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Unitive Justice

  Lovingkindness in action. 

9. From Distrust to Trust



Distrust: suspicion or doubt of the honesty or reliability of another.

Other terms for distrust: mistrust, suspicion, cynicism, skepticism, disbelief, lack of confidence.

Trust: relational interdependence built on shared values that strengthens relationships and makes human interactions more functional.

Trust Is a Unique Value

Trust is difficult to define and even more difficult to measure, and yet we know what trust is. Trust is built one interaction at a time, one day at a time, and yet it can be lost in a moment when the values that hold it in place are violated. When we trust, we accept the risk of being betrayed. Trust is relational.

Trust and values are interrelated. Trust depends on one’s belief in the honesty, kindness, fairness and integrity of another. Values such as these instill trust. Trust nurtures trust. The more trust you extend to others, the more others are likely to trust you.

Trust is different from confidence. You might have confidence in a person’s intellectual or physical ability, and then be disappointed in their performance, but still trust them.

Trust has an internal reward—the greater the trust among individuals, the more harmonious their relationships are likely to be. Trust is like a shortcut, a bridge that strengthens relationships and makes human interactions more functional. Trust fosters openness and flow. When trust is absent, suspicion emerges from distrust.

Trust is essential for healthy relationships and strong communities. Structures that build trust are essential for the betterment and welfare of humanity. Punitive justice undermines trust, and Unitive Justice strengthens it.

Distrust in the Punitive System

The dualistic worldview (i.e., “us versus them,” the “good people versus the bad people”) upon which the punitive system depends is grounded in the distrust of others. In fact, all of the structural elements of the punitive system tend to undermine trust. Hierarchy promotes separation and differences are emphasized, both of which undermine trust. The judgment upon which punitive justice depends is based on projections and perceptions that are often wrong, and this undermines trust.

Trust depends on transparency, but the punitive system tends to promote secrecy, as those involved protect their interests at the expense of others. When a mistake is made, trust is supported by admitting it and taking responsibility, but the punitive system discourages “admissions against interest.”

Using punishment to enforce control can also undermine trust and engender suspicion. Trust depends on honesty, but because the stakes are so high in this win/lose system, the punitive system fuels distortion and sometimes even legitimizes dishonesty. The adversarial nature of the punitive system may permit litigants to serve their self-interests, but it makes trust difficult to achieve.

Trust will never be a prevalent operative value in a punitive system. It is a system that, by its very nature, often undermines trust.

Trust in the Unitive System

Just as the punitive system’s structural elements undermine trust, the structural elements of the unitive system build trust. Trust is greatest when values are strong—the unitive system nurtures a culture that is sustained by values, instead of rules, or at a minimum, rules that are guided by values. Equality, inclusion without exception—also engenders trust.

The careful listening that can lead to insight, instead of judgment, builds trust. Mutually beneficial action, the goal of the unitive system, builds trusting relationships. As community is strengthened, trust is also strengthened. The moral principle of lovingkindness upon which unitive justice is grounded, is another trust-building structure.

Instead of punishment, the connection inherent in a unitive system builds trust, as does honesty. The synergy that emerges in the unitive system and its worldview of unity provide an environment that nurtures trust, making for functional relationships and strong communities.

The circle process using unitive principles promotes trust. Asking non-judgmental questions give participants an opportunity to be honest, without being judged. As trust grows, participants become willing to express themselves in their own words, while they are listened to and understood through the process of reflective listening. As mutual understanding is achieved, trust continues to build. Participants begin to recognize their interconnectedness, that they are not separate. This enables the process to discover root causes. When root causes are healed, trust in the community is strengthened.

The win-win outcome reflected in the mutually beneficial action the circle process aims to achieve builds trust. When everyone wins, trust is nurtured.

A system of Unitive Justice is designed to build and sustain trust within our neighborhoods and communities. As trust builds on the local level, it spreads. As community after community implements Unitive Justice at the local level, the nation begins to experience a heightened level of trust.

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The below video is called, Why Trust is Worth It.