How do you know if you’re trustworthy? The original answer most give, after some coaching, is that you trust first. What you present to the world about yourself will be what attracts others to you. So presenting yourself to others as someone who trusts will always bring trust back to you.
My personal experience added another definition. You know you’re trustworthy when it really bothers you when you fail with the trust given you. Here’s a story that nearly 30 years later haunts me.
A friend introduced me to Jim Blackmon. Jim was a blind computer programmer, who wanted to run a marathon. Seriously. Having run a few and trained a few friends on how to train and complete them, I said OK. Not sure what to expect, I picked up Jim, a lanky 30 something, who was blind from a very young age. and headed to the marina to start training. Jim was friendly and showed immediate trust in my ability to train and guide him.
We started training around the marina and presidio areas of San Francisco. Jim would put one hand on my forearm and off we went. I would signal the landscape, terrain, and obstacles and he would just run along. Jim was determined and focused like any other software engineer on his task. He was also competitive and enjoyed finishing our runs really sprinting down the marina sidewalk. I was always blown away because I tried acting blind and holding on to a friend and found it frightening.
One day finishing a run we were speeding up down the marina drive and the light in the middle of this half mile stretch was green so we could just keep on sprinting across the entrance road. The side-walk on both sides is split by a 3 foot aluminum pole to keep cars from turning onto the side-walk. In our sprinting, I didn’t allow enough room and Jim’s outer hand hit the pole. It still bothers me today and I can remember his shout of pain. I knew instantly what I had done and its call breaking the trust.
Nothing was broken in his hand. And he was gracious in his acceptance of my agonized apologies. What was broken was the trust factor between us. Some of the sheer joy in our runs was gone. I never sprinted near that cross walk in the remaining training time.
The good news was that Jim completed the San Francisco marathon that year. His determination in the last 6 miles, after he hit his wall, both inspired and humbled me. And I am pretty sure no one got more cheers and attaboys on the course that day.
After the marathon, I introduced Jim to some other runners who were eager to help him run some 10k and other races. I was too bothered by my breach. We stayed in touch until I moved to Oregon.
Out of that incident, I know I became more trustworthy. And looking back now I understand that breaking trust can happen. And when it does you have choice. You can either blame someone else, rationalize it, or look in the mirror and do something about it. For the most part, I have sown trust and received a great deal of trust since then. And that is OK. And when someone breaches my trust, I think of Jim Blackmon, and sow as much grace as I can. Grace like trust is something you never want to run out of.