How Trust Is Like Humpty Dumpty

It was my foster brother’s fault.

We were walking to the bus stop one morning after a heavy rain.  It was a long walk, and there were puddles everywhere, and somewhere along the way Bill stamped his foot down hard in a puddle and splashed my leg.  And then I splashed him.  And then he splashed me again.  And just when I was getting ready to splash him back he stopped me.

“Hey!” he said, with a mischievous grin on his face.  “If we get wet enough maybe we won’t have to go to school!”

And that was how we both ended up back at home, dripping wet and explaining to my mother that we had “accidentally” fallen into a puddle.

“I guess it’s too late to go to school now, huh?” I said, hopefully.

“Change your clothes,” my mother said, firmly.  “I’ll drive you.”

That was not what we had hoped for.  Bill and I trudged wetly up the stairs to our room where he made a last, desperate, suggestion:

“Let’s hide our shoes!”


“Let’s hide our dry shoes.  And then we’ll only have these wet ones.  And your mom won’t make us go to school in wet shoes.”

It didn’t seem like much of a plan, but it was all we had. We hid our only dry shoes and then spent the next half hour frantically “looking” for them.  I began to feel uneasy about it, and when my mother interrupted the search long enough to pray that God would help us find our shoes I felt even worse.  finally she just told us to put on our wet ones, and drove us to school in stony silence. 

It was a few days later that I needed my other shoes.  I went straight to the spot where I had hidden them, dragged them out into the middle of the floor, and began to put them on.

“Jim?” my mother said, from behind a half-closed door.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Did you find your shoes?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“I saw you,” she said, coolly.  “You went right to them.”

“Right!  I said, thinking quickly.  “I remembered where I left them!”

“No,” she said, with a mother’s unquestionable authority, “you remembered where you hid them.”


“You lied to me,” she said at last.  “And now, how will I ever be able to trust you again?”


Here is the truth:  Trust, once it has been broken, is nearly impossible to mend.  Like Humpty Dumpty it lies in a pile of pieces that no one can put together again, at least not anytime soon.  I’m pleased to tell you that my mother learned to trust me again, but it didn’t happen overnight.  It took years of unblinking honesty, years of proving myself trustworthy, to overcome that one miserable lie.

So, this is my advice to you: don’t do it.  Don’t tip the fragile trust of a loved one—or anyone—over a wall.  Once it is broken it is broken.

And all the king’s horses,
And all the king’s men,
Can’t put Trust
Back together again.