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.
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 evolve 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.
That said 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.
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About 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“.