Who do you trust?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Ernest Hemingway

I’ve always considered myself a trusting person. Sometimes maybe to a fault. 

That lesson came home a few days ago when I read the story that Elkhart businessman Najeeb Khan had finally been sentenced to over eight years in prison for bank fraud and attempted tax evasion. This announcement comes a good three years since he was initially arrested. 

The case hit especially hard because Najeeb was both a client and a vendor to our business. I also considered him a friend.

In the years I knew Khan, I always found him to be quite interesting. On one hand, he appeared to be a very astute businessperson. His professional persona was very much that of a buttoned-down corporate executive. Nothing splashy. Always wore a classic business suit and rarely seemed in any way ostentatious.

 I did know that in his private life, he had accumulated all kinds of adult toys ranging from numerous expensive sports cars to a private jet, a yacht and more. But I honestly didn’t think twice about this lavish out-of -the-office lifestyle. I just assumed they were the rewards of being a shrewd and successful businessman. 

In fact, I admired his generosity. As a former board president of Ronald McDonald House Charities, I was very appreciative of the many contributions he made to our organization. And many other local charities also benefitted from his largesse. 

Needless to say, I was shocked and disappointed when the news of his arrest first came out. And the fraud he perpetrated hit home since our own business was one of the hundreds of unsuspecting victims. Our loss, although significant to our company, paled in comparison to the losses sustained by quite a few others. And many of those other victims involved people who likewise considered Khan a great friend and benefactor.

As I think back on my 50-year professional career, I remember three other occasions where someone who I knew, liked and trusted betrayed the trust that had so freely been given to them. In each case, I would never have dreamed that individual could be so duplicitous. In fact, I would probably have trusted that person with my life. That’s how strongly I believed in them.

At times like these, it would be easy to become cynical. As I said, I think of myself as a trusting person. And while I may, on occasion, be trusting to a fault, I hope I never become so cynical as to lose my innate belief that most people are inherently good. And worthy of my trust.