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Trustworthiness: There's no app for that
3/26/2014 9:10:53 AM

By Matthew Sewell
Splash Guest Column

More than any time in history, society puts a premium on the desire for instant gratification. The idea of dial-up Internet and web pages taking a full minute (or more!) to fully load is foreign to our 21st-century brains, although slow Internet speeds were prevalent just 15 years ago.

What does instant gratification have to do with trustworthiness? The more we make use of the latest technology and consume media in all its forms, the less likely we are to connect deeply with our peers. By extension, it could be deduced that we are less likely to trust another person with our needs as a result. Trustworthiness, in its very essence, is what I would call a "two-way" virtue.

The virtue of trustworthiness is something that doesn't develop overnight. As is often said, although trust can be destroyed in a second, it takes years to build. Just as a professional athlete develops their speed, strength and agility far from the public eye over a long period of time, a person wishing to be trustworthy must hone his or her craft consistently day after day.

Constantly working toward trustworthiness, though arduous at times, is bound to pay off in the end. A verse from the Gospel of Luke best exemplifies what I mean: "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones."

When I was an undergraduate, I worked for two years in the athletic department as a marketing and communications intern. The responsibilities I was given as a fresh-faced college junior were fairly minor: planning timeout entertainment for basketball games, dressing up as the mascot when the regular was sick, etc. As a student who wished to earn the respect of his superiors, I made sure to carry out those responsibilities to their fullest extent, no matter their size or scope.

I was gradually given more responsibilities to manage, ranging from creating and operating the department's Facebook and Twitter pages, to organizing portions of the year's biggest fundraisers. I was able to build up the trust of my employers through a slow and consistent process of honoring promises, working hard and showing discretion and prudence in how I represented myself, the department and the college. Granted, at times my youth and inexperience showed, but knowing the value of honesty in all situations allowed that trust to be maintained.

The trustworthy person is one who repeatedly analyzes the discretion with which they make decisions, as well as the integrity they show in implementing those decisions. These things are often very small, seemingly insignificant pieces of the day. But when compounded, they create something significant: a trustworthy person who can now more fully serve others.

As the British author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white, you must be always painting it again...if you want the old white post, you must have a new white post."  

To be trustworthy is to always assume that there are improvements to be made.

Matthew Sewell is a Communications Specialist for the Better Business Bureau in Spokane, a PACE founding partner. A transplant to Spokane from western Montana, he is engaged to a Gonzaga University law student and enjoys reading, playing golf and playing music in his spare time. He wrote this column as part of a series highlighting the PACE (Partners Advancing Character Education) trait of the month. The trait for April is trustworthiness.

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