There is a Hebrew expression explained here:

A common Hebrew expression is "Respect them and suspect them". We should always act in a respectful way towards others, but that doesn't obligate us to trust them with our property. The source of this is in a story of the Talmudic sage Rabbi Yehoshua. A complete stranger asked to stay the night. Rabbi Yehoshua obliged him by giving him a room in the attic, but also exercised prudence by removing the ladder so that the guest wouldn't be able to sneak out. The guest turned out in fact to be a thief; he wrapped all the valuables in the top floor in a cloak and tried to sneak out, but fell in the dark because of the missing ladder, and was caught red-handed. (http://www.aish.com/ci/be/48918612.html)

Do we have an expression in English to this effect?

  • It's all very well to say the source was Rabbi Yehoshua....But WHICH Rabbi Yehoshua what was his full name, and what was the time period in which he composed it.
    – Edgar G.
    Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 22:51

5 Answers 5


In the US we often hear the phrase "Trust but verify", popularized by Ronald Reagan with respect to the Soviet Union.

  • 1
    +1 But I believe he attributed to "an old Russian proverb". Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 21:39
  • As a native English speaker living outside of the US, I have never heard this phrase before.
    – Pharap
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 8:24
  • @StoneyB that Wikipedia article says "Доверяй, но проверяй" (doveryai, no proveryai).
    – mskfisher
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 10:06

'Speak softly and carry a big stick'. President Theodore Roosevelt.

  • +1 This quote makes much more sense.
    – Pharap
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 8:30
  • 2
    I'm not seeing the relationship. The intended meaning of his quote was to avoid bullying people but always be prepared to use force. It wasn't really about trust; the phrase is compared to an older phrase "the iron fist in the velvet glove". Another way of interpreting it is to avoid the frequent threat of force but be prepared to use force when necessary. Neither interpretation really matches.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 19:32
  • 1
    'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' has nothing to do with respect with distrust. Rather it describes respect with threat. To put in terms of the OP's story, instead of quietly making it difficult/impossible for a thief to get away, the Rabbi would have openly hinted to the stranger what would happen to any thieves caught in the house, so the stranger would wisely choose not to attempt the theft in the first place.
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 19:52

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none" -Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well

  • There's a similar saying from the 80s; "Love all, trust a few but always paddle your own canoe"
    – Ilythya
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 9:03

'Trust in the Lord, but keep your powder dry.'--attributed to Oliver Cromwell addressing troops just prior to invasion of Ireland.

  • 1
    That's not quite the same--there's no implication that you put any trust in people, which is the crux of the first part of the saying. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 21:56
  • The 'crux' of the Hebrew saying is not the 'respect' part' but the 'suspect' part. Cromwell's remark is most often shortened to read 'keep your powder dry' (save your resources until they are needed.'
    – user3847
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 22:51
  • The "first part" of the Hebrew saying is the "respect" part. And the Hebrew saying has nothing to do with saving resources. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 22:55
  • 2
    Too bad Cromwell didn't say to the troops: 'I know all you boys will treat the Irish army with respect and you'll try to get along with their soldiers, but if they should act up it might be a good idea to keep your powder dry, just in case they try to take a few pot-shots at you.' This version surely would satisfy you.
    – user3847
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 23:02
  • 1
    Well, yeah, because that version would actually be somewhat similar to the Hebrew saying, which, again, you seem to be missing half of. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 23:03

Trust is good, control is better is another expression that conveys the meaning described:

  • the expression has been ascribed to V. I. Lenin, not our first choice among icons of liberty. However, these words seem to encapsulate the purported defence of our freedoms, by elected governments on both shores of the Atlantic.


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