Run, Run As Fast As You Can

Last night, we had a gingerbread house building contest during our last Advent gathering. It has become something of a tradition with our adult kids. Over the years, we did various crafts each Sunday, but, once the kids got older, we ended up just doing the gingerbread houses, and it turned into a competition. This year, there was even a diminutive French gingerbread man.

Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the invention of the Gingerbread Man. She delighted in having her gingerbread maker bake gingerbread men made in the likenesses of visiting dignitaries and people from her court. Must have been fun biting the head off someone you didn’t like!

The Gingerbread Man is a slightly dark fable meant for children. In the story, the Gingerbread Man leaps off the baking sheet and runs away. He runs from an ever-growing cast of characters until he runs into a fox who convinces him that he isn’t interested in eating him, then does. The moral of the tale is “be careful who you trust.”

Trust is an essential element for any community. Without trust, you just have a crowd of people sharing space. The difficulty with trust is that you can’t really earn it until someone gives it to you. Trust starts with you trusting someone. That is risky, and it sometimes ends badly (like the Gingerbread Man), but it is worth it.

There are ways that we can determine who can be trusted with our trust:

Consistency is always a good indication. Trustworthy people won’t wear different masks or pretend they are something they’re not just to impress. Look for people who follow through on what they say and whose actions match their words.

Compassion and humility are traits that indicate a person is thinking of others and doesn’t think of themselves as more valuable. There are no self-made people. We all get significant help from others. People who acknowledge this are less likely to betray others to get what they need or want.

Respect for boundaries shows that a person doesn’t feel the need to control those around them. Trustworthy people don’t impose their will on others. Be wary of people who are bullies or who don’t understand the meaning of “no”.

Showing value for people’s time and talent demonstrates that someone knows trust is a two-way street. Being on time, compromising, and being willing to give a little to get something in return all show that someone respects you.

Transparency and vulnerability matter to trustworthy people. They don’t lie by omission or twist information to make themselves look better. Confiding in others and exposing one’s faults also demonstrates that trust already exists.

I often hear leaders say, “Why don’t our people just trust us?” To which I reply, “Do you trust them?” Leaders lead. They are at the front showing the way. They demonstrate what everyone else is supposed to do. Leaders who don’t trust their people will never be trusted by their people.

Our friends have been coming each Sunday during Advent for years. We watched our kids grow up, have seen each other through good times and difficult ones, and know that we can trust each other. We have a community. It took time and effort to get there. If you want to build community and a value culture, you must run as fast as you can toward trust. It will still take time, and you will give trust to some untrustworthy people, but the result will be a community that you can count on and The Bison Way.