Rebuilding Trust After a Deep Hurt

Dr. Donna HartFor Those Giving Help, For Those Seeking Hope6 Comments


Rebuilding trust takes time when someone— a husband or wife, a close friend—has deeply hurt you. Do you fear forgiving the one who hurt you?

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Forgiving a person who has sinned against us means that we will no longer hold the sin against the offender. It does not mean that the relationship returns to where it was before.

Often a husband or wife may fear forgiving their spouse who has committed adultery, thinking that forgiveness means they have to immediately trust their spouse again. Trust will take time to rebuild, and the adulterous spouse will have to live out the consequences of their sin with patient endurance, persistently demonstrating trustworthiness.

God Calls You to Forgive

In the meantime, God calls the innocent spouse to forgive. He knows the spouse is not going to feel like forgiving, but our forgiving another is based on God’s forgiveness of us (Matthew 6:12, 14). God does not wait for us to be trustworthy before He forgives us.

He is aware of the sin that is deep within all of our hearts and knows it would be foolish to entrust Himself to us. He moves toward us in the middle of our guilt and shame offering us forgiveness. In the same way, we can move toward others before we feel safe, before we trust again, and before there is proof of change.

Forgiveness: One Part of Reconciliation

Forgiveness is not the end of the process, but a part of the larger process of reconciliation that aims to restore the broken relationship. If we forgive someone but say we don’t want a relationship anymore, then there is no process underway.

How would you feel if God said, “I forgive you, but I don’t want a relationship with you?”

When we repent of our sin, accept Him as Savior, and ask for forgiveness, God forgives us and makes us His beloved children. We belong to Him as children who owe Him an enormous debt of love. God’s forgiveness leads to relationship—not away from relationship. The forward-looking goal of forgiveness is to have a goodwill attitude toward the offender, to avoid alienation, and make a future relationship with restored community.

The goal in forgiveness is reconciliation, not separation.

When to Delay Reconciliation

We are called by God to forgive those who sin against us and we must be ready and willing to do so, but pursuing reconciliation is complex and not automatic. There are, however, situations and sins that call for a delay in reconciliation or even an intentional separation from one another.

If the offender has not repented or acknowledged their sin, and does not seek forgiveness, we can still grant forgiveness, but reconciliation is not warranted.

It may be wise to delay reconciliation because of exceptional circumstances—such as situations of immediate danger or harm—to bring the offender to true repentance. In certain circumstances, not creating and maintaining separation may facilitate and assist a person’s sin.

Separation can be purposeful and must be done with a desire for God to rescue a loved one from a particular sin such as child abuse, chronic deceit/lying, physical or sexual assault, adultery, drunkenness, persistent verbal and emotional cruelty, a gambling addiction, and things like these. Constructive loving kindness means saying “no” and waiting for genuine change.

When trust is broken, restoration can be a long process determined by changing attitudes and actions of the offender. Words and tears are not enough and will never restore trust. When an offender genuinely repents, there is an acceptance and understanding that rebuilding trust will take time.

Restoration in these situations requires clarity of confession from the offender, authentic repentance, taking responsibility and providing restitution as appropriate.

Joseph Learned to Trust Again

The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis 42–45 gives us a picture of someone who has forgiven his brothers for their severe sins against him. Joseph wisely withholds reconciliation until his brothers have acknowledged their sin and demonstrated true remorse.

Joseph strongly desires to be reunited with his family, but refrains from restoring relationship until they bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). The fruit is seen in changed attitudes, new desires, and self-sacrificing behavior for the benefit of others.

Is your heart willing to move toward another after forgiveness has taken place? Take some time to analyze your heart and the reasons for your actions.

Use the following questions to probe your thinking:

  • Can you think of some ways you have avoided true reconciliation with someone you have been called to forgive? How could you start to pursue true reconciliation with that person today?
  • How do you know you have truly forgiven a person even though reconciliation is delayed?
  • How can intentionally-created distance in that relationship be motivated by a desire to reconcile?
  • Are you willing to be patient and wait on the Lord through whatever time it takes for the person to bear fruit of a changed attitude, desire, and care for another?
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6 Comments on “Rebuilding Trust After a Deep Hurt”

  1. I am struggling to trust after being lied to my fiance said he loved me but yet he was texting other women telling them he loved them and wants a life with them finding this in his phone has been very hard for me I hate the way I feel I don’t know if I can trust him again yet I know in my heart that I love him

    1. Hi Olivia, just reading your comment. I have just been through a similar situation my fiancé and a cancelled wedding. I’m by no means qualified to offer advice but all that has gotten me through is looking to God even when I don’t want to. Simple answer but he will guide you each and every day on what to do.
      If you need someone to talk to am happy to listen. Talking to other people really helped me

    2. Hi Olivia – I am so sorry this happened to you. This is heartbreaking. I think genuine change in your fiance is required before marriage can happen. His actions are only a symptom of an underlying problem i his heart. That problem/insecurity needs to be addressed before marriage in order to avoid a heartbreaking situation. You may ask yourself, do you really love your fiance? If you do really love him, what is the best for him? The best may require that he be alone to sort out and focus on his lying and deceiving multiple women (unfortunately, you are not the only woman who might be heartbroken in this situation) all of which are symptoms of a problem in his heart that he has not turned over to God. He must be willing to go through this. I suggest that he does this first before marriage happens. Blessings to you and may God bless you both as you seek restoration first with God then with each other.

  2. Hi my fiancé for four years have been talking texting FaceTime sending nude pictures of him self an gave more than 50 women’s all over the world his number. He broke so many trust with me and now we go church an his action an attitude or still the same I for gave him but I am still broken in side and he thinks that my trust is supposed to be new just like that . Knowing all these women’s have his number he won’t Change his number. How can I be me again an learn to start building trust with him . I have tried for so long to fix it but I can’t because he thinks everything is supposed to be ok after everything he did . He tells me oh u never really for give me because u can’t trust me!
    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    1. You have obvious reason for concern. You cannot trust without seeing a genuine contrition and repentance. Below are some principles are true of genuinely repentant people. It doesn’t sound like he has grasped this yet, but you shouldn’ t move forward with him if he won’t come to understand and embrace these principles.
      6 Principles for REPENTANCE

      Repentance. This idea behind this word can bring on a cold sweat on a hot summer day.

      It suggests wrongdoing, apologies, forgiveness and. . .change.

      In the New Testament the word repent simply means to turn around. It was a military term that described a soldier marching in one direction and then doing an about-face. Spiritually, it means to change your heart attitude. . .from a heart bent on self-rule (think: Frank Sinatra’s “My Way“) to a heart submitting to Christ’s rule.

      It’s about a heart attitude that confesses (or, agrees with) God and seeks his glory, his honor.
      Repent and Restore

      Genuine repentance is crucial to the success of restoration of a relationship. Without it, the rebuilt relationship will almost certainly crumble with even more devastating results.

      Check out these 6 principles for genuine repentance.
      1: Confess

      Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them in trouble. A house isn’t clean until you open every closet and sweep every corner. People who truly desire to be clean are completely honest about their lives. No more secrets.
      2. Face the Pain

      Repentant people face the pain that their sin caused others. They invite the victims of their sin (anyone hurt by their actions) to express the intensity of emotions that they feel — anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment. Repentant people do not give excuses or shift blame. They made the choice to hurt others, and they must take full responsibility for their behavior.
      3. Ask Forgiveness

      Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt. They realize that they can never completely “pay off” the debt they owe their victims. Repentant people don’t pressure others to say, “I forgive you.” Forgiveness is a journey, and the other person needs time to deal with the hurt before they can forgive. All that penitent people can do is admit their indebtedness and humbly request the undeserved gift of forgiveness.
      4. Remain Accountable

      Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians. They gather a group of friends around themselves who hold them accountable to a plan for clean living. They invite the group to question them about their behaviors. And they follow the group’s recommendations regarding how to avoid temptation.
      5. Accept Their Limitations

      Repentant people accept their limitations. They realize that the consequences of their sin (including the distrust) will last a long time, perhaps the rest of their lives. They understand that they may never enjoy the same freedom that other people enjoy.

      Sex offenders or child molesters, for example, should never be alone with children. Alcoholics must abstain from drinking. Adulterers must put strict limitations on their time with members of the opposite sex. That’s the reality of their situation, and they willingly accept their boundaries.
      6. Faithful to God-given Tasks

      Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them. We serve a merciful God who delights in giving second chances. God offers repentant people a restored relationship with Him and a new plan for life.

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