Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is it ever good to be gullible?

Who wants to be thought as naive or gullible? Not many. But I find two laws at work in me. Firstly, there is what experience has taught me: that all people lie and deceive to some degree (however small). Secondly, that I wish that it wasn't so.

This can be illustrated by something that happened to me many years ago. On my way to work, I was approached by a complete stranger who claimed to have locked himself out of his flat and had left the oven on with food in it. He said he needed money for a cab fare to get to his sister's house to pick up some spare keys. He promised to repay me, but of course I knew that there was a high probability that he was lying. But I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that I was being a 'good samaritan' and that I was helping someone in their hour of need. As I pressed the money into his grateful hands I wanted to tell him that in his hands he held my faith in the good of humanity. I wanted to tell him that I was no fool and realised I would probably never see him again. On that occasion I choose to be willingly gullible in the hope that he would prove my cynicism wrong. Unfortunately he didn't.

I hoped that my extension of trust, my willingness to take a chance on him would pay off. I held this hope because I felt that if in my hour of need, I reached I might find someone willing to help me. Of course as he purchased his drink or drugs or whatever he spent the money on, he probably laughed at the fool he'd so easily duped. Would I do it again? Would I help a complete stranger in need? I would like to think I would.

I would like to say my life experience has taught me that the majority of people are honest. Sadly, experience has taught me that most people will take what they think they can get away with – and if others are silly enough to allow themselves to be conned or to make a mistake – then they deserve it.

I would suggest that in most people there are two laws at work. There is the desire to do good and be honest, but there is also the desire to take what we can for our own advantage. Essentially, it comes down to this: are people basically good or basically bad? I guess the answer changes depending on what standard we measure with or to whom we compare ourselves to. Despite this, I would still like to be able trust people; to take them at their word. Perhaps that makes me gullible and naive? Perhaps I'm just a silly optimist? Perhaps that's why I'm such a 'fan' of God? After all, Jesus said that "no one is good – except God alone." And so even when we trust people and they let us down, when we try to help people and they rip us off, there is One who will never fail, never lie and never con us. And He is good. He is God. And because I know He loves me I find within myself a strange desire to love others – even though I fail so very often.

So is it ever good to be gullible? Probably not. But is it bad to want to trust people, even if you know that by making yourself vulnerable and trying to help, you may be taken advantage of? Probably not. Because within reason, that's not being gullible, that's just being kind and gracious; and along with honesty, that's two things this world is very short on.

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