Have you ever been betrayed by someone? It’s a deeply painful experience. Maybe you’ve been blindsided by one major betrayal of trust. Or maybe your trust has been broken over and over again in small ways over a period of time until you finally realize it’s been completely worn out. So how do you start over?
When the offender is your son or daughter, it carries a special kind of hurt. Your relationship may seem beyond repair, but remember that God is still at work.
What to do when your trust is broken
Where do you start the process of rebuilding your trust in someone? Are you wasting your time to even try? How can you ever learn to trust someone after they have offended and hurt you? These are some steps you can take in learning to trust someone again.
- Forgive yourself. You may not blame yourself at first, but at some point in dissecting what went wrong, you will start asking the “what-if-I” questions. What if I’d said no sooner? What if I hadn’t cut him off when he was talking that time? What if I was too strict, or not strict enough? If you know, truthfully, what your mistakes were, own them. Then put them where they belong: in the past. And because they’re in the past you can’t undo them, so let them go.
- Forgive the one who hurt you. The most important thing to understand is that forgiveness, like love, is an action–not a feeling. God tells us to forgive others, just as we ourselves have been forgiven by Him. It’s a tough thing to do when you’re hurting and angry, but it must be done for your own spiritual health. Bitterness only hurts you.
- Establish some boundaries. If your adult kid has been a prodigal or a rebel; or has manipulated you in the past, you should set limits for your interaction with them. By that, I mean that you can establish how much involvement you will have in each other’s lives. Remember, you are dealing with an adult.
- Don’t bring up old hurts or arguments. Isn’t the definition of “crazy” doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? If you continue to remind them of how they hurt you, you’re not moving forward.
- Don’t expect them to be perfect. They will probably disappoint you or hurt your feelings again. It’s not realistic to expect anyone to be perfect. It is realistic to expect to work on your relationship together.
- Don’t try to “catch” them violating your trust. If something seems wrong, sit down and have an open conversation with them. Suspiciousness and accusations will only make the other person defensive, and you’ll find yourself back to square one again.
What to do if you break someone else’s trust
Recognizing that you have deeply hurt someone requires personal insight. This means that you will have to look closely at your behavior and resolve to change. This process could require professional help from a counselor. Here are the steps you should be willing to take to restore the relationship.
- Admit what you’ve done. Be truthful and not defensive. Don’t try to shift any part of the blame to anyone else.
- Listen to them without interrupting. The offended person has the right to tell you exactly what you have done to offend and hurt them. You have the obligation to hear them out.
- Apologize sincerely. When you say “I’m sorry”, your next word should not be “but”. Do not gloss over what you’ve done. Instead, be direct in your apology, and ask what you can do to make things better.
- Examine your own heart. What motivated you to behave in the way that you did? Be honest with yourself about yourself. How can you go about correcting any wrong motives you may have if you won’t admit them in your heart?
- Ask for forgiveness; don’t demand it. Although you owe them an apology, the other person will probably not forgive you easily. Even if they do forgive you, they will need time and proof in order to trust you again.
- Your actions should match your words. Don’t make empty promises to change. Show integrity and consistency between what you say and what you do. Be transparent. Let them question you and don’t get offended by that.
- Respect the boundaries the other person sets. Even if they are your family, they will need to set some ground rules for their relationship with you. You have damaged the relationship; they need to find the right foundation for rebuilding your relationship.
When broken trust shouldn’t be fixed
Should we always allow people access to our lives even when they hurt us again and again? Of course not. We should not put ourselves at emotional or physical risk just to show the world how forgiving we are. I can forgive someone who hurts me, but I don’t have to allow them to keep hurting me.
In her book, In His Image, author Jen Wilkin puts it this way, “When our offender persists in sinning against us, we are wise to put boundaries in place. Doing so is itself an act of mercy toward the offender. By limiting his opportunity to sin against us, we spare him further guilt before God. Mercy never requires submission to abuse, whether spiritual, verbal, emotional, or physical.”
When you are uncertain about trusting someone, ask yourself some simple questions:
- Do I need to trust this person? In other words, how important is trust in this interaction?
- If I trust them, is there a risk? What or how much do I have to lose?
- Am I better or worse off without this relationship?
- Is this person showing me I can trust them or just saying that I can trust them?
Asking and answering these questions can give you peace of mind even in the simple interactions of everyday life.
Rebuilding a relationship of trust is not easy to do. I’ve been working on it with my son for about five years. We love and trust each other now, but we both know that we could slip up and return to our old patterns of behavior if we’re not careful. I praise God for the man he is now, but we both regret our past mistakes and the time we wasted. We hope to spend the rest of our lives making up for that time and rejoicing in the love that survived it all.
God Has the Final Word
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. — Galatians 6:1
Grace is real,
Judy, the Default Mom