10/06/2012 09:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2012


Ann Brenoff's "9 Reasons Why Arnold Is An Icky-Doo," while oddly titled, makes a strong argument about trust. Arnold Schwarzenegger's behavior doesn't inspire any in his wife, kids or friends. As a longtime fan of Arnold's, I'm disappointed he's an untrustworthy man. I looked up to him for lots of reasons, and his integrity in both his public and private lives was one of those reasons. "I'm not perfect," doesn't begin to explain or excuse his lack of integrity, or anyone's who breaks the bond of trust with a wife, girlfriend, children or friends.

An old mentor of mine used to opine, "Where there's no trust, there's no love." I thought about that for a long while before I realized his point was absolutely true, and that I needed to look at my own behavior to reflect on my trustworthiness. If I can't trust someone, how can I love that person? It doesn't matter whether it's a man or a woman, because trust is genderless. Trust is absolute faith in another person's integrity. There are no exceptions to that. There are also no excuses for trampling on that faith. Trust in any relationship is an absolute. There's no gray.

It takes some amount of effort and consciousness to be trustworthy, and it means being in integrity with oneself, all the time, no matter the consequences. Is that always possible? I believe it is, although I admit that it's not always expedient or easy. At the end of the day, looking into a mirror shouldn't be a source of shame. Trustworthiness is a character quality worth protecting.

I was in a relationship with a woman many years ago. She wanted to get married, but I wasn't feeling ready just then. I explained why by sharing some old trust issues I had experienced that I was still working out. She said she understood, but the next time we got into an argument about getting married, she used what I'd told her to attack me. That destroyed any trust I'd ever felt for her, but I decided to explain how I felt, in hopes of keeping the relationship together.

A week later, the same argument drew the same line of attack. I ended the relationship because I knew I couldn't trust her with my truth, and absent that, there's not much left to hold a relationship together. If someone asks for your truth, they are responsible for holding your truth in their hearts and never using it against you. That's a betrayal of trust, for which there are no excuses.

When I've written about men being emotionally honest with women, some men insist women can't be trusted with their truth, and that they'd be ridiculed or dumped if they were emotionally honest with women. One fellow asked me what he should do if his girlfriend ridiculed him for being emotionally honest. My answer was brief: Leave.

Advocating for integrity in relationships does not mean anyone should open their heart and allow someone to hurt them. No relationship that doesn't embrace trust as its foundation can survive. I can't imagine not being honest with my girlfriend about how I'm feeling, whether it's about me, her or our relationship. Living in integrity makes that non-negotiable.

There are basic guidelines that good relationships share, and absolute trust is the common glue. Whether or not what Arnold did in his marriage was admirable or cool depends on who's talking, but one thing is certain, he isn't trustworthy under anyone's definition of trust, and that makes him less than an authentic husband, father and man. I enjoyed his films over the years, but clearly he isn't the sort of man he portrays in them. Is that disappointing? Sure, but public figures probably shouldn't be expected to be better human beings than the rest of us, even when they insist they're the epitome of honor.

What's truly disappointing is when someone extols the values most of us aspire to, and really isn't that person. We've seen this in actors, politicians, and sometimes in friends and family. Can this type of damage be repaired? Perhaps, but that really depends on the person betrayed more than the betrayer.

I watched Arnold on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" earlier this week, and he said he would like Maria Shriver to forgive him and let him back into their marriage. When Stewart asked if he deserved forgiveness, Arnold replied, "Yes, we all deserve forgiveness."

I agree with Arnold that everyone deserves to be forgiven, but that in no way implies that all is forgotten and you can come back home. The victim of untrustworthy behavior gives forgiveness as a part of healing their wound.

I've forgiven lots of folks over the years, but I haven't forgotten the reasons why I had to forgive them. Allowing someone access to my heart after having it trampled isn't an act of forgiveness as much as it is an act of faith, and I'm not certain I have that kind of faith in anyone who already betrayed me.

This isn't a man/woman thing as some of the comments after Ann's article suggested, and her point wasn't that men are untrustworthy either. Living in integrity with oneself isn't a gender issue. It's a values issue that has nothing to do with gender. It's entirely about character.

Is it always possible to be trustworthy? Yes, it is, and like anything worthwhile in life, it's not always easy or simple. Our cultural values could use some examining when anyone can excuse Arnold's behavior as anything other than what it was, a betrayal of trust. Where there's no trust, there's no love? Absolutely true.