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SmashTheState's avatar

Are human beings faithless by nature?

Asked by SmashTheState (9618 points ) April 5th, 2012

I have never known a human being, ever, who did not eventually betray my trust. Most people betray trusts on a regular basis, without even conscious thought. It has gotten to the point that I no longer form normal human relationships because I know that any trust given to a person will always be betrayed, and any confidences given will eventually be used as ammunition against me.

Many years ago, I owned by own marketing firm with a partner. I made more money than I ever had in my life. I did work which I regarded as below contempt, and in return people were eager to throw large amounts of money at me. In the getting of that money, I was required to do underhanded, sneaky, conniving, vicious, hurtful, malicious, evil things. What struck me most is each time I stuck the knife in, people didn’t really get upset. They didn’t react with outrage or defiance. They would give me a look of hurt, sometimes, but mostly just glum acceptance – evidence that they are cheated and betrayed on such a regular basis that they regard it as entirely normal and beyond any capacity for preventing. It’s as if betrayal of trust is an act of nature, like a tornado or tsunami, which falls on the just and the unjust, and must simply be accepted. My self-loathing at engaging in this behaviour eventually became so great that I quit, gave away everything I owned, and spent the next year homeless.

My question, then, is two-fold. Is humanity by its nature faithless? And secondly, if this is so, why is this faithlessness so existentially painful to me when it’s clearly just business as usual to everyone else? It’s especially puzzling, given that I experienced nothing but betrayal, deceit, and malice during my entire childhood, which would seemingly either prepare or inure me to future faithlessness.

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15 Answers

Shippy's avatar

I have of late felt that each man is unto himself. I am trying to find meaning in this, is it because life has changed so much that we have to be? Or am I making the past “a much better place in my mind”. Because there was a time when it seemed that people did care, and some lived by rules of honesty and kindness and trust. However, because I was younger in the old days I am not so sure how right this thinking was.
I was brought up in a household, of people who valued “their word”, time keeping was paramount, also never to lie. But those are old fashioned values which I should imagine are very outdated now.
Having said that, I lived those rules for years in business and did exceptionally well because of them. People trusted me, relied on me. So it seems then, they are now rare qualities. I really wish to be honest I could live on an island away from my own expectation of people because I think it is THAT , that lets me down. I realize I cannot expect from people, I cannot expect them to be honest, or trustworthy but that over time I can discover those qualities in people if they exist. If they do, I have struck gold. There are sayings around this idea, like “stick with the winners” or hang onto good friends. So perhaps life didn’t change that much perhaps now we are more social and meet more people and are prone to more disillusionment? So yes, I will keep trusting, and probably keep being hurt, I will try and keep an open heart, for the person that is worthy as if I close it,it is a bit like a living death I feel. A death of a part of me.

kess's avatar

Since tricking people has been your way of Life , it will be difficult to live without considering that others are out to trick you. So by this mindset, it is dicficult to be ginuine and trust those who you deal with.

What I mean is that the fact that youre expecting other to betray trust, becomes apparent and people react sometimes subconsciously to that.

Now since that acquiring riches is no longer your purpose for Living, you can take this approach to Life…

Have a genuine trust of people….meaning that you negate the fact that they may betray you by treating them as if would never do that, simply because what they are seeking to gain, you do not mind losing it anyway and it does not matter too much to you.

Now their own scepticism will cause them to deal with you in the positive rather than the negative….

Now that would be good for both you and them…
If not it would be good for you but not them…for you remain positive untouch, while they get consumed by their own negativity.

This gives you a new awareness and perspective of Life and people ingeneral.

marinelife's avatar

First, let me just say how sorry I am that your childhood and adulthood have been studded by betrayals. I don’t think that is at all “the usual.“I

It sounds to me like you might be putting your trust into the wrong people in an attempt to get a different outcome than you had in childhood.

Look hard at the people you are forming relationships with. Do they remind you in some ways of the people who hurt you in childhood?

Not everyone always betrays everyone else. I think that you could benefit from therapy and from choosing more careful who you put your trust in.

janbb's avatar

That has not been my experience at all. I have had people in my life whom I can trust implicity to care about my best interests (some of them are even in this room) and people who have betrayed me. I have not always been very good at sorting out the erratic behavors from the trustworthy ones but that has not altered my belief that there are numerous loyal and trustworthy friends to be had.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It has been my experience that people will tend to either live up to or down to your expectations. If you expect betrayal, that’s probably what you’ll get.

serenade's avatar

Magic 8 ball says: “You ask too much.”

I wonder a little bit at your choice of the word “faithless.” it seems like back in your marketing/client days people had faith in you by virtue of their willingness to give you lots of money. You’ve had faith in others until you felt betrayed. I know what you mean—equating faith with loyalty, but it would seem as long as one party is believing in the other there’s faith happening.

Before I go further, I will mention that the question demonstrates “all or nothing thinking,” which is generally regarded as a fallacy of depressive thought. ”Everyone hates me,” etc.

I would be more inclined to say that people act ultimately out of self interest and out of whatever they believe is necessary for self preservation. The key in that last statement is “believe.” For example, they might believe they need luxury goods. The point is that those beliefs drive their self-preserving behavior.

Reciprocity has long been a tool for human survival. So we are by seeming necessity required to ask for help to get what we want. We’ve evolved in that to the point that we accept an investment period in a relationship in order to get to a payoff of some kind later. Some or maybe many people game this system. They take advantage of this grace period to suck up as much energy as they can until the other party realizes their faith in reciprocity has been violated. Most of the time, though, people just come to realize that the equation isn’t balancing like they thought it would, or maybe that it can work if they adjust their expectations.

I would argue that your interpretation of your former client’s reactions is a misread. Yes, they were disappointed by your betrayal, but more likely than this being a sign of their “learned helplessness” from repeated exposure to similar abuses, they probably regarded the abuse at your hands as relatively minor and temporary in the grand scheme of their lives and relationships. Contrary to being faithless, they have more than enough faith in their other relationships, religion, community, what have you. They also had faith in the idea of reciprocity, which probably has paid off more than it hasn’t (or at least enough on balance). Surely, you disappointed them or hurt them or whatever, but at the end of the day, they went home to people they trusted, loved, etc. Think about the Grinch and the Whos.

As far as your existential pain goes, existential pain is existential pain no matter how you dress it up. Other people don’t have existential pain perhaps because they haven’t ventured beyond believing that they are a flesh and blood human, that the world is concrete and real and that God is in heaven and the devil is in hell. Existential pain is the realization that life is suffering. It also separates you from fully participating as a human with other humans. It also does a funny thing, which you touch on above. It creates or foments self loathing. I can’t say I fully understand this, but the people like those you betrayed probably don’t experience that self loathing. They’re probably too absorbed in the experience of being human that they experience other emotions that have to do with protecting and asserting their egos. Self loathing like I think you’re describing only comes when one’s faith in (what… being human?) is stripped away and the ego sort of collapses on itself. You probably didn’t feel self loathing when you were out there making money. You may have felt a gnawing or emptiness, but not self loathing. That didn’t come until your faith in making money (or whatever) crashed around you.

I don’t have a cure all for self loathing. I experience a lot of it myself and have through most of my adulthood. Yesterday, I was listening to a journalist who dredges up stories of famines in Africa and the like and he said one of his hopes is that his stories would shake up people (in the U.S. who sit at their desk and read the paper at their leisure) who don’t think about global tragedies all the time. That remark amused me, because I do think about these tragedies all the time, and I espouse the painful belief that these tragedies are man made and in almost all cases engineered with our (western civilization’s) help. I’m plenty aware, and it’s really painful and lives in my own bed of self loathing along with other reasons. It baffles me, that, for example my relative who is a career Marine and practicing Catholic and successful family is seemingly one of the happiest people I know. I would guess that part of this is from the fact that there are very few contradictions in his belief system (such as it is composed in his mind) and that his beliefs probably match and are confirmed by his environment. His loathing is also_Other_ directed, which is another important distinction. Perhaps he hates terrorists or whatever. At any rate, he loves his country, his values, freedom, rock music, beer, friends and family. So as you can see, he helps blow up the stuff he hates “over there” and loves the stuff he protects “right here.” People like you and me perhaps have it the other way around.

There’s a trite book called The Art of Friendship which teaches one interesting lesson—that friendships don’t have to be all encompassing. They can also be situational or limited to a specific focus (like a hobby). You might find it a worthwhile read.

wundayatta's avatar

It might help to understand what you mean when you say “trust.” When I say “trust,” I mean that I believe I can predict a person’s behavior. This is not the same as saying the person will do what they say they will do.

There are a lot of reasons why people do not do what they say they will do. They may over promise and be unable to do what they say they will do. They may over promise innocently, being unable to predict how hard it is to do what they say they will do. Unanticipated events may prevent them from doing what they say they will do. And, indeed, they may be deliberately attempting to mislead me.

But it’s hard to lie to me and have that destroy trust because I have a very good bullshit detector. Most of the time, I can predict a person is over-promising because it is completely unrealistic that they would be able to accomplish what they say they will accomplish in the time allotted.

The exaggerated promise just becomes more data in my model of that person, and it actually allows me to trust them more. But remember. I never take anyone at their word, alone. I take into account all their behavior when figuring out how trustworthy they are.

The people I can’t trust are those whose behavior is random. But I try not to have much to do with such people.

I have found that I tend to get back from the world what I put out in the world. If I trust people, I get trusted. I don’t do this randomly, though. Like I said, I have a good sense about people and also about situations. Situations are as important as people. And frankly, I’m not sure if character enters into it all that much.

For most people, the situation will determine their behavior. It is a rare person who will behave erratically—stealing when there is no reason to steal, for example. For most, the only time they steal is when they think they can get away with it. If you don’t put yourself in situations where people can take advantage of you, it will be a lot harder for people to take advantage of you. You will be able to trust them.

Most people understand that their actions do the real speaking. You can say, “you can trust me,” but that’s pretty much bullshit. Your words are worthless when it comes to trust. The only thing that matters is how you behave. Words are important as behavior, but saying that “you can trust me” conveys pretty much the opposite message. Who would feel a need to say that? Only someone for whom it was not necessarily true. For the rest of us, it is the default state. It is unnecessary to assert that because it is the default assumption.

I really appreciate @serenade‘s comments about existentialism and self-loathing. I know I have found that there is no cure for self-loathing. There are, however, tricks to ignore it or make it irrelevant, and that’s my strategy for dealing with it. I am as worthless a person as you will ever find, or so I believe deep in my soul. My intellect says that is nonsense and there is no “worth.” It’s just an idea. I go with that idea as much as I can, so that worthlessness is not an issue, except when I’m depressed. Even then, I can now intellectually use that realization that the idea is useless as a weapon to direct my mind away from thinking about it.

Which kind of deletes the existential dilemma by fiat. The meaning of life is not really relevant. What matters is what I do and the kind of relationships I can form. They matter because they have the power to bring happiness into my life. I suspect this is very difficult for you, @SmashTheState, because you are asexual. Without the power of sexuality to motivate you to form deep, intimate relationships, you don’t have relationships as a source of happiness through intimacy, and you have to find something else. I’m not all that creative, when it comes down to it, and it’s hard for me to imagine other things that would make me feel that important and that happy.

Charles's avatar

From the context of the original post, it appears as though the word, “trust” or “credibility” should replace “faith”.

Also, one has to wonder about how a person could go from “I made more money than I ever had in my life” to “I quit, gave away everything I owned, and spent the next year homeless”. Most (mentally) healthy people don’t do that.

Faith is the process of non thinking. It’s good to be faithless. Being faithful is a detriment, a weakness.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think faithless is the wrong word here. Faith and trust are two different things, though they can be related at times. It sounds like you have had some bad experiences and our experiences definitely shape our future, so I can understand your feelings. I’ve had my trust betrayed by other’s in the past, but it’s not a regular occurrence and definitely not something that happens with those closest to me. I don’t think we are faithless, I just think different people have different beliefs in how they should treat other people. Perhaps you have had such a high experience with betrayal because you worked in a line that caused you to betray many people. It only seems natural that you would be betrayed in return (in my opinion) due to the environment you had yourself in.

SmashTheState's avatar

faith·less
adj.
1. Not true to duty or obligation; disloyal.
2. Having no religious faith.
3. Unworthy of faith or trust; unreliable.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@SmashTheState Some people are still being true to their duty or obligation, while being untrustworthy at the same time, it just depends on which side of their interest you are on. When you were being deceitful, you were being true to your duty and obligation, but to those you were deceiving, you were untrustworthy. While under the definition, faithless fits your question, it still seems like the wrong word in the big picture because there is more to it. In general, I don’t believe people are faithless, you just have to find where their loyalty lies and know if they are deserving of your individual trust.

mazingerz88's avatar

Faithless by nature? I don’t know. Which comes first, the egg or the chicken, the adult or the baby? An experiment comes to mind. One that has never been done I think. Oh yeah, Tarzan. But that’s fiction. Anyway, raise 1000 ( half male, half female )babies in a controlled environment. House them, feed them, clothe them and teach them a language. But absolutely no religion, no philosophies must be taught. From there, just see what happens. How long till their nature manifest.

I’m thinking, would these kids not end up killing each other and able to form a functioning societal group given the advantage that they don’t have to hunt or work for food-? Would they invent a religion? A philosophy? What would compel them to do that?

Pandora's avatar

No I do not believe it is in our nature. We may be taught to think this way and some people are born without morals. I use to take care of babies to toddlers. It is in their nature to trust. They may sometimes do things that are not nice but it is usually a taught behavior that they do not understand the concequences.
As for the reason they did not retaliate is because they probably expected you to be a Judas. They knew it wouldn’t be long before you betrayed them. The ones that were hurt were simply the ones that were more naive about your nature. I have been stabbed in the back and I let it go eventually because I know this kind of behavior usually leads to the persons own undoing. I don’t have to dirty my hands to get my revenge.
Survival is in our nature so it is not so easy to trust as we grow older. It not that I believe everyone is untrustworthy, but I do not know right away who is and who isn’t. Some snakes in the grass are easier to spot than others. I wait for proof of loyalty before I decide to trust.
That said though, survival can turn anyone away from their real character but some people may find it to high of a price to pay. I have known people who would keep their self respect at almost any cost. I for one am one of them. I have lost a job because of someone elses mistake. I did not see it justifiable to report them being they needed the job more than myself. She was about to be a single mom and I knew she had no financial support. I made her aware of her mistake and told her to lie so she wouldn’t get in trouble.
I can’t help but wonder if you are simply trying to find an excuse for your behavior. It doesn’t matter what others do or expect of you. You should always have higher standards for yourself. If I lived on the idea of what others would do or expect of me, I would be one evil bitch. I like to know what I see in the mirror is a person I would befriend.

Symbeline's avatar

A lot of things about people and society are conditioned. I might ask what we’re born with and without what, seeing as so many things we live by and subscribe to, that have been taught and conditioned, have existed for centuries. Trust and faith is something you learn. Leave a young child in the forest, and if he manages to survive, he won’t know faith or trust, because it’s never been taught to him. So in this case, I don’t think we’re born with it. On the other hand, a child and parent bond is also forged naturally, at least in many cases. Because it’s supposed to. I wonder if love for a child only exists to take care of the child, and maintain the human race.
What we are born with is the aptitude to adapt, and the instinctual drives require some kind of fodder in order to do its work, such as trust and other ideals and moral values. Especially since we’re pack animals. But if we really are animals, then such things will serve their purpose and then begone.

I’m not entirely sure however, if broken trust or dying faith would have much of a difference if we were born with the very notions thereof.

augustlan's avatar

What constitutes ‘betrayal’, in your eyes? It may be that you have set a standard so high that no one can meet it.

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