There's a story I heard about a couple that had been invited to a costume party. Unfortunately, the wife got a terrible headache and told her husband to go to the party alone. He, being a devoted and proper spouse, protested, but she argued and said she was just going to take some aspirin and go to bed. There was no need to spoil his good time by her not going. So, he took his costume and away he went.

The wife, after sleeping soundly for about an hour, woke up without any pain and because it was still early, decided to go to the party after all. She had kept secret the costume she was going to wear, so she thought she would have some fun by watching him to see how he acted when she was not with him.

So she joined the party and soon spotted her spouse in his costume, cavorting around the dance floor, dancing with every nice "chick" he could, sneaking a little feel here and a little kiss there. His wife went up to him out on the floor and, being rather seductive herself, he left his latest dance partner high and dry and devoted his attention to her. She let him go as far as he wished, naturally, because he was her husband. After a couple more drinks he whispered a little proposition in her ear and she agreed, so off they went out to the parking lot, and well, the reader can fill in the blanks.

Before the traditional midnight unmasking, the wife slipped away, went home, and put the costume away. She got back into bed, wondering what kind of explanation he would make up for his outrageous behavior.

She was sitting up reading when he came in, so she asked if he had a good time. "Oh, the same old thing. You know I never have as good a time when you're not there."

Then she asked, "Did you dance much?"

He sincerely replied, "I never even danced once. When I got there, I met Pete, Bill Brown and some other guys, so we went into the spare room and played poker all evening."

"You must have looked pretty silly playing poker in that costume all night!" she said with unabashed sarcasm.

"Actually," he replied, "I gave my costume to my brother because he arrived without one. Apparently he had the time of his life."

That story, and all of its variations, is about trust. And trust -or lack thereof - has been all over the news lately, as in "the need to restore trust."

Just last evening I heard two radio commentators talking about whether or not they trust people: one said he trusted no one until they earned his trust. I was particularly interested in that response because my studies in the past have included a lot about trust. And what always has stood out is that trust is a very fragile thing.

Trust is derived from the German word "Trost," meaning comfort. It also includes confidence. The opposite of trust is fear, and that leads to some other interesting insights. High trust levels create and mobilize energy and expand our awareness. Low trust means high fear and high fear levels channel our energy into defense. Defense in action is often attack. When we interact with others, we can choose to discover new things, or defend and attack, depending on our trust level.

It is my expectation that people can be trusted, until as individuals they demonstrate otherwise. If someone tells me something, I believe them. However, once someone has told me a lie, or cheated on something, or taken something that does not belong to them, no matter how small, that trust is gone. That person can try very hard to restore that trust, but there is always the nagging question in others' minds as to whether and when it is going to happen again. Trust is never fully recovered. In any relationship, personal or not, that is not a comfortable or productive situation.

When I was working in Eastern Europe with companies preparing for the change from communism to capitalism, we spent a lot of time talking about management: what it is and what is required to be effective. After all, management being a capitalist term, even the word was forbidden under "the old way."

When I talked about what it takes to be a good manager, I added some factors from the Peters and Waterman ("In Search of Excellence") model. One of those was that managers must be "bone honest."

One of the listeners responded, "Honest? We have always been told to be careful."

Trust levels were very low and almost non-existent; that created a lot of fear.

We also know that trust creates trust and fear creates fear. If we trust people, they are more likely to be trustworthy. If we do not trust people, they can feel free to be untrustworthy. And people who do not trust or feel trusted respond with doubt and fear. If we show ourselves to be trustworthy, others are more likely to be so too.

It's too late for the folks in the news who would like to "restore trust." It can't be done, at least it can never be totally restored. But the wife in the opening story can continue to trust her spouse, unless her trust level was so low that she didn't believe his story.

However, if she told him or he found out about her "spying" behavior, he would likely not have much trust left for her. He would always wonder from that day on.