The Risky Business of Trusting Each Other

Written by on December 1, 2014 in Emotional Mastery, Self-Awareness


What does it take for you to really trust someone? What if they do something to lose that trust, will you give them the opportunity to re-earn it? Have past betrayals caused you to distrust everyone?

Have you ever lost someone’s trust? How did that make you feel and what lengths were you willing to go to in order to regain their trust?

Some people are able to forgive while many simply mask their wounds, and others wear them on their sleeves. There is only one thing for certain, big or small, at one time or another we all experience disappointment, rejection, betrayal, and unfulfilled expectations. It’s the price we pay for this risky business of trusting each other.

It’s the price we pay for this risky business of trusting each other.

Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s what unites us. The trick is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens. Don’t let them take that from you. ~Sherrilyn Kenyon

Trust is a complex, sensitive issue because it combines our highest hopes and aspirations with our deepest worries and fears. And yet, despite the challenges and potential pitfalls, finding a way to embrace trust may be the single most important ingredient for the development and maintenance of happy, well-functioning relationships.

How Trusting Are You Now?

There is a tendency to think of trust in terms of all or nothing – either we trust someone or we don’t. It’s as though trust were a switch we can turn on or off. But in reality, each of us extends widely varying degrees of trust depending upon whether it’s a personal or professional relationship.

Regardless of the circumstances, underneath it all, there is a core attitude that you have formed about trust that has evolved over the course of your life as a result of your personality, family influences, and experiences growing up, beliefs and values, expectations, and your level of self-awareness and maturity.

If your experiences have caused you to view trust as something to be earned rather than given, then your inclination will naturally be to withhold trust from others until you’re absolutely certain they deserve it. Even then, you may only extend trust grudgingly or in small amounts.

Unfortunately, betrayal happens to everyone at some point in our lives, but for those who already harbor a low propensity for trust, betrayal can be especially devastating.

The reality is that people are complex and come with previous hurts, fears or losses and sometimes they will fail you.

Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record. ~Rick Warren

Learning to Trust

Learning to trust, or to trust again if you have been disappointed, betrayed, or somehow let down by people or circumstances in your life, can be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do, but it is vital for your happiness and well-being

The following steps can help you begin to restore trust:

*Self-blame is a natural tendency so first, you must work to forgive yourself and reinforce confidence in your judgment and decision-making ability.

*As difficult as it may be, to the best of your ability put aside the anger and pain and calmly ask the person why they betrayed your trust. This is critical because the capacity of a relationship to recover from a betrayal has a lot to do with responses. The more open and non-defensive the other person is, the greater the opportunity for healing.

*Talk openly and honestly about the disappointment and pain you experienced, but also, express your desire to trust again. When both parties are open to this outcome, the likelihood of a positive resolution increases significantly.

*Choose to see the lesson(s) that can be learned from the experience.

*Establish and communicate the consequences of future betrayal. If the other person expresses genuine remorse for their actions it can be very tempting to skip this step, but it is extremely important to lay some ground rules to prevent a repeat of the betrayal.

*Be patient and set realistic expectations. The work of recovery from a breach of integrity takes time and effort and can be humbling. The stakes are high, and the benefits from doing the work are enormous.

When Forgiveness is Not an Option

Sometimes a betrayal is so serious or damaging we believe there is no way possible to find forgiveness, but it is vitally important to keep in mind that forgiveness is first and foremost for you, the forgiver.

Admittedly this is a tough notion to swallow for some, and inevitably when I write about trust I hear from at least a few readers who insist that I just don’t understand how it feels to have trust betrayed or I wouldn’t suggest that forgiveness is an option.

Except that I do understand – I know the feeling of betrayal on the deepest level, and I also know what it’s like being on the receiving end of abuse, and I still choose forgiveness for my own sake.

Think for a moment of the stories you’ve read about parents forgiving someone for taking the life of their child, or victims of abuse forgiving their tormentor. That forgiveness didn’t come with a pass for the behavior, but rather an acknowledgment of a deeply flawed human being who they have chosen to forgive in order to begin the healing process for their own lives.

But forgiving someone who has betrayed or deeply hurt you should never be contingent upon the other person once again earning your trust … because the truth is they may never change their ways or even be willing to make amends.

Forgiving and re-establishing trust are not the same.

We are all mistaken sometimes; sometimes we do wrong things, things that have bad consequences. But it does not mean we are evil, or that we cannot be trusted ever afterward. ~Alison Croggon

There is no question that learning to trust again – or perhaps for the first time in a conscious way – can be scary, but the rewards are enormous.

It may help to think of trust as being contagious. When you are able to extend trust, you generate trust; likewise, when you withhold trust you generate distrust.

Your actions will lead either toward a positive cycle of personal growth, energy, and fulfillment or toward a debilitating downward cycle that leads to unhappiness and robs you of all the joy that life has to offer. It’s your choice.

Related reading …
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.


Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Lynne

    I loved reading your post as trust is something I value very much. I despise lies and when trust is lost, it is very hard for me to regain that trust. Thanks for sharing.
    Lynne recently posted…Xcel Performance Executive CoachingMy Profile

  2. Hi Marquita,

    What a wonderful post. I agree completely that trust has to be earned again but also it took me many years to realize that until I forgave and got the pain out of my heart and soul, no amount of trust was going to happen for either of us.

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post.
    Monna Ellithorpe recently posted…Who Is Really At Fault?My Profile

  3. martyherald says:

    I certainly hear you Bobby, but I do think there’s a lot to be said (and a LOT of pain to be avoided) by allowing people to earn your trust. Of course even then there are no guarantees because as humans we are not perfect and are pretty much guaranteed to screw up from time to time – darn it.:-) Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the conversation.

  4. Bobby says:

    Trust is such a delicate thing. For me its non negotiable. I trust first and allow people to show their trustworthiness but if that trust is broken then it is almost impossible for me to trust again. Its the only way I can move on. Otherwise I will hold it and be resentful and who wants to live like that?
    Bobby recently posted…Are You the Next Mark Zuckerberg? Then Canada Wants You: Canada Issuing Startup-Visas to Future Billionaire EntrepreneursMy Profile

  5. martyherald says:

    You are so right about the value of forgiveness Lenie. Life is just too short to drag old hurts around with us – we need to find a way to learn from the experience and move on. The really important thing is learning to not transfer our previous hurts to our interactions with other people. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation!

  6. martyherald says:

    Welcome Doreen and thank you for contributing to the conversation. I’m so glad you enjoyed and found value in the article and advice. 🙂

  7. martyherald says:

    So glad you found value in the article Jacqueline, and of course you’re correct that it is a touchy subject which makes it all the more important to get out into the open and explore. Thank you for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  8. martyherald says:

    So glad you enjoyed the article Lynne and thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. 🙂

  9. martyherald says:

    Yep Noelle, there’s no question that forgiving is one thing and forgetting is quite another. I know many say it’s important to forget and move on, but my take on that is that I don’t believe we should forget … bearing mind there is a BIG difference between remembering and obsessing. My point is each experience you have in life forever changes you in some way – what that means and how it plays out is up to each of us – but each challenge you learn from, each obstacle you overcome makes you stronger and more confident. The key is to learn to take advantage of those experiences to help you along life’s journey to become the person you are meant to be. 🙂

  10. martyherald says:

    Thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation Megan! I’m very happy that you found value in the article; there’s nothing that pleases me more than to learn that something I’ve share here causes readers to explore their thoughts and feelings. 🙂

  11. martyherald says:

    Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment Annleeb. I felt very sad reading about how you undervalue your self worth, but if my article has provided some useful advice and insight then I’m happy to have helped. Having read some of your writing it’s obvious that you are very caring and have a big heart, so I hope that you will look for ways to strengthen your self esteem, because you are an awesome person and deserve all the happiness life has to offer! 🙂

  12. martyherald says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Donna and I know enough of your past to know how far you’ve come and you couldn’t have achieved all that you have without having the ability to forgive and move on. You are very right about how our upbringing affects us – yours taught you to be openly trusting and mine was exactly the opposite so I had to learn to trust pretty much from scratch. Another illustration of how self awareness and the desire to grab all that life has to offer can make such a positive difference. 🙂

  13. martyherald says:

    Love your attitude girl – you are surely one of the most resilient women I know and I count myself fortunate to have you as a friend and peer! Thanks so much Chery, always value your thoughtful comments. 🙂

  14. martyherald says:

    Oh I’m sorry to hear that Jeri and I hope that it all works out the way you want it to. Working through a betrayal is never easy, but hopefully you’ll find some opportunity for growth and resolution. Thank you for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  15. martyherald says:

    I understand what you’re saying Michael. I have always believed in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and yes, sometimes that has backfired on me. I still believe in the power of forgiveness – I’m just much smarter these days about gradually extending trust. The problem with not letting go is it will surely color the quality of future relationships, so it’s worth working on. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation!

  16. martyherald says:

    I’m so happy you enjoyed the article Dave! There’s no question that there are people in the world ready to take advantage given the opportunity, but I truly believe that the good people far outweigh the stinkers. The key is making a habit of taking time to get to know people and gradually extending more trust rather than diving in head first. 🙂

  17. martyherald says:

    Well said Meredith. 🙂 There is no question the risk is there, but so are the rewards and they are so much better! Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  18. martyherald says:

    So glad you enjoyed the article Mark and I do appreciate your kind words. “Sharing” anything of a personal nature does not come naturally for me and the only reason I occasionally provide brief glimpses here and in my books is to let readers know that I write about things I know from firsthand experience. Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation Mark! 🙂

  19. martyherald says:

    Great perspective Arleen! There’s no question that even when we manage to “forgive” the offender it’s difficult not to transfer that concern over future betrayals to other people. Transference is a big issue with romantic relationships for some people – a lover or spouse cheats on them and thereafter anyone who even remotely resembles the offender immediately falls under suspicion even if they’ve never done anything to earn it. As difficult as it is to overcome, it’s the key to finding peace and happiness. Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation!

  20. Arleen

    When someone betrays my trust, It is difficult for me to trust that person in the future. However, I do have the attitude that just because I have been betrayed doesn’t mean I distrust everyone. I can’t say how many times that my husband has said I don’t know how you do it. I have had a lot of major issues with web developers. I feel that just because I had had a problem with one doesn’t mean that they are all like that. It is not fear to me or to the other person to put previous judgements on them.
    Arleen recently posted…How to Stimulate CreativityMy Profile

  21. Mark

    Thanks for sharing such a powerful perspective on forgiveness Marquita!

    BTW, let me first say how incredibly sorry and shocked I am to read that you have personally experienced some form of abusive behavior! It certainly doesn’t come through in any of your writing, in terms of any negative effects.

    On the other hand, perhaps it at least partially explains why and how you are able to delve so deeply into the subjects you cover and offer such unique and well thought out and extremely articulate insights!

    I always leave your posts having gained some previously undiscovered insights and perspective!
    Mark recently posted…Why Do So Many Seemingly Savvy Bloggers Far Too Often Shoot Themselves In The Foot?My Profile

  22. I’ve never thought of the relationship between forgiveness and trust before. Both really are a risk, but also a requirement for living with people in this world. You could go through your whole life not trusting or forgiving, but what a miserable experience!
    Meredith Wouters recently posted…13 Things I’ve Learned Repainting Kitchen CabinetsMy Profile

  23. Dave Cenker

    I really am touched by this article, as much for myself as well as for understanding the feelings, attitudes, and actions of the people around me who struggle with trust issues (both giving and receiving).

    “When you are able to extend trust, you generate trust; likewise when you withhold trust you generate distrust.”

    This is really a profound insight that everyone should consider very carefully. I wholeheartedly agree that extending trust to another human being is so very complex for some people, but if we can all take this one message to heart, and as you say, work towards a positive cycle of personal growth, I have a feeling amazing things will be begin to happen – both in the world around us and the world inside us.

    Thank you Marty, superb post – love it!
    Dave Cenker recently posted…The keyMy Profile

  24. Michael says:

    Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things. It always leaves me feeling vulnerable for the same thing to happen. I’m the type of person that will hold onto the hot potato until it burns a hole in my hand. It’s an extremely unhealthy way of dealing with things.
    Michael recently posted…I shouldn’t laugh so much before bedMy Profile

  25. Jeri

    Timely post as I am in the middle of a betrayal this past month. It may be a situation where I can’t be forgiving, which is really difficult for me because it is better to trust and be loving and giving of others even when they make horrible mistakes. Time will tell how it all goes.
    Jeri recently posted…#ShortStory: The Best American Short StoriesMy Profile

  26. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty, Loved this post my friend! I really think this statement right here did it for me! “It may help to think of trust as being contagious”

    I have always been a very trusting person and yes it has come back to bite me in the bt a few times in my life but this has made me that much stronger for this..

    Thanks for sharing..

    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Imprint Powerful Affirmations Into Your Subconscious/ Mind MovieMy Profile

  27. donna merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    Trust is something that needs to be addressed for everyone. What is my trust level I ask myself. I do believe it varies from how a person was brought up, their experiences and so on. I am a very trusting person, but in the past too trusting lol.

    When someone betrayed my trust, it knocked me down so far, it was so difficult to get back up. But that was a good lesson for me. I had to ask myself that question of what is my trust level. I didn’t want to loose it, because it was like loosing myself. But I learned in that journey.

    When it comes to forgiveness, I find that even the most horrid things I went through, I had to forgive others in order to have peace within myself. I did set boundaries up, but in my heart, I was free and happy.

    Great topic!

    donna merrill recently posted…Learn To Blog The Right WayMy Profile

  28. andleeb

    I simply love
    We are all mistaken sometimes; sometimes we do wrong things, things that have bad consequences. But it does not mean we are evil, or that we cannot be trusted ever afterward. ~Alison Croggon
    This is so true. I have a lot of bad habits; I trust people, trust so quickly and firmly and self blaming. If something wrong happen because of me , I can not forgive my self and self blame will prevail and I will have a lot of depression for almost weeks for a small bad happening.
    All the time my friends and husband convince me to take some time to trust people. This is very important post and I feel very helpful for me. It is giving me a clear idea of how , when and on whom one should trust.

    Thank you for a great post.
    andleeb recently posted…Uncertainty of Life!My Profile

  29. Megan

    Your post about trust is so import to be intentional to think about and is also a challenge because of the deeply personal memories and feelings it often times brings up as we have all been disappointed or betrayed in life. I like that your focus is on restoring trust and the action as opposed to broken trust being an end result. It is also an important distinction that forgiveness and re-establishing trust are not the same thing. Thank you for this food for thought.

  30. This really touched me- i think everyone has been in a situation of betrayal. I can forgive but I never forget. The fear of being betrayed again is a horrible feeling but we have to trust people to some extent!

  31. Marty, Trust is such an important issue and often the most crucial aspect of a long term relationship that is often taken too lightly. Often people betray another’s trust just because an opportunity presented itself. Many of us have grown up with a desire for immediate gratification, wanting what we want and desire right now, regardless of the effect upon others. A person who was brought up well, one who feels loved and loves deeply, would not easily betray another person’s trust. So, if someone does betray your trust, you can rest assured that this person does not have an adequate level of self-love and you can actually feel some compassion for that person. Of course, if you were deeply hurt you need to care for yourself first, heal and in that process make every effort to find a way to forgive so that you are not harboring deep resentments.
    Dr. Erica
    Dr. Erica Goodstone recently posted…Feeling Stuck? Get Moving. The Magic Is In The ActionMy Profile

  32. lynne

    I totally agree, being betrayed is a painful experience and forgiveness is the only cure to it. When we forgive someone it releases us from the bondage of hate and allows us to move forward for a better future. Thanks for sharing. Great Post!
    lynne recently posted…Why Thanksgiving Is My Favorite HolidayMy Profile

  33. Lenie

    I so agree with you that forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving. While I was reading this post I was trying to think where i had previously read this and I’m not sure but I think it was in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I think the thing about forgiving is that is frees you – you can let go off the anger and resentment which drag you down. and Aloha to you.
    Lenie recently posted…Car Emergency Kit – NOT in the Trunk, Please.My Profile

  34. I like your take on trust. It should not be an all or nothing approach, but so often it is. It’s hard to trust someone after they have betrayed you, but as you say, trust can be given in layers, and we don’t have to trust someone COMPLETELY after they have betrayed us, but we can cut them some slack if they was no malintent.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Chocolatour at chocolate eventsMy Profile

  35. This is a very touchy topic for most anyone. We’ve all been betrayed; I suspect we’ve all found ways to get ahead of it or beyond it whether or not that includes forgiveness. Like so many, and you wisely point out, I look first to my lack of judgement. That’s the toughest one to get over! Because if it even looks vaguely familiar to a long ago betrayal, I am mostly angry at me for opening the door again! Yep…it’s a tough topic, but you’ve given some really valuable tools to start trusting again.
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Wisdom and Aging… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

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