Trust and Forgiveness in Relationships

trust and forgiveness differences


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.

{Also check out “what forgiveness is not” here!}

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.


  1. […] Trust and Forgiveness in Relationships, Sunshyne Gray […]

  2. […] Forgiving doesn’t always mean trusting…learn more here. […]

  3. […] Another important thing to know… trust can only be repaired after forgiveness has taken place. In other words – it’s impossible to trust someone when you haven’t forgiven them. More on trust and forgiveness in relationships here. […]

  4. Martha Valdez on November 30, 2019 at 3:50 am


    MY husband of 37 yrs was in a 4 yr extra-marital affair which produced a child. After the initial breakup, l drew up reconciliation RULES and he said he agreed to them. Routine stuff, such as only limited contact with his affair-partner-only having to do with child, complete transparency, financial openness, honesty and no more lies. He repeatedly broke every rule.
    After 3 tries at reconciliation in 4 years l called it quits.

    Now he insists, he is going to keep his word, swears . I know he no longer speaks to his affair partner except for minimum things ( which he should of abided to originally.) In fact he and the kids mother, have had several visitation-custody court battles-she now has another Out of Wedlock child, shes a real sleise.

    My beef is not with the child. I have never ever held any ill-feelings against the child. I think child just like me are innocent victims of this tragedy. I even baptized the baby, for the mother had no interest in having the child baptized. Child loves to come to my house and be with me, l love her in a very tender way.

    But , l am really not interested at this time.
    I have lost faith and trust in him. .

    Any advise?

    • Sunshyne on December 1, 2019 at 9:59 am

      Hi Martha, thank you for sharing so transparently. I’m sorry you have been face with unfaithfulness in your marriage. I can’t give you advice, but I am praying for you and I want you to check out this link on forgiveness and reconciliation… It will give you more to consider as you sort through and work on healing your heart with God.

  5. Melanie on February 7, 2020 at 11:49 am

    I need help because my husband THINKS I’ve had an affair. He planted listening devices in our front room and thinks he hears 2 people having sex in our living room. He never told anyone he was doing this. We have 3 children 19,16&13. All live at home. We hosted an exchange student and he thinks I had sex with him on our couch while my 3 kids were at home sleeping. This is killing our marriage. It is devastating to think he actually thinks I would risk everything for a 5 minute romp on the sofa! He does not trust me. I’ve not done anything wrong. I’ve forgiven him but he can’t move forward. He insists it was me and I am guilty. I don’t know what else to do. Our extended family are now aware and they all say he is sick and needs help. He thinks I am sick and should confess my adulterous ways. I fear our marriage is hopeless and it’s over.

    • Gale on February 18, 2021 at 8:03 pm

      Your husband appears to have some emotional problems that are quite severe in my opinion. I’ve been accused repeatedly by my husband of things that I would never do. After reading about personality disorders he fit the checklist perfectly. He was projecting onto me what he really wanted to do or may have been doing. Read about Borderline Personality Disorder and see if you see your husband in the information.

      • Hannah on June 19, 2023 at 5:56 am

        My husband had an emotional affair with another woman. After I initially found out, he continued with it (continuing to lie about it). When I found out they were still communicating I lost it and claimed I was leaving. Of course he begged me to stay. I don’t think he is still talking to her, and we are in counseling, but I cannot stop thinking that he is only staying with me because we have kids and that in actuality he would rather be with her. I can’t stop being suspicious. I can’t stop feeling betrayed. I’m starting to wonder if we can reconcile at all or if the damage has gone too far. I know God brought us together and we have lots of good qualities and a beautiful family. But how can I go on feeling this way for the rest of my life? Like my husband is only in it because he doesn’t see a way out, not because he is in love with me.

  6. Julie on June 24, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    I cheated on my husband for a long time it’s over and I am trying to restore my marriage bending over backwards doing whatever it takes. I understand he is angry but he is also verbally abusive which for a while I thought I deserved. He refuses to get help even though I know he is depressed. I don’t know what else to do…I know he doesn’t want a divorce or he would have done it a year and half ago when he found out. I just wish he could forgive me so we can both move forward instead of back.

  7. Carmen on June 2, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Excellent article. Thank you for explaining the difference between forgiveness and trust and for including Bible verses to refer to. Thank you! ❤️?

  8. Anna on January 21, 2022 at 7:25 am

    How does showing physical affection(holding hands, etc…) fit into the forgiveness process?
    My husband is great at pretending things are great outside of the home but things are not great. I have forgiven him but I’m having a hard time with physical affection when the relationship is not good. He seems to be fine with the dichotomy… Not me. Seems to perpetuate his “things are great at home” persona. ?

  9. Gigi Lunday on June 26, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    I absolutely love the article. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. God is always on time. This is huge for me. Special thanks for the article as it helps me on my journey.

  10. Victoria on July 31, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    Thank you for this article.. it has really helped me understand what I have to do.

    My husband of 2 years was caught going to kareoke where there are prostitutes. He swears he didnt have sex but he did message her couple of times. I was depressed, lost, feeling u safe, and wondering I had to do to move on from this as a Christian.

    Forgiveness is hard, but thinking of it as our calling as a Christian makes me feel better about it. Knowing it also helps with healing is good tk know as well.

    I dont know if i want to give him a second chance at building and gaining trust again… how do i decide..?

    • Sunshyne Gray on August 15, 2022 at 8:41 am

      Hi Victoria, I’m sorry you are going through something so difficult. Just to clarify, forgiveness is commanded, reconciliation and trust is not without the proper steps on the part of the offender. Here is an article that might help:
      Always seek God for guidance as well- He is faithful. Praying for wisdom for you.

  11. Olivia on October 24, 2022 at 10:19 am

    What happens if you forgive someone who wronged you, moved past the hurt, but don’t want to rebuild trust or start a new relationship with them? How does someone navigate this situation?

  12. Laura on May 4, 2023 at 9:54 am

    Thank you very much for this article and supporting links. They have been a HUGE help and encouragement to me!!

  13. […] Can you forgive and still not trust? […]

  14. […] Difference Between Trust & Forgiveness […]

  15. Paulette Burtenshaw on July 23, 2023 at 8:30 pm

    Sunshine I thank you for your help in really teaching me about true forgiveness, well between you and God. I have learned in some cases that for my own protection and walk in freedom that at times I must make boundaries for myself. If the forgiven person does not respect my boundaries then I know not to give them my trust. I can forgive them but God also tells us to guard our hearts and minds and I believe God Himself made boundaries in nature and in His Covenant Promises. Anyway that’s my 2 cents. I really am very thankful for your honesty and dedication,

  16. Jordan on January 28, 2024 at 11:43 pm

    My spouse lied to me several times on her whereabouts. She would lie that she is busy at work or she is in one place when actually she is in another place. When learnt by chance that she was lying, she became very aggressive, defensive and threatened to leave. She is a Christian or so she claims. I forgave her but I am unable to trust her any more. She kept lying even after forgiving her and would come home totally intoxicated late at night claiming she was with her work friends.
    I can’t even share a bed with her. This winter, I moved to our spare bedroom bedroom. We have 3 kids and I pay the rent. I don’t want her and I am not interested in her any more other than being the mother of our 3 boys. I forgave her but I cannot trust her. I haven’t had sex for the last 5 months and I can’t stand her touching me. What do I do?

Leave a Comment