Dede Drives the Discourse: Episode 21: Never trust the paranoid

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Dede Drives the Discourse:

Hello, my name is Dede Nyansapo. I am an entrepreneur who also participates in Accra’s burgeoning gig economy as a driver. My love for meeting fascinating people and my curiosity about how they think usually places me in the midst of some very entertaining conversations. Invariably, these conversations lead to some key learnings that may be useful to anyone on their business journey.

Episode 21: Never trust the paranoid

There’s something about modern humans that wants us to always project strength. In a sense, we have become so consumed by our own perception of self that we consistently shy away from the reality that we need people. We need people who love us, and we need people to love. We need people who can rely on us, and we need people to trust. Without this, we are just a bunch of narcissistic, isolated and lonely individuals in the big city, projecting our insecurities on the people who dare to open up to us.

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of driving a lovely elderly woman and her grandson as they discussed the very topic of trust. The differences in opinion did not surprise me and the perspective of the lady, who I will call Grandma Vee, and her grandson who we will call Mensah,  definitely contributed to the thoughts I now hold with regards to trust.

The conversation went something like this…

Mensah: In this world, you cannot trust anyone.

Grandma Vee: Really, Mensah? Why do you say that?

Mensah: Your closest friends can become your fiercest enemies. It’s always important to be on your guard. People are unpredictable and can turn on you at any moment.

Grandma Vee: Hmm, that’s quite a strong statement. Can you give me an example?

Mensah: Sure. Take my friend Kwame, for instance. We were like brothers, always together, sharing everything. But when I needed him the most, he wasn’t there for me. He spread rumours about me, and now I can’t even trust my shadow.

Grandma Vee: Ah, that sounds very painful. Betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow. But does one bad experience mean you should never trust anyone again?

Mensah: It’s not just Kwame. There are countless stories of people being betrayed by those closest to them. It’s better to be cautious and protect yourself than to get hurt.

Grandma Vee: Caution is important, yes, but living a life of constant suspicion isn’t healthy. In this life, you need to know who to trust. It comes with trials, heartbreak, and disappointment, but it also brings joy, companionship, and support.

Mensah: But how do you know who to trust? How do you know who won’t turn on you?

Grandma Vee: Trust is built over time, through shared experiences and mutual understanding. It’s not something that comes with a guarantee. You have to be willing to take the risk.

Mensah: That’s the problem. The risk. Why risk getting hurt when you can just avoid it altogether?

Grandma Vee: Because avoiding risk means avoiding life. You cannot experience the full spectrum of human relationships if you’re always holding back. It’s like trying to swim while clinging to the shore.

Mensah: So, you’re saying I should just dive in and hope for the best?

Grandma Vee: Not exactly. I’m saying you should be wise about it. Use your judgement, but don’t let fear rule your decisions. Trust is like a plant; it needs care, attention, and time to grow. Sometimes it will wither, but other times it will blossom in ways you never imagined.

Mensah: What if it withers more often than it blossoms?

Grandma Vee: That’s part of the journey. Every relationship teaches you something, even the painful ones. They help you understand yourself better and what you value in others. It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Mensah: I’ve heard that saying before. It sounds nice, but it doesn’t make the pain any less real.

Grandma Vee: No, it doesn’t. But it helps you see that pain is a part of life’s tapestry. Without it, you wouldn’t appreciate the moments of true connection and joy. If you live in constant paranoia, you become the friend who cannot be trusted because you’re always looking for a way out.

Mensah: So, you think I should just let my guard down and trust everyone?

Grandma Vee: Not everyone. But don’t let a few bad experiences make you shut out the world. There are good people out there, people who will stand by you through thick and thin. It’s a matter of finding them and being open to the possibility.

Mensah: How do you find them, though?

Grandma Vee: By being the kind of person you’d like to be friends with. Show kindness, be reliable, and give others the benefit of the doubt. In time, you’ll attract those who share your values.

Mensah: It sounds so simple when you put it that way.

Grandma Vee: Life often is simple, but we complicate it with our fears and doubts. Remember, Mensah, trust is a two-way street. You have to give it to receive it.

Mensah: I guess I’ve been too focused on protecting myself to see that.

Grandma Vee: Self-protection is natural, but don’t let it become a barrier. Trust yourself first, and then extend that trust to others. Be wise, but don’t close yourself off.

Mensah: It’s hard to change my mindset after everything that’s happened.

Grandma Vee: Change is never easy, but it’s possible. Start small. Allow yourself to trust in little ways, and gradually build up. You’ll see that not everyone is out to hurt you.

Mensah: And if they do hurt me?

Grandma Vee: Then you learn, heal, and move forward. Each experience makes you stronger and wiser. But don’t let a few thorns keep you from enjoying the beauty of the rose. Mensah, if you are fortunate enough to live a long life, you would realise that the friends you collect along the way and the shared experiences you have had together are truly priceless. You should celebrate when you lose a disloyal friend.

Mensah: I never thought of it that way. I’ve been so focused on the thorns that I’ve forgotten about the roses.

Grandma Vee: Exactly. Life is full of both. Embrace the good, learn from the bad, and keep moving forward. Trust is what makes relationships meaningful, and relationships are what make life rich.

Mensah: I understand, Grandma. I’ll try to be more open and not let my past dictate my future.

Grandma Vee: That’s the spirit. You’re a smart young man, Mensah. Don’t let fear hold you back. There’s a whole world of wonderful people out there waiting to connect with you.

Mensah: Thanks, Grandma. Your wisdom always gives me a new perspective.

Grandma Vee: Anytime, my dear. Remember, my heart is always here for you, no matter what.

Mensah: I know, Grandma. And I’m grateful for that.

There is a saying, attributed to Maya Angelou that I have fallen in love with over the years. It goes, “When people show you who they are, believe them”. Understanding this phrase could be the difference between a happy life and a painful existence.

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