The cynic refuses to trust.

The skeptic asks questions before trusting to minimize the risk.

The gullible trust when there are meaningful reasons not to, or where it is possible to take verification steps prior to trusting; the gullible indulge in “foolish trust.”

Hardcore cynics can be the most gullible around. They easily fall hook, line, and sinker for any viewpoint that reinforces their world view.

There is a price to trusting and being betrayed but there also is a price to not trusting the trustworthy, a real opportunity cost. Professor David Dunning of Cornell University states that there is a “notable correlation between countries where people have greater trust——that contracts will be honored, that laws will be enforced——and economic growth.” (The New York Times, May 22, 2010, “In the Land of Cynics,” by Alina Tugend.)

“Cynicism appears to make an unpredictable world more predictable——if you don’t trust anyone, all your outcomes are pretty much predetermined, there is not much room for experimentation or serendipity. Like many ‘one size fits all’ modes of thinking, cynicism offers only the ‘illusion of understanding’ while involving the suspension of true critical thinking.” (“Science on Trial,” by Dr. Marcia Angell, senior lecturer, Harvard Medical School.)

I shun cynicism. I embrace a healthy skepticism. I am a hardy advocate of being a learning, questioning, curious skeptic.

The skeptic trusts intelligently. The skeptic knows that trust is a vital necessity in relationships and in a functioning society. As a wise gardener who cultivates, nourishes, and weeds his garden to create bounty and beauty, so do the wise cultivate trust in life.