How do I trust thee? Let me get a ruler…

Today, I accidentally contemplated the concept of trust.

It started off so innocently.  I was talking with one of my coworkers about a third coworker, and my friend joked, “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”  It’s one of those sayings I’ve heard all my life, and never really given it a second thought.

Until today.

When did trust start being measured in terms of distance?  It seems rather capricious to associate trust with how far you can throw someone.  “How much can we trust Bob on this?”  “Oh, about 2 feet 8 inches, I would guess.”  The implications are troubling:

  • Does this mean I can trust my friend’s 5-year old son Christopher more than his mother?
  • Am I automatically less trustworthy than I was in second grade?
  • Are karate black belts and Olympic shot putters especially gullible compared to the general public?  And did they just become more trusting over time?  (Disclaimer: Do not take advantage of karate black belts.  You’ll be sorry.)
  • If we’re watching the game, and I go into the kitchen to get some pretzels, do I become less trustworthy?  Do you?  Is trust relativistic like time, where it depends on whose frame of reference is moving?  And what if I come back without pretzels?  Should you trust me more because I’m within your throwing range, even if I lied about getting snacks?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like the way that guy’s looking at me.  I’m going to go lift weights until I can trust him.