My father used to say that “trust is not given, it is earned.” This used to drive me and my siblings crazy. On paper it sounded great, but as a kid, who would from time to time get caught in a lie or some indiscretion, it was pure torture. When we did something wrong he would also say “you’ve lost my trust and now you have to earn it back.” I can remember just groaning inside at the thought of the monumental task ahead of me.
To top this off, you couldn’t earn the trust back in a day or two. Pretty words wouldn’t help, no….you’d have to show him over a period of weeks, sometimes months, that your word was good again. Earning that trust back was difficult and required serious commitment. Only when I did the work did I finally enter our father’s good graces again. It certainly felt like forever to repair that trust!
Forgiving someone who wrongs you is an act of grace but it is only the start. Forgiveness means believing someone is truly sorry and daring to believe that you can trust them again. Apologizing to someone means that you are asking for this forgiveness. It also means that you are willing to commit yourself to earning that trust back. Sometimes apologizing is the hardest position to be in. It requires a great deal of patience and understanding to make amends. It also may mean making a personal change.
There is no immediate resolution to a broken trust. If you think that forgiveness and making amends is an immediate process then you are looking for a bandaid not a resolution. It’s not about groveling. I’m also not talking about reminding someone over and over about what they did wrong. Love and resolution does not happen through holding onto bitterness and resentment but commitment will see you through.
This much I know is true – forgiveness is a two person dance and a convoluted one.
Here’s the kicker of it all. You can’t and shouldn’t forgive someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven. Letting them go may be the healthier option. If you don’t, you may be setting yourself and the other person up for failure. There is a degree of personal responsibility in the equation. This is how marriages fail, how friendships fall apart, and how betrayal repeats itself. “I forgive you for being a lying cheating bastard,” after someone tells you that “I cheated on you because you are lazy and ugly,” is just not going to work. I know because I was once in a similar position, where a marriage counselor turned to both my first-husband and I and said “What I am hearing is that you two need to learn how to be apart.”
Did a marriage counselor actually tell us to get divorced? Why….yes she did. And she was right. Together we were not healthy and we eventually let each other go. I wanted to forgive someone who did not want to be forgiven. This has happened in other aspects of my life as well. This dynamic also exists in friendships. When do you stop and assess your personal responsibility in a toxic situation? Are you forgiving a “friend” over and over again, someone who doesn’t truly want to be forgiven? Someone who keeps on hurting you? That’s not forgiveness or grace….that’s self sacrifice.
So yes…trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair but if two people are willing to fight for each other, well….then anything, and I mean anything is possible. May your life be full of people who are willing to fight for you.