COMMENTARY: The Truth About Trust

Everyone seems to understand the importance of trust. No one seems to doubt the vital role that  it plays in personal relationships, business, and politics. We want to trust the people in our lives and we want them to trust us.

Trust is so hard to earn and so easy to lose. So why do so many trust seekers resort to short-sighted, seemingly instinctive, self-aggrandizing, or self-protective strategies that are bound to damage or destroy this precious asset?

Public figures are especially vulnerable, as there are battalions of self-serving finger-pointers and paid professionals who benefit from digging up dirt to dishonor them. Like the rest of us, it’s likely that these celebrities have done or been accused of doing things that, if made public, could damage their reputations.

Perhaps no group is more at risk than politicians who explicitly ask us to trust them. History has proven over and over again how futile and self-defeating it is for a person in the media’s cross hairs to try to protect an uncomfortable truth with a bodyguard of lies and obfuscations.

Herman Cain, an intelligent, dynamic man whose unexpected soaring popularity as candidate for the Republican presidential nomination was based largely on the image he projected as a straight-talker, is the most recent victim of this foolish strategy.

Instead of confronting directly and honestly the facts surrounding allegations of improper conduct, he discredited himself with unsustainable denials and unpersuasive verbal hair splitting.

However damaging the underlying allegations are, insincere, implausible and unbelievable claims and explanations only make things worse — much worse. When will politicians (and the rest of us) learn the simple maxim: When you are in a hole, stop digging?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that Character Counts.

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