A word from Superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Closing thoughts Conditional or contingent thoughts

A word from superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Is trust conditional or contingent? What about love? Respect, pride, belief, admiration, etc. the list can get very long very fast. Recently, at lunch with a local Pastor and friend, this topic came up and for the next 45 minutes, we covered a lot of ground. And I left with more questions than answers, frankly. I love these types
of conversations.

Conditional is from Old French ‘condicionel’ and from Late Latin ‘conditionalis’ and essentially means depending on a circumstance. The key word here is depending. Conditional trust means I only trust you (and you only trust me) if certain conditions are met. If trust is conditional then it is also transactional. I can think of
many examples of conditional trust. For instance, you expect the Board of Trustees to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Your trust in them is contingent on their fiduciary responsibility to the community. The past four years have brought an amazing transformation within the VISD finances. We are in excellent shape and
receive unmodified audit reports and the highest ranking from the Texas Education Agency. As the board meets the conditions, they earn trust as responsible stewards. Switching gears, I would venture the average person would never say they have conditional love (especially with close family for instance), but we have all
seen it play out in relationships when certain conditions aren’t met and love wanes as a result. What makes this interesting is that often the conditions aren’t really explained. These conditions become a secret to the other person, as they are completely unknown, but then they find themselves judged based on those hidden
conditions and the relationship devolves. This is directly applicable not just to love, but also to respect, trust, admiration, etc. Hidden conditions lead to hurt feelings and confusion.

Contingent is from Latin ‘contingere’ which means ‘together with’. In Middle English, this eventually became ‘of uncertain occurrence’ meaning it might happen, but it might not. This is where it gets interesting. Love, respect, honor, admiration, trust, etc. all have a contingent impact on each other. The more you trust
another person, the easier it is to admire them, or love them, etc. With this understanding, is it fair to say that you have contingent love? Yes. This seems weird, right? I am not sure I have ever heard another person say I have contingent respect for you.

So why would this juxtaposition between contingent and conditional matter? Regardless of whether we’re talking about love, respect, trust, etc. if a hidden condition enters the equation anywhere along the continuum, we should expect the contingent impact to also decrease. This is fascinating to me. If we have a hidden condition that allows us to think less of another, we have essentially given ourselves permission to universally lower our overall feelings about that same person. It occurs to me that this could quickly destroy relationships.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to conditions. In fact, I think they are great. Conditions help set guidelines and guardrails. They are a path towards accountability. Conditions work best in the realm of complicated work, but rarely in the realm of complex work. I am opposed to hidden conditions. It seems a
bit unrealistic to hit a goal or target which you didn’t know about.

This brings me to ‘unconditional’, which is without conditions. It seems unconditional anything is a rarity. Unconditional love makes contingent respect possible. This holds true for anything we ascribe the word unconditional. Unconditional is a choice of course and I wonder why we so often choose to put conditions on love or respect. Is it related to life experience, age, or a lifetime of hurt? I don’t know… as I said in the intro, I left with more questions than answers.

By  Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.