Trust, once lost, is not easily regained. The process of losing trust can be anything from drawn out and complex to instaneous and simple, but regaining it is always a time-consuming and difficult affair. We’re seeing a lot of that play out in the world these days, on a lot of different scales. Perhaps the biggest and most difficult to define example is people losing faith in government instituions. A much smaller but still impactful example is the recent loss of trust in Wizards of the Coast. It will take decades to restore trust in government instutions, especially given how every day seems to bring more evidence that the institutions we thought were safeguarding our government are actually just there to serve and protect the most powerful and wealthy among us (not that we needed more evidence to believe that). Likewise, it will take Wizards of the Coast a long time and some pretty extreme conscessions for people to trust that they’re not simply kicking the can down the road with this latest backpedaling they’ve been doing.
I’ll give Wizards of the Coast credit for at least talking the talk. It, of course, remains to be seen if they’re going to walk the walk, but it certainly feels like someone over there realizes they stepped in it big-time. Their recent drive towards transparency and feedback seems to express an interest in listening to the community that they threatened, but it’s difficult to take that seriously given the horrendous gaslighting and denial of wrong-doing that preceded this more open communication. There’s still a lot of people calling for blood and fire as our only responses, but I think it’s worth at least giving Wizards a chance to show that they mean it. After all, if we ignore their attempts to make ammends and accept responsibility for what they’ve done, it makes it pretty clear that we’re not interested in healing. At least, that’s what it says about us in this moment.
Recently, I’ve had a lot of reasons to think about trust, healing, accountability, and what (if anything) the aggrieved party owes those who wronged them. I find it tempting to say that, as the person who has been wronged, we owe those who wronged us the opportunity to make ammends if they seem earnest in their apologies. Our culture almost demands it, even, thanks to the heavy media emphasis on stories of reconcillation, forgiveness, and love above all else. Plus, if it is someone or something that you love or loved once, or that has been a part of your life for a long time, it is tempting to open wide your arms and to look past whatever you might be feeling in hopes of a healing reconcillation.
I think there’s a degree of validity to this tempation. After all, not every wrong is devastating. Not every hurt turns into a scar. This starts to break down pretty quickly, though, as the scale of what was done to you increases in either size or frequency. The US government has failed its citizens so many times and so deeply over the past several decades that any willingness to overlook the past is naivety at best and suicidal foolishness at worst. Wizards damaged the livelihoods of hundreds of people in a single week, and then tried to cover it up for another week, making it clear that any attempts to accept what is happening now, as they work to repair the harm to their reputation (since they can’t fix the cracks in the Tabletop Roleplaying Game community, this is all that remains to them), at face value will only result in Wizards proceeding with what they planned to do from the start.
Any recovery is going to take time and effort. After all, the destruction of trust was so complete that it turned into distrust, rather than a mere lack of it. Wizards snuck around behind the community’s back and are still lying about it as they attempt to puruse some goal they’re not exactly making clear to the public rather than focusing on the demands of the community at large. Still, there is the opportunity for them to make a slow recovery if they actually listen, take responsibility for messing up, and then keep themselves accountable to the community at large. Even then, it will take years to rebuild the trust they destroyed, but it is still possible if they continue to be open, transparent, and careful. It is unlikely to happen, but it’s not impossible.
I don’t know what Wizards is going to do. It could go any which way, at this point, but I’m willing to give them the opportunity to grow and change. Perhaps that is foolish of me. Maybe the only reason I’m willing to extend Wizards this opportunity to regain my trust is so that I can be right, for once, about choosing to do that.After all, I spent years trying to communicate with my parents about what they needed to do to make progress toward any kind of relationship in the future and the best I ever got in return was them telling me what they (incredibly incorrectly) thought I wanted to hear. My latest forray into crossing the vast, bottomless chasm between us has made it clear that they’re not reflecting or learning, they’re just saying anything and everything they think will appease me and bring me back into the fold.
My parents aren’t the only people who’ve repeatedly hurt me because I wanted reconciliation rather than worsening estrangement, so I don’t exactly have a great track record of knowing when to withdraw an offer of trust or the proverbial extended hand. I have the opposite, really. I’ve been wrong one hundred percent of the time, so far. Maybe Wizards of the Coast doesn’t deserve anything but suspicion and contempt.
I genuinely don’t have any answers. I think that, maybe, I’d rather live my life giving people the opportunity to change when I can, when it won’t cost me too much if they use that opporunity to cause harm instead. I think I’d rather be the kind of person willing to extend a little faith if the apology seems earnest than someone who spends all their time burning bridges at the first sign of a flaw in the structure. I also think that there’s a limit to how much I can take of this and that, right now, after extending my parents an opportunity they absolutely did not deserve only to see them once again prove they’re incapable of change or growth, I need to focus on taking care of myself.
I would love to see that offer earnestly accepted someday. Not by my parents, who have used all their chances. I do not think it will ever be worth my time and health to try again with them. I do not think any corporation or government deserves that from me, given the power imbalances at play and the fact that profit and power are their only driving motivations. Just once, I’d like to see a person who hurt me regain my trust rather than continue to betray it. It would be refreshing to see some accountability and change in the world and, just maybe, if I saw it on this smaller but still important scale first, I’d consider that it might be possible on larger scales as well.