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Navigating Relationships

When Trust is Broken

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

I remember what it felt like – as if I couldn’t breathe. The weight of disappointment still haunts I remember what it felt like – as if I couldn’t breathe. The weight of disappointment still haunts me, as it does with so many of us. One lie. One “half” truth. One secret spilled; one secret too far hidden. That was all it took for trust to be broken.

The unraveling happened quickly. The rebuilding, if possible, would take much longer…because broken trust isn’t just about the other person. It’s about ourselves too. How can we begin to trust someone again, when we feel as though we can no longer trust our own judgement? The emotions may be difficult for some to understand, but there is a price to be paid for breaking one of the most sacred bonds between two people. And so, I’ve asked myself the question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another – can I (or we) recover from broken trust?

When Trust is Broken

It’s hard to face being let down. In a way, trust is a gift. You may have heard this popular It’s hard to be let down. In a way, trust is a precious gift that we give. You may have heard this popular expression: trust should be earned, not given. Yet there is always a risk, even if it’s small, when you gift someone your trust. There is no amount of “earning” that is full proof. Trust signals loyalty, honesty, and authenticity. It represents a safe space for vulnerability. It’s at the foundation of strong relationships. But we all know that life has a way of damaging strong bonds and exposing weak ones. When trust is broken, it may not always be a deal breaker, but it’s most certainly a setback.

The Breakdown at the Garden of Eden

Even in the beginning of Earth’s history, broken trust caused its fair share of problems. After God had gifted Adam the garden of Eden, we read in Genesis 2:16-17 about a set of instructions given: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Eve was first to be disobedient to this command, making a decision to trust the serpent over trusting God. Adam soon joined, and their choice sealed their fate.

This story warns us that there is a cost to disobedience. There is also a price to be paid when we trust those we should not. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, their access to the tree of life was permanently removed. Not only were they removed from the garden of Eden, but their sorrow and toil were greatly increased (Genesis 2:16-19). And although Jesus would come to die for our sins thus providing the gift of salvation, the penalties from the decisions of those who came before us can still be felt. This is the nature of trust – it allows us the freedom to make decisions, but it does not remove the consequences when broken.

Trusting in God

When we’ve been hurt, no matter how painful, we must trust God enough to choose forgiveness. Vengeance is God’s, and even when we have been betrayed, God still requires us to forgive the offenders. Now forgiveness does not mean that the hurt you felt has somehow disappeared. People will disappoint us, and we will disappoint those we love and care about. Once we forgive however, we still have a decision to make. Does that person remain in our lives, or do we walk away?

The answer to this question can be a bit complicated. When deciding, it’s important not to confuse mistakes with habits, and habits with mistakes. For those situations that are mistakes, we must be willing to offer others the grace that God has so freely given us. No one is perfect, but hopefully, we are all trying to be a bit better today than we were yesterday.

Nevertheless, for those situations that are habits, it is my recommendation to place much distance between yourself and the other person. If not, the probabilities of you being hurt again are quite high. No matter the decision, there are two steps that are critical for success:

  1. Seek God: Emotions can make choices blurry. When we seek God, however, we can see through the chaos and land in a place of certainty. No matter how difficult, whatever choice we make will provide a sense of peace because we have aligned with the will and wisdom of God.
  2. Commit to a Choice: Once you’ve decided, stand firm in that decision. Matthew 5:37 advises us: But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Waffling helps no one. Moving forward, however, takes a steady commitment that will teach you the power of choice.

We have the right to hold each other accountable for our decisions. What we don’t have, however, is the right to torment others for their actions. No matter our choice, vengeance is God’s. If we find ourselves so consumed with anger that we’re mistreating someone else, we need to walk away.

To the Person Who Broke Someone Else’s Trust

It’s important to understand why you’ve done what you’ve done, and what is your commitment to not doing it again. It’s not good enough to say, “that’s who I am”, when your habits hurt others. It’s also not okay to say that you were silent in an effort to be kind. Inauthenticity labeled as kindness is just weakness in disguise. It takes courage to be truthful, especially when the truth can be hurtful. So if you’re not in a place to be trusted, stop seeking trust from others. Learn to be honest with yourself and heal, so that you can be a light to those whose paths you encounter.

Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts below, and if you’ve enjoyed this devotional, be sure to share it with others.

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