Trust and forgiveness in relationships is a foundational and necessary part of solid relationships. When trust is broken in a relationship the pain experienced feels much like a rug that has been ripped out from under you. We’re left to doubt the trustworthiness of everyone around us and even our own judgment.
The only way to rebuild trust again is through forgiveness. Because forgiveness and trust are closely related, confusion between the two often occurs.
Unfortunately, the lack of clarity can slow the process of reconciliation. So let’s get the two sorted out, so the path toward reconciliation can be cleared.
What is forgiveness?
We have a tendency to complicate forgiveness because our feelings get tangled in it. What would you say if I said, “Forgiveness isn’t complicated, but it is difficult.”?
The word forgive, is actually a verb – an action. It is defined as canceling a debt. Forgiveness is an intentional choice we make to cancel another person’s debt. We do this by releasing them from our punishment (Romans 12:17-19). In other words, forgiveness is accomplished through entrusting the situation to God.
Confusion about what forgiveness is, enters the scene when we want forgiveness to be an emotion or feeling, rather than an action. However, releasing the offender from our punishment does not erase the hurt or damage that’s been done.
The choice to forgive is simply the first step in obedience to God. You can also count on this as the first step in the process of healing. The refusal to forgive will most definitely keep you from embarking on the journey to heal.
So if you chose to reconcile the relationship with the person who hurt you, you might be wondering how can I ever trust them again?
What is trust?
Another tough topic is trust, because once again our emotions are tangled up in trust. For the purpose of separating forgiveness and trust, I want you to view trust as a choice, not a feeling. Never let your emotions guide you (Jeremiah 17:9) on this matter. Trust is built on tangible evidence. Think of trust as a bridge. It takes a long time to build a bridge. ironically, if it needs to be torn down, a little bit of dynamite can take care of destroying it in a matter of moments.
I want you to view trust as a choice, rather than a feeling.
The same thing goes for trust in a relationship. Over time, trust is built on tangible evidence. Consequently, trust is hard to earn and easy to lose.
Is trust and forgiveness the same thing?
Both trust and forgiveness in relationships are necessary to restore the relationship when trust is broken, which is why we are tempted to combine the two.
Trust and forgiveness are processes of healing. Forgiveness (releasing from punishment and entrusting it to God) is the choice Christians are called to make right away, however healing from the hurt takes time.
Trust, on the other hand, is a process of rebuilding security and assurance through the demonstration of new patterns. This process starts with repentance on the offender’s part.
Both trust and forgiveness in relationships leave us feeling extremely vulnerable. Questions of, “What if I get hurt again”, swirl in our mind and we can feel overcome with fear.
As we identify the differences between trust and forgiveness and relationships it will become clear how to approach both processes.
Are trust and forgiveness different?
First, forgiveness is a command (Ephesians 4:32) and trust is not commanded. As a result, forgiveness is a choice to obey God and sets us on a path toward healing.
On the other hand, trust is earned by the offender through tangible evidence of trustworthiness. This means they’re not saying they’re trustworthy, rather they are showing they are trustworthy.
Let’s state it another way. Forgiveness is an unconditional choice. It requires nothing of the offender and is solely based on grace.
On the contrary, trust is not commanded. It is completely conditional and base completely on works. As a result, it requires much of the offender. Remember the bridge illustration? Trust is built brick by brick.
FAQ’s About Trust and Forgiveness in Relationships
How do I rebuild trust with someone I hurt?
Trust is rebuilt by demonstrating trustworthiness. You will need to prove you can be trusted by your actions. Words are not enough.
Have an honest conversation with the person with whom you broke trust. Ask the hard question, “What can I do to gain your trust?”. This will probably be one of many conversations regarding the progress of rebuilding trust in a relationship. Be patient with the process. It most definitely takes time to rebuild trust in a relationship.
When trust is broken can it ever be fixed?
Yes! Absolutely, trust in a relationship can be repaired. The first step must be forgiveness. Trust can’t come before forgiveness and it can’t come with forgiveness. Trust only comes after forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the first step on the road to healing and rebuilding trust. The duration of this path differs for everyone. Moving forward, there must be some transparent conversations about what it will take to rebuild broken trust in a relationship.
Can you forgive someone and still be hurt?
Absolutely. Forgiveness is the action of releasing someone from your punishment and entrusting the situation to God. However, this choice will not remove the pain of the offense or the broken trust.
The healing part takes time, however there are some things you can do to help the process. Check out this article for more information on forgiveness.
First, be prayerful (Matthew 5:44) and treat the person who hurt you with love and goodness (Romans 12:9). Don’t speak poorly of you the person who hurt you (Romans 12:14). Treat the one who hurt you the way you want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Finally, make the choice to stop dwelling on the offense (Isaiah 43:18) more on that here.
Does forgiveness mean trust?
Definitely not. Don’t make the mistake of lumping forgiveness and trust together in one action. Doing so will slow the process of reconciliation. Forgiveness is part of our calling as Christians. It is unconditional and based on grace alone. Forgiveness is a command and requires nothing of the person who hurt you.
On the other hand, trust is not commanded. It wouldn’t be wise to trust someone who is proven themselves unworthy of your trust. When trust is broken in a relationship it must be earned by tangible evidence of change. As a result, it requires transparency on the offender’s part.
Can you forgive someone and still not trust them?
Yes, you can forgive without rebuilding trust in a relationship. When trust is broken in a relationship, forgiveness and healing can be achieved apart from trust. This is great news, especially if the person who hurt you does nothing to reconcile and rebuild the trust in the relationship.
How do I trust the same person again?
If you had someone close to you betray your trust, it’s probably hard to imagine ever trusting them again. But, it is possible. Remember that forgiveness is your first step in healing.
As you begin the process of rebuilding trust through tangible evidence, keep an open dialog with the person who betrayed trust. In addition, touch bases about how rebuilding trust in your relationship is going. Keep in mind, as your person (partner, friend, etc.) is working to do the things required to gain trust, you have to be courageous and offer steps of trust in return. Both of you are building a bridge when trust is broken.
Trust and Forgiveness in Relationships
Trust and forgiveness in relationships are delicate topics that can bring up so many emotions. When trust is broken in a relationship it is absolutely possible to repair and rebuild trust. It’s important to remember that even though you move forward and forgiveness it takes time to heal from the hurt and trust the same person again. Regaining trust takes time and tangible evidence of trustworthiness.