The ability to have confidence in the trustworthiness of others.

Seems to be a golden mean virtue. Too much trust makes you gullible; too little makes you over-suspicious and cynical about others’ motives.

Trust also means to assume good intentions in others. Some people are always on the lookout for ulterior motives, and this makes them cynical about humanity and ultimately makes them doubt their own ability to be virtuous.

Distrust seems at first glance to be an overcorrection in the face of bad experiences, or maybe just bad luck in the experiences you’ve had. It also seems very contextual: healthy distrust in one context would be an unhealthy level of suspicion in another. The saga of “learning to trust again” when you’ve been hurt e.g. in romance is a common human tale. What does it consist of? How does someone who grew up in an abusive household learn trust if they never had an opportunity to place trust in someone trustworthy as a child?

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • cynicism
  • distrust
  • doubt
  • gullibility (over-trusting)
  • paranoia
  • suspicion
  • Williams syndrome (over-trusting)

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links

Mentioned elsewhere


Inspirational quotes

  • “What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” —George Eliot (Middlemarch)
  • “It will have charity to be ostentation; sobriety, covetousness; humility, craft; bounty, popularity. In short, virtue must be design, and religion only interest. Nay, the best of qualities must not pass without a ‘but’ to alloy their merit, and abate their praise. Basest of tempers! and they that have it, the worst of men.” ―William Penn
  • “Suspicion often creates what it suspects.” ―C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
  • “Is not he a man of real worth who does not anticipate deceit nor imagine that people will doubt his word; and yet who has immediate perception thereof when present?” (Analects of Confucius, XIV.XXXIII)