The Difference Between Trust and Forgiveness
But a little over a year ago, just after our marriage started to stabilize, that is, when we got to the point that we weren’t fighting every four hours, Erin shared with me something that she experienced just after the affair.
She was having an honest conversation with God and she told Him that she didn’t trust me and worried that she would never be able to trust me. Then she said that she felt God impress on her that while she may not be able to trust me, she could trust Him.
*Important Note* — I thought I knew the answer to the question I was about to ask her at this point so I went for it.
I said, “But you trust me now, right?”
Without hesitation, she responded.
“Of course I don’t trust you yet!”
I was shocked at her direct and prompt response and to be honest, it really ticked me off.
Thankfully, we had already started to “fight fair” so we were able to successfully finish our discussion.
The end result was a complete paradigm shift for me on this topic of trust.
You see, until that conversation, I seriously thought that forgiveness also meant trust.
BOY WAS I WRONG!
But I suspect that my distorted thinking around forgiveness and trust came from the same place yours did —
This seems to be something that the (Christian) Church either teaches intentionally or they just miss what the Bible actually teaches about it.
What we typically hear is the classic —
Forgive and Forget
That is one of those phrases that I call “Bumper Sticker Christianity”. It sounds really good but is it actually Biblical?
No, it isn’t.
Sure, there are number of verses instructing us (Christians) to forgive one another but I can’t find any verses that command us to “forget” when someone has wronged us.
I can’t find those verses because they aren’t in the Bible.
Now, God can and does forget our sin when we repent. How? I don’t know, He is God, we are humans.
“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer 31:34).
When it comes to marriage we are commanded to do things like: honor, respect and love our spouses but trust isn’t on the list.
In fact, the ONLY person we are told to trust, is Jesus. (Prov. 3:5-6)
But because we often think we are supposed to forgive and immediately forget when someone wrongs us, there comes this expectation that forgiveness also means restored trust.
Let me be clear, forgiving someone who has wronged you does not necessarily mean that trust has been restored.
Now, we have established that we are not told to trust but as Christians, we are told to forgive.
The word “Forgiveness” is mentioned in the NIV translation 14 times. Once in the Old Testament and thirteen times in the New Testament.
Forgiveness, as a concept, is mentioned more often. For example the word “Forgive” shows up 42 times in the Old and 33 times in the New Testament. The word “Forgiven” shows up 17 times in the Old and 28 times in the New Testament. And finally, the word “Forgiving” appears 6 times in the Old and only one time in the New Testament.
Why should Christians forgive?
Well, there are several reasons but the two most compelling reasons are:
1. Because He (God) has forgiven us:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph 4:32)
2. Because we can’t be forgiven if we aren’t able to forgive:
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt 6:15)
Now for those of you that are not Christians or are in an otherwise weird place with God, let’s talk about some of the non-spiritual reasons to forgive someone who has wronged you.
First, let’s establish that choosing NOT to forgive someone long-term causes bitterness and bitterness tends to go on and on which impacts you — emotionally, spiritually and physically!
Nelson Mandela said —
Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
With that in mind, here are 3 ways choosing not to forgive someone (bitterness) may affect you:
- Sleep — Holding on to bitterness may prevent you from sleeping well.
- Digestion — Bitterness may change the way your body processes food.
- Blood Pressure — When we are constantly ready to fight someone, the increase in blood pressure may eventually take a toll on the heart and other parts of our body.
Now that we have established the importance of forgiveness, let’s shift our focus to trust.
Forgiveness and trust are mutually exclusive.
Granting someone forgiveness is for YOU but a commitment to trust is for THEM.
Forgiveness is granted, trust is earned.
While forgiveness should be granted instantly, trust may take more time. Depending on the situation, it may take years to reestablish trust. In some case, trust may never be restored.
And that is ok!
In all relationships, trust is restored by a constant and sincere effort by the offender to do that right things to and for the offended.
Trust is rebuilt by making constant deposits, big and small, in the other person’s emotional bank account.
Trust is also restored when the offender becomes accountable for not only his past behavior but his present and future actions as well.
Accountability goes a long towards rebuilding trust.
For me, I have accepted the fact that I lost every ounce of Erin’s trust by choosing to have an affair.
She has forgiven me but the trust has not been restored.
But I am committed to working until the day I die to earn her trust again.
If you have been hurt by someone and have chosen not to forgive them —
- Who are you harboring bitterness against?
- What is stopping you from letting go?
You can forgive them but you don’t have to trust them.
If you have been the offender —
- What are you DOING to regain trust in that relationship?
- What are you WILLING to do to regain their trust?
If you don’t know what to do, then ask them for direction and be willing to do whatever it takes.