“May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.” — Psalm 25:21
One of the most iconic features of my home state of Alaska is sled-dog racing. While there are many different races held during the winter here, probably the most well-known is the Iditarod. For the better part of 10 days, mushers and their dog teams race from Willow to Nome under sometimes horrific weather conditions for the glory and the prize that awaits them at the finish line. It is truly one of the most unique experiences of Arctic life. But one little known, yet very important, component of a successful team is the simple concept of trust.
This may seem obvious because, after all, if your team doesn’t respond to you and have confidence in you, you won’t do well. But when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, in sub-zero or even white-out conditions, this can be the difference between life and death. Mushers will tell you that when a dog team doesn’t trust you, they’ll literally just come to a stop, sit down on the trail and refuse to move. Period. And not only are your chances at victory toast — unless you can get the dogs motivated and moving again — but you’re quite possibly toast as well because you have no options unless another team comes along to help, or you can get yourself and the dogs to the nearest checkpoint station.
Metaphorically speaking, people are much the same way: If they don’t sense that you are trustworthy and they can put their full confidence in you, your chances are low of succeeding and getting them to follow or work with you. As clinical psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Henry Cloud notes in “Trust,” his insightful book on the subject, “Trust is the fuel for all of life. Nothing in life works without it — especially in relationships. … [B]eing trustworthy and being able to trust others means everything.”
Now, let this not be confused with integrity. Oftentimes, we link trust with integrity, and while they are certainly connected, they are not the same. Someone can have a good track record of not cheating, stealing or other egregious behavior, yet still have character flaws or personality traits that make it hard for others to trust them. And, if unaddressed, those in relationships with them will start to distance themselves and feel uncomfortable getting behind the untrusted.
Trust, while voluntarily given, is not entirely free. It cannot be forced or coerced. It must be earned on some level. You must be able to show and prove that you can be trusted, and that you know how to trust others as well. As a coach, teammate, employee, friend or family member, being able to utilize trust is key to success. If we are to be “good stewards of God’s varied grace,” as 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV) says, we need to harness the power of trust to serve one another in love and glorify God through the closeness and health of our most meaningful relationships — both in sports and in life.
— Katherine Singer
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