitations and offer to “help” find a solution opposed to always providing one. Know that your competency reflects how trustworthy others consider you to be. Acknowledge your limitations. If you prove yourself untrustworthy, it is difficult to re-establish this character trait with others.
All these things increase our personal character as being a trustworthy person. However, the best guidance I can share on trustworthiness is not mine at all and it is oh so simply. The words in Matthew 5:37, “Let your Yes be Yes and your No, No” are words to live by. When you say something, your actions must support your words.
In a culture of “cross my heart, hope to die” or political correctness and public relations attempts to say something that is ambivalent and thus cannot be attributed as a stand, people still hope to find those who say what they mean, whose Yes is Yes and No is No. We ultimately respect and believe someone who is as “good as his word,” “his word is as good as his bond.” Grandpa’s generation use to do it with a handshake and a solid commitment… and it worked.
This is a first century idea relevant for our 21st Century world, say what you mean and then do what you say. Those around you will come to trust you when your actions are the same as your words. So the question is this, does your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No? Are you doing the things necessary to be viewed as… Trustworthy?
2014 has just begun; approaching our daily tasks with a spirit of Trustworthiness just might begin to make 2014 the best year ever.
If you would like to learn more about the Scouting opportunities in your local area, give me call (812) 295-8417 and I will help you make contact with a local Scouting Unit.
Yours in Scouting,
Scoutmaster Mike Lieghty