Posts tagged “Compassion



Recently I spent a day at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Six months ago a couple of young kids in the neighborhood stole my briefcase. I had left it in the car, unlocked. Shame on me. Police found the briefcase bereft of the easily sold electronics.  The police also (eventually) found the two boys. They were being tried in juvenile court.  In Fairfax County victims are subpoenaed to testify. So I came, though I never made it into the courtroom.  The defendants settled before they ever had a trial. Two counts, felony theft.

So I spent the day sitting and watching.

Life plays out hard in Juvenile Court.  There are the defiant and presumably ‘don’t care’ teens that sit stone faced and sullen next to parents and guardians.  There are the anxious adults who lean into conversations across from detectives and lawyers. Then there are children.  The little ones who sit, squirm, fidget and sometime get loud, oblivious to the nature of their surroundings or the consequences of what might happen next.   

Blue collars far outnumber white collars in Juvenile Court. You see uniforms of the working class … maids, gardeners, medical assistants, and construction workers.  But mostly you see moms, anxious and bewildered moms wondering how they got here, what is going to happen to their child, and what, if anything, they can do about it.

The lawyers match their clients.  They wear Burlington Coat Factory suits. They walk in scruffy shoes.  They write with BIC pens. They seem like earnest people.  There are the jaded comments, of course. “Can you believe what this dumb kid did … ? Then this girl got up and …”.  I would not characterize the comments as harmless, but they seemed to betray more befuddlement than condemnation.

Every now and then there’s a nod of respect.  I heard a detective marvel at the ingenuity of two teenagers who were able to dislodge an ATM machine from a small strip mall and haul it home via a stolen golf cart.  “You gotta hand it to them,” he said. There was nodding around the table. 

These are the public defenders and social workers that see the burglaries, the drug deals, and the petty and sometimes serious crimes every day. They’re not the sophisticated crimes of television.  

But most of what you see or hear is the sad stuff. The stupid crimes.  The careless crimes.  The unnecessary crimes.  All the more stupid because they risk the life trajectory of a young teenager.  They are someone’s child.  But that “someone” becomes unclear for a moment. Then things go wrong. So they end up in Juvenile Court.

The Courthouse is a place of anxiety. The atmosphere is one of anticipation. But not the anticipation of victory.  Rather anticipation of a decision that will either provide relief (often temporary) or continued sadness.

It is a place of contrasts. There are those who make the decisions and those who follow and are affected by them.  There are those with authority and those who must submit to that authority.  There are the burly police, the armed guards, the detectives and prosecutors … Then there are the haggard parents, the scared and sometimes insolent children, the bewildered immigrant families.

But most of all, it is a place of consequences. It is a place of harvest. But not the kind we celebrate at Thanksgiving.  Actions have consequences. The courthouse reaps the behaviors that individuals and societies have sowed. It is part justice, part karma. But a better metaphor might be a force of nature. The Courthouse is like gravity. When something is pushed off a ledge or let go, it falls.

People fall too. And when they fall, they end up here.

The Gospel of Mom


The Gospel of Mom

I’ve told many stories and written many posts about my Dad. Folks who know me – particularly my family – have heard these stories many, many times.

I’ve rarely written or told stories about my Mom.

And that is just the way I think my Mom would like it.

Many people write about their Moms and Dads in saintly terms. But for those who were fortunate enough to know my Mom, few would argue that Joyce Johnson, daughter of Ola and Clarence, big sister to Dale and Beth, wife of “J. E.” Johnson, and mother of Steve, Janet, Jim and Jerry, was as close to the model of true Christian living as this world has ever seen.

My mother taught me many, many things. All were taught by example. She gave few lectures. When around her you watched, you marveled, and you began to understand what words “character”, “virtue”, and “love” meant.

Among other things, Mom showed me the way of:

Extreme humility. My mother’s humility was breathtaking. It was so vast and deep it is even now hard for me to capture into words. In every thing, in every aspect of daily life, she put herself last. The most horrifying thought for her was that she might be an inconvenience to others. For Mom, it was never about her. She always focused on “the other” whether that be family (most often) or anyone else that might be within her tender reach.

Constant service. My mother was constantly serving. The only time she sat down completely for a meal was at a restaurant. Whether at her home or someone else’s house, she’d sit long enough to be polite but soon slip quietly away to fill a glass, replenish a plate, wash a dish, prepare for the next course. There was a fascinating calmness to it all. Even in daily life, Mom’s movements were measured, efficient, and meaningful. She was constantly in motion, working in a simple, methodical and purposeful way.

Quiet resolve. Before there was “no drama Obama” there was my Mom. Underneath her generous, quiet and humble attitude was a rock-hard steeliness and resolve that defined indomitable. Once set, her direction never veered. She epitomized “endurance.” Nothing caused her to waver – neither the burden of physical pain nor the lure of physical comfort. Whether it was past the well-meaning entreaties of her children and family, or the challenges posed by new places and new faces, Mom’s course never faltered.

Understated bravery.  Mom was brave.  Not in the way that Hollywood likes to define it.  But in its truest sense. She dared to do things that frightened, intimidated and outright scared her.  From crossing the Pacific on a rusty military boat, alone with three children, two of whom were in diapers to moving to a new state, and a new community, alone, after losing her beloved husband of forty plus years.  She faced things she feared without fanfare, fuss, or complaining.

Universal kindness. In my fifty-eight years of living, I cannot remember or recall my Mom saying an unkind word about anyone. Ever. It is an incredible claim but amazingly true. To be sure, there were things people did that she disapproved of (and I know there were times when I fell into that category!). And occasionally she would let you know that. But even then, her words were so tempered, her manner so understanding, her objections so qualified and understated you had to search and be attentive just to realize that she felt something amiss.

Unshakable faith. Mom’s faith in Jesus was simple, direct and unshakable. It is said that there are five Christian gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the life of the Christian. People rarely read the first four. I was blessed with the fifth gospel. The Gospel of Mom. With Mom there was no need for complicated systematic theology. We are all equal, all created in God’s image. We are called “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And the reconciliation of justice and mercy lie in the person of Jesus Christ.  A life of grace, forgiveness and sacrifice.

Unfathomable love. You can wrap all of the above up in a single word. Love. Never have I seen or experienced human love that rivaled that of my Mom. This was particularly true of the love between her and my Dad. Mom’s love was the perfect mixture of adoration, passion, respect, kindness and devotion.

Thousands of years ago God reached out and gave of himself to redeem humanity. In the form of Jesus, God gave us a real living breathing reflection of God’s true nature. So I believe it only appropriate and a fitting interpretation of God’s will, that Mom was called Home at the same time we celebrate God’s ultimate gift.

Mom left us yesterday, Christmas Eve 2014.

I spoke with her briefly that morning.  Amidst all the pain and difficulty of her final hours, Mom’s last words to me were “Merry Christmas!”

That said it all. Uplifting humility. Abiding faith. Enduring love.

“Merry Christmas,” Mom.

You were God’s greatest gift to so many of us.

We will miss you.

Mom on the couch

Valentine’s Day: What is love? Part I

What is love and what does love have to do with brands, organizations and business?

Good question. I don’t know for sure but that’s never stopped me before.  Plus the Sunday lesson this morning was love and we’re closing in on Valentine’s Day.  I got inspired.

At the risk of violating rules for both civil and faith-based discussion in post-modern society I thought I’d try and answer the question by combining Christian scripture, secular business principles and a bit of humor.  And to make the risk greater, I’ll use one half of perhaps the best known verse of scripture , John 3:16.  For those averse to matters of faith and religion, don’t worry.   No moralizing.  I just hope you’ll still find something here that you agree with and find mildly insightful.

With that, here’s part one of three.

John 3:16 starts: “For God so loved the world …”.

Such a simple statement.  God loved the world.  Actually, John wrote “so” loved the world which I’ll interpret to mean that He loved it a lot.  What does that tell us about nature of love?

For me, it is this:  Love is a decision.

Love is not something that happens to you. Love is something that you make happen to yourself and others. It is not an emotion, feeling or phase in your life for relation.  It is a decision you make. I think what John is saying is that God “decided” to love the world.  Some may challenge that and say, “Hey, Jerry, the world’s a pretty awesome place!  God just fell in love with it!”  Maybe it went something like this:

“Oh!  Look at that pretty little blue place that I made!  It is so cute and adorable.  Everything there is so beautiful and lovely.  It is my favorite vacation spot.  The people are so nice.”

I don’t think so.

Sure, we’ve got the Grand Canyon and all. And there are a lot of very wonderful people in the world. But peel back the layers of our planet earth – the world – and the place is pretty terrifying.

Animal world? Check out a NatGeo video of some tiger methodically stalking, catching and bloodily piece-by-piece tearing apart the flesh of a baby zebra while it writhes in pain. You can have all the Disney talk you want romanticizing the ‘circle of life’ stuff, but in the real world what you’re really talking about are animals savagely stalking and eating each other.   Nature = strong eat the weak.  Fascinating, yes.  Even beautiful?  Perhaps.  Something that you’d decide to love?  Not so much.

Then turn to the world of people.  Sure there are some nice people out there.  You and me, right?  But even we do some horrific things.  Here’s a test. Take two perfectly wonderful, pleasant, well-behaved and lovingly adorable three year olds. Put them together on the floor in a room.  Now set evenly between them a very cool toy to share. Stand back and watch.  Trust me. It is going to get ugly in a hurry.  Within five minutes, screams.  Within ten, grabbing, biting, and gouging.  Anyone who has had children will confirm this.   And as for adults and all our own private neurosis and objectionable behaviors? Let’s not go there. No, people can be pretty hard to love. Even the ones that on the outside seem nice.

And nature? Forget about it! For every beautiful sunset and mild ocean breeze there’s a Jakarta tsunami and Hatian earthquake. Nature may be a lot of things but three things it totally lacks are compassion, forgiveness, mercy. No, nature is about as far away from love as you can get.

No. I’m thinking that what John was writing about was a clear, concious decision by a God to love the world. However it was, love was a decision.  It was a choice.  It is not something that happened   It is something that was made to happen.

So what in the world does any of this have to do with brands and business?

Think of it this way.

Loving your employees or loving your customers does not just happen.  In business, love does not come naturally.  Sometimes employees and customers can be a handful (remember the story of the three-year-olds?).  If you’re going to really care about what you do and who you do it with – I mean REALLY care about them – it is going to be something that you’re going to have to decide to do.  If you wait for it to happen, it won’t.  Trust me.  This stuff isn’t like a scene from The Titanic. Real love, the love that matters and lasts and changes lives and is meaningful – that love is something you choose to create. It is a decision that an organization or brand makes a conscious effort to act upon.

Companies that are consistently voted as the best place to work have DECIDED to be the best place to work.  Companies that have the most ardent and loyal customers have DECIDED to show their customers respect, affection and support.  If an employee or customer says they LOVE this or that brand, organization or company … you can bet that long before they realized or said it, someone made a decision that this is what they wanted to have happen.

They made a decision that the relationship they were building was not just based on making the most money, getting the cheapest price, or being a matter of convenience.  It was going to be more than that.

Love doesn’t just happen.  Love is a choice.

Tomorrow:  love is a verb.

Misspent Youth

I have one of these.  A misspent youth, that is.  A lot of us would confess to one and that’s ok.  Too late to reconstruct, excuse or otherwise rehabilitate it.

The more pressing question is whether we are ‘misspending’ the youth of today?

This goes beyond the fact that my three children are all twentysomethings.  But they’re having the same struggles that millions of other young people are facing today – finding their way amidst a severe economic crisis, a tectonic demographic shift, sclerotic government, and a fiscal calamity that would make Old Mother Hubbard’s dog feel fortunate.

Our youth are our future.  A trite saying but nonetheless a tautology of the first order.  They are what the world will be.  And they’re not feeling that great.  Tamar Lewin of the New York Times writes about stress levels of college students being at an all time high while an annual survey of college freshman suggests the emotional health of our nation’s youth is at an all time low.  According to the survey:

Campus counselors say the survey results are the latest evidence of what they see every day in their offices — students who are depressed, under stress and using psychiatric medication, prescribed even before they came to college.  The economy has only added to the stress, not just because of financial pressures on their parents but also because the students are worried about their own college debt and job prospects when they graduate.

The anxiety isn’t confined to Americans.  In another New York Times piece, Martin Fackler writes about the plight of Japan’s youth.  They are the next generation who have grown up in ‘the lost decade’.  They don’t see much light at the end of that tunnel.

“There is a feeling among young generations that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead,” said Shigeyuki Jo, 36, co-author of “The Truth of Generational Inequalities.” “Every avenue seems to be blocked, like we’re butting our heads against a wall.”  An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

This is a global phenomenon.

Look around.  Tunisia.  Egypt.  Around the world we’ve been short-changing the next generation.  We — the boomers and Xers — have made a lot of bad decisions.  The next generation is figuring it out.

We can still change but time is running short.

And whatever changes we refuse to make, our young people will make for us.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a post about being a Christian.

Today there are a lot of people writing a lot of posts and articles about the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

And well they should.  He was a great man whose vision, oratory, writings and tireless work inspired a nation to turn away – albeit slightly – from bigotry, racism and hatred.

And it is his social and political accomplishments that you’ll likely read most about today and tomorrow.  His speeches.  His marches.  Lunch counters. Protests.  Non violence.

But I want to remind others – as I remind myself – that Dr. King was a Reverend.  A preacher.  A man of faith.  A Christian.

Funny how most of us gloss over that.

I bought my wife one of Dr. King’s books for Christmas.  It sits on the coffee table.  The title of the book is Strength to Love. According to Dr. King’s wife:

“If there is one book Martin Luther King, Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love.  I believe it is because this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.’ s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life. … By reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, we shall overcome these evils.”

Read the book.  If only a chapter or two.

And if you do I challenge you to try and divorce Dr. King’s vision of a world where ‘a man would be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin’ from his Christian faith.

His understanding of racism and bigotry was an understanding of how profoundly sinful we all are.  And his belief in non-violence and sacrifice was tightly linked to his meditations on Jesus and the cross

Read Dr. King.  And be reminded of the real meaning and spirit of the Christian faith.

You might find it very different from the Christian faith you see in popular culture or hear in political dialogue.

Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains.  Dr. King’s faith moved an entire generation.

Read Dr. King.   And pray that more will be inspired to, like Dr. King, recapture the revolutionary loving spirit of the Christian faith.

Is social media small change?

The latest kerfuffle in social media circles has been Malcolm Gladwell’s recent piece in the New Yorker headlined “Small Change.”

In it Gladwell has the temerity of asserting that social media’s impact on social change is not all that it is cracked up to be.  Some of his jabs are sharp.   Like calling innovators ‘solipsists’ and saying that ‘they’ – that is the vaunted social media futurist gurus – ‘often want to cram every stray fact and experience into their new model.’


Gladwell’s argument is characteristically simple and trenchant – that online social networks do not engender either the strong commitment (and risk!) nor the organizational structure that make for social change.  Using the civil rights movement as an example, he notes that real change – substantive action in the face of entrenched power – is not social media or social networking’s strong suit.  Social media, Gladwell writes:

“is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that “give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.” (my emphasis added)

This bold assertion – that social media is just window dressing and doesn’t represent any fundamental change in how social change is achieved – has got the preachers of social media gospel in a tizzy.

One writer on MediaPost blasted back with an article eloquently entitled, “Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.”

Clearly Mr. Gladwell has hit a nerve.

And in my view rightly so.  It is still early in the social media revolution.  But what we have seen to date doesn’t appear to have prompted many fundamental changes in attitudes, behavior, norms, or even public policy.

One of the better rebuttals comes from Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher.  In it they quibble with many of the characteristics that Gladwell attributes to past social movements.  But their main point is to remind Gladwell (and all of us) to keep a clear distinction between social media as a tool and social media as an end in itself.

“Gladwell is surely right when he says social media ‘are not a natural enemy of the status quo.’ But that is only the beginning of the discussion. The pertinent question is whether social media can contribute to the process of forming social movements and effective social action, not whether social media can substitute for that process. (A telephone system is not a PTA, but it can sure as heck be useful for getting a few hundred people out to confront the school board or vote in the school board election.)”

That is — in the JuiceBar’s view — the better way to look at this.  Social media and social networks are tools.  They are to the 21st century what the telegraph was to the 20th (although I must say that better stories came out of the events around the Pony Express than out of the building of the telegraph network.

But Gladwell’s most damning criticism is the inherent conflict that arises when information and content are ‘free’.  And that is the simple fact that sustaining value and relevance is difficult when everything is free and no one has a price to pay.

Our certain future

I am constantly amazed.  Not only that.  I seem to be constantly amazed at things that happen … well …  constantly.  You’d think that seeing something over and over and over would eventually wear you down and erode wonder, awe and amazement.  Not for simple minded people like me.  I sit back and watch people do the same silly thing over and over.  And I say to myself, “wow!” … “that is amazing!”

What the heck am I talking about?

It is the audacious certainty with which people predict the future.

toy2r-emilio-garcia-jumping-brain-toyAnd I’m not talking the simple stuff.  Things like, “if you don’t brush your teeth will rot.”  Or, “if you constantly lie eventually people won’t trust you.”  Or, “if you’re disciplined and sacrifice today you can reap the benefits tomorrow.”  That is the simple stuff … the natural and predictable consequences to simple actions.

No, I’m talking about situations that are hopelessly complex, that have multivariate and fast changing events, that computers the size of Big Blue could never figure out.

But here we are with our little 3 lb brains and not only have we figured it all out (and well into the next decade no less!) … but we do so with  absolute, unapologetic and unqualified certainty.

This is more than just the “half full vs. half empty” syndrome.    It is not a question of style, character, or even slant.  It is the ability of people to see the same data, the same information, the same images, the same facts and draw opposite conclusions with the certainty of the sun coming up tomorrow.

Welcome to the health care debate.

  • It will decrease the deficit.   And it will raise the deficit.
  • It will increase abortions.  It will decrease abortions.
  • It will help business.  It will hurt business.

The Wall Street Journal says that health care reform is leading to the “wholesale destruction of wealth and capital.”  The White House says it simply is closing a loophole.  According to one Congressman the health care reform will lead to more aborted babies.  According to Bart Stupak nothing changes.  According to columnist and commentator Fred Hiatt health care reform is a ‘fiscal catastrophe.’  According to a former official of the Congressional  Budget Office, Mr. DeWater, it will reduce the deficit.

No wonder the media reports that the average American is confused.  The so-called ‘experts’ are not only disagreeing.  They are violently disagreeing with even more violent confidence and conviction.

I suspect that the average American isn’t as much confused as he or she is simply recognizing the simple fact that all the “experts” ignore.  We just don’t know exactly what is going to happen.  There’s some good.  There’s some bad.  There’s some risk.  There’s some opportunity.

But we just don’t know.  None of us do.

In many ways the health care reform package is a lot like life.  It is hard to know what the future holds.

So what do you do?  You go back to those simple, historically proven, reliable things you can depend on.

Like brushing (and flossing!) so your teeth don’t rot.  And telling the truth so you can earn someone’s trust and confidence.  And working hard and sacrificing today so you and your family can benefit some day down the road.

As for the other stuff, it would be refreshing if someone said what everyone else has already figured out:

“Who knows?”

More human and political insight from my therapist

Let me be clear.  I’m not in therapy.

Maybe I should be.  Nothing wrong with it.  Just not for me right now.

By “my therapist” I refer to my beloved and longsuffering wife the social worker and therapist who explained to me and for all of us the real story behind the Tiger Woods ‘apology’.

obama-carex-inset-communityRecently she enlightened me on another recent event – the President’s health care reform summit.

Did you see it?  Any of it?  I found it fascinating and apparently others did as well.  There was so much interest that it crashed some of the sites that were carrying it live.

If you did see it you may remember the opening by President Obama and his desire to focus on the positive things they can agree on.

Focus on the positive.  Talk about things upon which we all can agree.

It went down hill from there.  Apparently the one thing they couldn’t agree on was to focus on what they agreed on.  What they did seem to agree on was sniping, digs, invectives, and occasional ad hominems – typical political talking points.

As my wife explained it, this was (like the Tiger episode) therapy in motion.  Again, let me paraphrase:

It looked like some of the first sessions you have when you are working with dysfunctional families, spouses, or parents with their children.  You always start with asking them to identify positive things about each other.  It never works.  Never.   Every time they come back with criticisms.   You’re not five minutes into the session and people are screaming at each other, letting loose f-bombs and a host of  “asshole”, “jerk”, “bitch” commentary.  They just have all this pent up anger and hate for each other.  They want — no, they need — to get all that stuff off their chests and on the table for everyone — at least the ‘independent’ therapist — to see.  They can’t help it.  They just have to go negative before they can begin getting to the positive.

The problem with the President is that he didn’t do this sooner and didn’t do it long enough.  You can’t do therapy in one session.  You only get people to move over time, little by little.  You have to wear them down.  If the President had done this twice a week for six months, I bet he’d have gotten folks to open up and talk about those positives.

But like therapy, this stuff takes time.

My therapist!  She’s not only beautiful but absolutely brilliant!

Tiger Woods: Making Amends, Not an Apology

The problem with most people’s view of the Tiger Woods apology is they view it as making an apology — not as making amends.

There have been no shortage of critics of the Tiger Woods’ televised apology.

George Will said of it on ABC News, “if your problem is that your behavior has revealed your public persona to be a fake, you shouldn’t stage this grotesquely fake press conference.”  The folks at the industry publication “PR Junkie” had a field day.

It was awkward, and it felt like one of those hostage videos when someone is forced, at gunpoint, to read a statement damning his or her nation and culture.

Even gold medal skier Lindsay Von got into the act.

alg_tiger_woods_pressNot only do we have a plethora of experts on public apologies, it seems that a good portion of those experts have about as much compassion and forgiveness in them as Nurse Ratched.

Clearly there’s a good portion of the public out there who never think along the lines of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Tiger Woods is a dog that is down and there sure seems to be a lot of kicking going on.

Good for him?  Not really.  Good for us?  Absolutely not.

I look at it very differently and have my wife to thank for that.  Yes, my wife feels bad for Tiger Woods.   You might think that wives would be the first to cast a stone at Woods.  But you see my wife is a social worker.  She sees stuff like Tiger Woods all the time.  Much worse, actually.  She not only works with people that have addiction problems, she works with their victims as well.  She’s no softie when it comes to this stuff but I’d argue that she has more real world experience — and perhaps even more moral standing — to comment on this type of behavior than do Mr. Will or Mrs. Von.

Her reaction to this video was (and I’m paraphrasing):

This is a man in therapy.

His apology is not an apology, it is an effort to make amends.  Go read the twelve step process.  He is on the middle steps.  He went through each group of people that he hurt.  One by one.  Apologized to each.  Said it would be actions not words.  He’s doing exactly what he is supposed to do.

Let me tell you how awful the type of therapy is that he is going through.  It is humiliating.  It is degrading.  You have to accept that you’re a pervert.  A predator.  A sicko.  It isn’t pretty.  He’s not apologizing in the sense that people know it.  He’s trying to make amends to those he hurt.  He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.

I Feel for him.

That, my friends, is the attitude of compassion.

Criticize the apology and Woods all you want.  What was most interesting to me was that his focus WAS NOT golf, the Masters, getting back to the game. His timetable appeared to be in function of his ability to climb the twelve steps of recovery.  And I saw Friday’s televised event as him working on steps 8 and 9:

“make a list of all persons we had harmed, and be willing to make amends them all; and make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Can’t fault a man for that.

In fact, isn’t that something everyone should consider?

Familiarty Breeds Contempt … The True Nature of Trust

There’s a buzz around a recent report by the public relations firm Edleman.  For ten long years they have invested in something they have called the “trust barometer.”  Think of it like a trust weather vane.  Where is trust going?  How strong is that wind?  Who becoming more trustworthy?  Who is becoming less?

trust1Now I’ll admit that I’m skeptical about all such research.  One reason is that I do that for a living.  I know how tricky it is to measure ANYTHING related to public opinion, much less values and beliefs.  Measuring trust is right up there with predicting the path of nanoparticles.  In fact — to carry the quantum physics analogy further — you can spend a lot of time just defining what you mean by the word trust.

But I digress.

The most recent report by the Edelman Trust Barometer is a juicy “man bites dog” story.

Amidst the growth of social networking and consumer generated content, people are trusting their friends LESS, not MORE.

Yes, you read that right.  All that money and time we spend on peer-to-peer communication has resulted in people thinking less and less of each other.

Seems that the more and better I get to know you, the more I realize that you’re not smarter than me.  You’re just another Joe.  Warts and all.

Perhaps even worse.  With all your tweets, and posts and streams I come to the startling realization that you are even MORE screwed up than I AM.  And I’m a really screwed up person!  I should know.

Because I know myself only too well, I don’t trust myself with a lot of things.  Now I’ve read your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter stream and I’m not impressed.  I thought you had it all together.  But you sound a lot like me.  Why the hell should I trust you?

I write all this knowing people who read this blog are saying the same thing about me.  They read this and say — “who the hell is this guy?”  Why the hell am I listening to him?  I’m perfectly fine with that.

And that’s the lesson of social media.  We knew it before blogs and MySpace pages.  Familiarity can indeed breed contempt.

And that was the mistake all along.  The big myth in social media was that peer-to-peer communication would elevate everyone.  That there would be wisdom created in crowds.  That trust would emerge as we all got to know each other.

But something different happened along with way.  We didn’t change.  We remained ourselves, just with a lot more avenues to express that.  And we exposed the true nature of trust.

I don’t trust the shallow frat boy.  I don’t trust the occasional remark.  I don’t trust just any old joe just because he or she is my age and looks like me.   I don’t trust folks shilling for that latest cause.

I trust people who don’t look at me as a customer, a potential sale, or a Linked In connection.

I trust people who look at me as a person, a human being, and a friend.