Trustworthiness -trust-wor-thi-ness (noun) Deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable: The treasurer was not entirely trustworthy. - Synonyms: true, accurate, honest, faithful.

  • Be honest

  • Don’t deceive, cheat or steal

  • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do

  • Have the courage to do the right thing

  • Build a good reputation

  • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends and country

When others trust us, they give us greater leeway because they feel we don’t need monitoring to assure that we’ll meet our obligations. They believe in us and hold us in higher esteem. That’s satisfying. At the same time, we must constantly live up to the expectations of others and refrain from even small lies or self-serving behavior that can quickly destroy our relationships.

Simply refraining from deception is not enough. Trustworthiness is the most complicated of the six core ethical values and concerns a variety of qualities like honesty, integrity, reliability and loyalty. (information taken from Character Counts.)

One of the reasons I think "trustworthy" is complicated is that a person can be trustworthy to an unworthy cause. Young men who join gangs are loyal and dependable, yet they often cheat and steal. They may be honest to their peers, but not to family, friends, and the law. They would never "rat-out" their gang members. They are loyal. Yet, their cause may be one of hate and destruction. They don't have the courage to do the right thing...they have bravado to do what the gang tells them to do.

There has been a lot in the new about corporations and corporate officers who absconded with millions of dollars. How would it feel to be an executive with a big corporations, making a big salary, being loyal to your bosses...and then find out what they were doing was deceitful. It would take a person to be trustworthy to a higher standard, to blow the whistle, thereby jeopardizing his or her own position.

In the movie "A Few Good Men," there is a lot of discussion about the character of a man or woman in uniform. It is paramount that soldiers do what they are told. And yet, what if what they are told, is wrong? It took courage for "a few good men" to do the right thing. Those few good men, not only were trustworthy to a higher standard, they demonstrated true integrity to stand up to those in charge. There is a saying that states "absolute power corrupts absolutely". When the trust you have in something, whether it is a gang, or army, or corporation, is compromised because of deceit, opportunism, or even misguided moral issues, it is time to stand up and do the right thing.

Pre-On My Own questions: Have you ever heard of anyone who called for help, but didn't really need it, and then, they laughed about it? How about pulling a fire alarm or calling 911 as a "prank"? Is that funny? What can happen when you call for help and really don't need it? What are some consequences? How can you make it right?

There is a well-known Aesop's fable called "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" that has been told for thousands of years. It illustrates so succinctly the value of trustworthiness. Let me tell the story:


Once, long ago, there was a young boy who tended a flock of sheep atop a tall hill that lead down to the village. All day long the boy sat and watched the sheep. Sometimes he became so bored with no one to talk to...except the sheep. He longed for some excitement, but what could he do...he had to tend the sheep. Then, one day, he had an idea. He took his bull horn and blew into it with a mighty wind. The sound echoed throughout the valley below. That was the signal for the village folk that the shepherd boy was in trouble. They dropped what they were doing and ran up the hill. As they got closer they could hear his voice calling out "Wolf, Wolf, A wolf is trying to get the sheep!" The people scrambled to the top of the hill looking for the wolf. There was no wolf anywhere!

There was no wolf, only the boy laughing at his own joke. "You should have seen your faces," he laughed, "all red and puffy. You look so funny!" The people did not laugh. Their faces turned from concern to anger. As they turned around to go, one of the men said harshly, "You betrayed our trust. We counted on you to be true to your job. You should never call for help, when none is needed. This is not funny!"

A few days later, the boy was once again bored. He remembered how the townspeople looked as they huffed their way up the hill and then began looking for the wolf. It would be even funnier to see it the second time. So, again he took his bull horn and let the sound alarm the village below. When the people heard the alarm, they thought surely the lad would not try such a trick again. So, they took their weapons and trudged up the tall hill. But, again when they got there, they were greeted by a the boy sitting in the tree laughing at them. This time the man, who had talked to the boy before, did not say a word. As he looked at the boy, the man's eyes said it all...you have disappointed your community, your friends, and most of all yourself."

Now, the boy realized that his tricks were not funny. He vowed to never do it again. However, just a few days later a wolf did come. The boy was so scared, he took his bull horn and blew the alarm. When the townspeople heard it, they just shook their heads "Fool us once, shame on you; Fool us twice, shame on us...you will not fool us three times," and they went back to work.  

All day long the boy sat hugging the limb of the tree as the wolf scattered the sheep. He felt so helpless and felt so sorry for his flock. At the end of the day, the villagers wondered why the shepherd boy did not return. When they went to find out, they found the boy sitting in the tree crying. "Why, why didn't you come, when I called!" he cried.

As the man helped him out of the tree, he said, "Trust is a funny thing. It takes years to prove you are trustworthy, but only one lie to break it down. Now, come with us to find your sheep. Show the people that you are willing to pay for your lack in judgment, and slowly you will once again enjoy the trust others will have in you."

QAR Questions, Continued

Right there - How did the boy "lie" in the story? What did he do, when the villagers came to help the first two times? What did the man say to the boy as he took him down from the tree?

Think and Search - There was one villager who was trying to help the boy even though he was angry. What was his reaction the first two times he came to help? Was this helpful to the boy in understanding what he had done? Did the boy really care for the sheep? What makes you think so?

Author and Me - In the story the boy not only called for help when he didn't need it, he laughed at those who came. What other character trait was lacking when he did this? In the story the man at the end does not directly answer the question the boy asked - "Why, didn't you come, when I called?" Do you know why the villagers never came? Why? When the man helped the boy come down from the tree, how did he help the boy make amends for his deed? At the end of the story, the villagers stayed to help gather the sheep. Why do you think they did that?

On My Own - In our society we don't have many sheepherders. So, how can a boy yelling that there is a wolf still be a story that is relevant today? Can you think of any news on TV that proves that there are still people crying wolf? Have you ever had someone in your life (a teacher, parent, grandparent, etc.) who tried to give you guidance like the man in the story? What kinds of things did the man do to help teach the boy to make wise choices, and how has a mentor taught you about good choices? Even though this story happened "a long time ago," what are some parts that are still true today?

                      Thanks to Phyllis Hostmeyer for helping with QAR

 Character Counts.- Trustworthy People

Selena Quintanilla-Perez
Latina singer who served as a positive role model for young women Loyalty

Darius Weems
Young man with muscular dystrophy who is the subject of Darius Goes West, a documentary that has raised awareness of         wheelchair accessibility Stand by Your Friends

Le Ly Hayslip
Founder of the East Meets West Foundation, designed to help rebuild the lives of those affected by the Vietnam War Be Candid

George Washington
First president of the United States of America
Honor Your Commitments

Chad Bullock
Young advocate for teen tobacco-use prevention Stand Up for Your Beliefs

Barbara Walters
Journalist who broke ground for other women in the field Build Your Reputation

Denis Hayes
Organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970 Follow Your Conscience

Adanech Spratlin
Teen who has become a competitive swimmer in spite of losing her arm and leg in a train accident
Have the Courage to Try New Things


Aesop, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Andersen, Hans Christian, The Emperor's New Clothes,

Strega Nona by DePaulo



Good Character.com - page on 'Trustworthiness" with classroom activities

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