Can Trust Be Rebuilt?
What if trust has been violated? Can it be rebuilt? Yes, it can. The rebuilding will take these four things:
1. Genuine repentance by the one who broke trust. This means honestly recognizing that what they did was wrong, and choosing not to do it again. If a man is unfaithful to his wife, or a woman is unfaithful to her husband, and the unfaithful one is offering excuses for their behavior, they have not yet taken responsibility for it. A person has genuinely repented when they can admit that what they did was wrong, without offering an excuse or trying to blame someone else.
2. Forgiveness from the one whose trust was broken. Forgiveness is not the same as trust, but you will have to forgive before you can begin to rebuild trust. Forgiveness is a choice to let go of the anger, bitterness, and resentment you feel. Christians are commanded to forgive. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) Because many things can trigger our feelings, you may find that you have to let go of your bitter feelings more than once. As you choose to let go of bitter feelings, the grip they have on you will grow weaker.
3. An acceptance of greater scrutiny of the one who broke trust. In a healthy, well-established relationship you wouldn’t expect a lot of scrutiny. Someone who has recently been unfaithful, though, should expect and accept more questions and checking of your truthfulness. This is part of the rebuilding process. If you take offense at those extra questions, you have not really taken responsibility for what you have done. If your heart has genuinely changed, other people can only see your changed heart by your changed behavior. This will take some time, so give them the time to see the change. Let them look as closely as they need to without complaining that you aren’t being trusted.
4. A willingness of the injured one to trust again. People do change. You are stuck in the past if you assume that a person who hurt you before will definitely hurt you again. You cannot have trust if you don’t give it the opportunity to be rebuilt. If you keep returning to the pain of the past, you cannot escape it. You will also be stuck in the past if you connect minor offenses in the present (He left his dirty socks on the bedroom floor) with major offenses of the past (He cheated on me).
Give it time. Genuine trust will not be rebuilt overnight, but it can be rebuilt. A couple with rebuilt trust may even find that they have a depth in their relationship that they never had before.