Rebuilding Trust: Is an Apology Enough?
Dr. Rick Petronella
“For if you forgive others their wrongful acts, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their wrongful acts, neither will your Father forgive you”.
Matthew 6: 14-15
When we have been lied to, cheated on, or deceived by someone, trust is broken. The quality of the relationship is damaged and the way we see these people going forward is anything but good. The relationship needs to be repaired. Rebuilding trust with someone is not just a decision to be made; it is a lifestyle change that requires consistent honesty with those who may have hurt us. To rebuild trust, we must take full responsibility for our actions. How we act towards them is up to us.
When we take the time to build a relationship we do so never assuming it will be damaged. When trust is broken it take seconds to destroy it, no matter how many years it took to build.
Depending on the nature of the offense, trust may feel impossible. But trust can, in fact, be rebuilt if both parties are willing to put in the time and work in to it.
Although there is not just one way to restoring trust in a relationship, the steps below serve as a basic outline for reparation.
It will take time before we can accept an apology and move past the offense.
The adage “timing is everything” can make a difference when we consider reengaging with that person. Once you are ready, ask them when a good time to talk would be. Let them know you have something important you would like to discuss. Let them dictate the timing of that discussion so they can give it, and you, their full attention. Tell them how hurt you were by what occurred. Be sincere. Be specific, when possible, regarding what they did to offend you. Communicate that you want to make things right and work through the pain they have caused you. Let them know they broke your trust and you are willing to work hard to regain the relationship.
Hear them out.
Now it’s time to listen. This means being receptive not only to what they say, but by also paying attention to their body language. Be aware that emotions may be heightened. Stay calm and listen. You may feel a need to have your feelings validated, but it may not happen.
Look for the Apology
A genuine apology is worth its weight in gold.
However, in the absence of follow-through, the words become meaningless and future attempts at repair may be rejected. If you accept their apology, it is up to them to demonstrate a pattern of “practiced forgiveness” over time. Go the distance and commit to being your best self: be humble, be kind, be Christ-like while the healing continues in your heart. Ask the Lord to provide you with the kind of love and grace he provides to us in our dark places.
Can Trust Ever Be Restored?
It takes time to rebuild trust. Be patient with the process and with that person.
No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Be kind to yourself. It is normal to experience struggle with forgiveness. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Look at this situation as an opportunity to grow and make your relationship stronger over time. At a time like this many will turn to alcohol or other types of self-destructive behaviors. Don’t do it!
Trust is restored when you value a relationship more than protecting yourself from rejection. Many people are willing to sacrifice honesty and hide behind a lie in a misguided attempt to maintain a relationship. Being dishonest can have devastating consequences and ruin newly built trust in moments.
Work to establish a healed relationship built on honesty and integrity. Seek to live a transparent life without deception or secrets. Doing this will rapidly build trust and security in your relationships.
Create New Trust
Reestablishing the trust depends upon how the offender shows remorse, expresses empathy, and makes major changes in attitudes and behaviors. These changes, when displayed consistently, will create an atmosphere of hope, wherein you can begin to forgive and trust again.
Do you really want healing? First, we must learn how to forgive.
Quiz: How Well Do You Cope with Disappointment?
Take this quiz to see how well you take care of yourself after a disappointment by answering “true” or “false”.
1. I recognize that disappointment is a part of life. When I experience a disappointment, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or that I deserved it.
2. When I have suffered a disappointment, I let myself have my feelings. I realize that when you give feelings the time and attention they need and deserve, they tend to fade on their own.
3. With a therapist or in another safe setting, I work through other feelings that disappointment brings to the surface. These feelings often include shock, hurt and anger.
4. While the feelings of disappointment are fresh, I avoid any conclusions about my behavior or role in the situation. Self-analysis has its place, but in the early stage it’s more likely to be destructive self-recrimination.
5. I take steps to prevent disappointment from turning into depression or bitterness. These include eating healthfully, getting plenty of sleep, exercising and seeking support from family, friends and my therapist.
6. I don’t make major life decisions until my strong feelings subside and I begin to feel some enthusiasm or hope again.
7. If I am disappointed by a person, I don’t reflexively end the relationship. When I feel more centered, and if the situation is safe, I enter into a dialogue with the person.
8. When the intensity of the feeling has faded, I ask myself if there’s anything that I can salvage or learn from the situation.
Disappointment doesn’t have to stop you from getting what you want in life. If you answered false to several of these, you may want to explore ways to better cope with disappointment. Please don’t hesitate to set up an appointment to explore this with one of our counselors.