Restoring Broken Trust
By Greg Sanders
One of the hardest things to regain in this life is trust.
People can recover from bankruptcy in seven years. Your speeding tickets roll off your record in 3 years. However, when trust is broken it can take decades to regain. Regretfully, even a lifetime is not enough for some people to regain trust. Many times trust is not restored because the necessary steps to regain trust are not taken. Today I want to talk to you about how you can restore trust with people. There are times in our lives when we lose peoples trust. I am convinced that trust can be restored. Whether the trust is broken with a spouse, a child, a friend or even an organization you lead.
First I want to ask you to list in your mind the area’s where trust is most often broken or maybe ways you have been disappointed with broken trust. Things that immediately come to my mind are things like the misappropriated funds, illicit affairs, Drug use or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or betrayal and deceit.
All of these and others are ways we can break people’s trust and ways people have lost our trust in them. I am not convinced that God desires us to live our lives being untrustworthy or to not have a way to reestablish trust with people who have blown it. I hope I am right because I know we have all blown it at one time or another.
How can we restore trust once it has been broken?
- Realize there is a difference between forgiveness and restoration.
I am so thankful that Jesus forgives us immediately when we ask. I am so thankful we do not have to work up enough good works to gain His grace. He forgives us freely and immediately the moment we ask. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The moment we call on him our sins are forgiven and removed from our lives. Psalm 103:12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
I am so thankful for this immediate cleansing reality. However, my right standing with God does not immediately make things right with people. The people my sin has injured are still injured. The splash my selfishness made is still causing ripples in other peoples life. The wounds of broken trust between them and me are not made whole just because God forgives me or even if they forgive me. There is a difference between forgiveness and restoration. For example, think of it this way. What if I walk by your car, take our my key and intentionally put a huge scratch down your car because I was offended by your LSU license plate. You can forgive me immediately, however the scar of the incident will be there until someone fixes the scratch. You are going to always watch when you see me take out my car keys out around your car because you know what I have done in the past. However, If i ask for forgiveness and then pay to have your car repainted, you actually sense the sincerity of my apology.
Business guru Steven Covey says it like this “you cannot talk your way out of something you acted your way into.” He is saying that actions are required for restoration to really be granted. Jesus laid out this model when he said in Matthew 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Seeking forgiveness is the first step we must take but not the only step if restoration is our desire.
- New direction is the litmus test of desire for restoration to occur.
Back to my keying your car illustration. If I keep on keying your car day after day then you are going to doubt my sincerity regarding desiring forgiveness and restoration. If I keep keying your car day after day you will soon discover I am actually asking for permission to do wrong to you, not repenting from my sin against you.
Acts 3:9 gives us some very important insight about restoration requiring a new direction. Scripture says “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,” Notice the directional words “turn back.” This is a 180% change of direction. I once was going south and now I am going north. My direction is evidence of a change in destination, motivation and operation. There can be no restoration until my direction has changed.
Many people desire for restoration while they continue to do more harm, more injury and continue in the same direction. Some even become bitter when restoration is not granted to them and accuse the one sinned against as being unforgiving. Remember, forgiveness and restoration are two separate components. I can forgive someone without trusting them again. As a matter of fact, let me go on record as saying you should not trust someone until there has been a change of direction in their life no matter how many times they apologize. New direction is the litmus test for restoration to occur.
This is not an expectation of perfection. This is not punishment of someone for their past actions. This is accountability for their current direction. Too many people have invited cycles of destruction in their lives by not demanding a change of direction before granting restoration. Restoration is the goal of all Biblical discipline but if you skip a step you are sabotaging God’s plan. When Jesus was giving grace during His earthly ministry He always demanded a change of direction. One of the most grace giving moments to be personally happens when the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus. Jesus said clearly that He was not going to condemn her for her sin but he also so told her to “Go and sin no more.” You see two components of grace as work. The covering of our past sin but also the demand of a new direction. Titus 2:10 reminds us that grace always teaches us to say NO, not continue in our sin.
- Realize there will always be sensitivity around the area of broken trust.
If you mishandled money, there may always be a desire by the organization or spouse to have transparency in that area of your life. If you have had an affair, then your spouse may always demand pass codes to your phone or require information of your activity when you are apart. Do not see these requests as a sign of distrust. Instead, see these as an opportunity to gain trust and restore broken parts of your past. Be willing to be accountable if you want restoration. The best definition of accountability I have ever heard was this: “Accountability is the willingness to provide necessary information before it is required.” So if you are trying to restore trust, don’t wait for someone to ask your whereabouts. Give that information before it can be asked. Make it part of your lifestyle to give the needed information before you are asked. You will be amazed how transformative this action alone will be in restoring broken trust.
- Be willing to allow trust to be restored over time.
Many of us wrongly think that since I broke trust in a moment then it can be restored in a moment. This is not the case. Often we think of the 364 days a year we did the right thing when those we sinned against just remember that one day of the year we did wrong. They may live their life wondering is this that one day where my trust is going to be broken again. It may take days or even years of walking in the new direction for trust to be completely restored. Just remember, each day you walk in the right direction you are one day closer to your relationship to be restored. Trust can be restored but it is the one who was sinned against who determines when the restoration happens. The depth of the sin will most likely play a huge part in the speed of the process but don’t give up. Restoration is worth it. Trust is like air to a relationship, without it we suffocate. Keep doing whatever it takes to filter trust it into your relationships.