These days in so many places, trust seems to be the missing element. How much do we trust each other in our modern-day activities? Do we trust our neighbors? Our co-workers? Do we trust the owners of small businesses to give us a fair price? What about the government? For many, the answer is “not really”.
Well, for starters, we have lost our connection to our “Social Contracts”: these are the clear rules of engagement, expectations, and values that govern members of society. Today “the only person you can rely on is yourself” is a common phrase many have come to imbibe. When saying “Hi!” to a neighbor, the mind may think “I bet they want something from me”. And in the workplace, we are constantly on guard, defending our turf and competition.
This all feels exhausting. Disconnected. Painful. Lonely.
Why did we become so vigilant in our relationships with our peers?
Community Values Disappearing
Research shows that in the early 1970s, the number of lawyers increased by nearly 50%, well outpacing any other job category. Why? One theory was the erosion of societal values: the diminishing community values in favor of the sprawling individualistic city life. The continued rise of consumerism and advertising created a mindset of individualism that let us believe that the harder we worked and the nicer things we bought, the higher our social status would be and ultimately, the happier we become. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, for millions of years, our social status was based on our contribution back to the group, tribe or family unit we belonged to.
Are our current values in direct contradiction to the essence of our Human Nature? Most likely, yes.
We have become skeptical, cynical, depressed and protective. Envy now creeps in more than ever with the onset of social media and the narcissistic approach so many have around life events posts.
We became competitive for a life worth envying and have lost care for those around us.
What are our Values?
Might we ask ourselves, what are the values we intend to live by? How do these values then govern our everyday actions? And can we be willing to change our actions to align with our values and live with integrity?
Creating a space that gives us a great sense of meaning, self-worth, and purpose.
Imagine the community of a small neighborhood pledging to support one another and share the resources they have so all can benefit from it, they would come together, say quarterly, to evaluate the impact of their contribution: wouldn’t that bring a sense of togetherness and empowerment?
The speed and warmth of trust could be reintroduced. A place where we can knock on a neighbor’s door for help or advice, and be received with warm response only.
This could be applied in the workplace too: if all could trust one another by pledging to community values, imagine how much faster things would get done. How little energy would be wasted on confrontations and conflicts? And most importantly, how fun and effective us working together could be!
Creating friendships everywhere: wanting the best for ourselves and others.
Some may say this is Utopian. I say it’s how it’s always been in small groups and tribes that must work and live together. A way pre-industrial based value took roots. One that still allows small groups to thrive. And a way we can reconnect to if we have the desire and courage to try.
Ask yourself: “What are my values? What’s most important to me? How and where can I live this way?
Starting With Your Own
How can you re-orient towards renewed Social Contracts? By creating a simple value-based agreement between you and a group of people on what they can expect from you, and you from them. Moreover that you are together operating for a shared set of values that are similar to your own.
And now the trust and connection you have created allow for infinite possibilities.
Another way could be to set an intention and be consistent with it to see how it takes you up. For example, it could be saying “Hello!” to all when passing in your neighborhood, or even hugging and smiling all you greet: folks will pick up on the positive energy, albeit small. They will either accept or reject such intention, but at least you’d have established an unwritten rule of how you connect.
And that alone will start the process in other areas where a group of people can agree more intentionally. Your Social Contract can then become communal, based on reciprocity.
An easy and honorable way to start.