(Sorry for the lateness of the hour! FATIGUE insisted that my finger keep turning off that alarm. It happens occasionally. Please forgive me!)
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ (Luke 19: 17)
Yesterday we discussed how it takes time to build and earn trust, but trust can be devastated in a minute. But what happens after major destructive choice(s) come to light, and trust has been decimated? Can trust ever be rebuilt? Maybe, if two people are willing to be patient and work at it over time.
So how do you do that?
1. Proximity. In order to rebuild trust, you have to begin to have some contact with the offending individual. You won’t be able to do that in a vacuum. However, interact wisely and with boundaries. Trust must be re-earned, and its “privileges” should not be provided indiscriminately. If the person is still doing the same thing over and over again, back away further. It may be necessary to completely remove yourself at some point and in some cases. However, if you believe the relationship has a reasonable chance, the rebuilding of trust requires observation and wise contact.
2. Consistently positive and reliable experiences. If you are the person who is trying to re-establish your trustworthiness in another person’s eyes, you must work hard to be consistent in your words and behaviors. You don’t have much room for error here because a “violation” sets the rebuilding process back significantly. And in the eyes of a hurt person, what seems like a small setback can surely look like a big one. Recovery and reconnection take time. Don’t get resentful or impatient about it. Just be sure your heart is right, your thoughts are on track, and your actions speak loudly about your desire to change.
3. Open communications. Unfortunately and fortunately, healing requires talking about it. You can’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. If the incident has been a “serious” one, one conversation probably won’t do it However, the more constructive, honest, and action-oriented those conversations, the shorter the “rehashing” time should be. Greater accountability will be a part of the solution, though “policing” is a role that is frustrating for all. The open communications must become the new norm – not just about the “offense” but about the interactions of life. Refer to Number 1 – consistently positive and reliable experiences – for the two-way standard for the communication process. And that brings us to the final principle for rebuilding trust.
4. Dual responsibility. We’ve been talking about the hard work of positive consistency and open communications over time on the part of the individual who is trying to re-earn trust. However, the offended person must also do some hard work. This means tolerating some discomfort and refraining from assuming that cop role. It involves “dealing with your own stuff,” maybe injuries from your past that are exaggerating your reactions today. It includes keeping your own communications honest but respectful, though you feel you’ve been disrespected. And yes, it involves forgiveness and ultimately the willingness to take some risks. Healing takes two.
I like the graphic I posted yesterday, and I think it sums up the process we’ve been exploring.
Lord, I want to be a trustworthy person, but sometimes I make mistakes. Help me to be honest with those I’ve offended and show that I am genuinely sorry by changing my actions over time. When someone hurts me, teach me to engage in a healing process, forgive as You forgave me, give up to You any inclinations to get even, and refuse to allow the actions of others to change me into a person I’m not. I also want to be wise and honor myself enough not to allow someone to abuse me over and over again. As I trust You, O God, I will be forgiving, trustworthy, and wise.