David Hegg | Are You Trustworthy?

David Hegg
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By David Hegg

Few character qualities rank with being trustworthy. Competency without moral consistency is often the definition of a wasted life. If I can’t trust you, even great talent and intelligence won’t matter. When all is said and done, at the core of every honorable and truly valuable person is the simple fact that they are worthy of our trust. 

But what is the nature of our trust? For one thing, trust is both sturdy and fragile. It is built up over time, and once forged, it sails boldly through circumstances and tips the scale in a positive direction. If I see a man I trust having lunch with a lady that is not his wife, I interpret that circumstance in the best light, at least until there is great evidence to mistrust him. 

Trust is also very fragile. It takes years to build, but only a moment to destroy. Sadly, I have counseled both men and women who confessed the combination of fatigue, opportunity and some alcohol added up to infidelity. The trust they enjoyed over time was now shattered, and would be so much harder to earn a second time. 

To be trustworthy is to have displayed moral strength over time, and thereby defined one’s self in the eyes of others as morally consistent. This means our lives have become characterized by the following: 

Consistency: The greatest part of being trustworthy is being recognized as someone who keeps their word, does what they promise, and is morally predictable. That is, their lives are consistent, without lapses of judgment, intention, or behavior.  

Those who are untrustworthy demonstrate it by their capricious activity. Like leaves blown by the wind, we never know for sure just how they will think, act, or dream. They are like rudderless ships being tossed about by their desire to sail with the fairest fad-driven wind.  

Character: The consistency that merits our trust is determined by inner character, and not external circumstance. To be trustworthy is first to know what you truly believe, and are willing to stand for, regardless of the winds blowing all around you.  

Character forms the anchors of the soul, and the guardrails of the mind. Character is the sum total of a person’s convictions concerning the great ethical questions of life, together with the consistency of the behavior shaped by those convictions. Before anyone can live a consistent life before the watching world, they first must be consistent in themselves. That is, they must have a worldview that coheres, that is not self-refuting, and that gives ample evidence of producing an honorable life. They must know what they stand for before they can ever stand for it.  

Constitution: But we must go even deeper than a person’s character to find the final piece of the trust puzzle. I refer to it as a person’s constitution. That is, the moral fortitude that makes them who they are, especially when facing adversity. My father would have called it “guts.” I will update Dad’s lingo and call it “ethical grit.” It is the courage and tenacity to remain trustworthy when to do so may mean losing the race. It is the moral fortitude to do what is right even when no one is looking, and no one will ever know. It is the radical passion for right that attempts good and great things even when no reward or recognition awaits you. This is the constitutional makeup of the truly great, the truly honorable, the truly trustworthy.  

As you’ve read this column some of you have thought about the men and women currently running for their party’s presidential nomination. Others thought in terms of their spouses, colleagues, or friends. But my intention was for each of us to think first of ourselves. Unfortunately, it is always easiest to see the weaknesses and faults of others. But it is most beneficial in the long run to view our own failings first and foremost. 

When we turn our focus on our own lives, we will find that, despite our finest efforts, we are all inconsistent in some way. Our founding fathers recognized the pervasive weakness in human nature, and so were mindful of our dependence upon God as the only perfectly consistent being in the universe. Fundamentally our union was founded by those who trusted God in order to have the character, consistency and constitution necessary to make our grand experiment work.  

What our society needs are trustworthy people, at every level. And considering we actually have almost no power to populate government, our best efforts should be aimed at ourselves. As we live trustworthy lives, perhaps our influence will help shape others to care less about their image and more about their character. And then, perhaps, we’ll see succeeding generations raised with the moral constitution necessary to stand for truth without wavering.  

Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays. 

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