Trust is a fragile thing. Once it’s broken, it’s not an easy task to put the pieces back together. But it can be done. I believe it should be done. And the stories that come back from the place of distrust to rediscover depth of relationship again are some of my favorites.
Nothing speaks so clearly of God’s heart towards us as one hand reaching out in mercy to help another walk the road of redemption.
If you’re on the side of having broken the trust of someone you love, I have to warn you that the hand helping you along that path may not be the person you've hurt. Depending on how deep the wound is, it can be very difficult for that person to be what you need as you find forgiveness and healing. But that doesn’t mean hope is lost or that you should walk this road alone.
Let me give you 10 ways to rebuild after doing something that has broken trust:
1. Embrace humility and ask for their forgiveness
You're probably feeling the weight of your actions. The pain of damaging the relationship is heavy and guilt is eating you up inside. Everywhere you look, you’re reminded of the mistake you made. And it’s easy to assume the other person can read that in your expression, hear it in your voice, or see how sorry you are.
They need you to verbalize it. If you have to write it out, then do it. But then read it out loud to them. Our words are powerful and an apology can go a long way to rebuilding what’s been broken.
2. Give them space to heal while you focus on yourself
Assuming things can immediately go back to normal is a mistake. Eventually, the trust between you might be restored but it takes time for that to happen.
The best thing you can do is back up a little and focus on what needs to happen in your life so that you don’t repeat the same offense again.
This is where someone else might need to come alongside you and help you move towards freedom, healing, and strength in your life.
3. Show the other person you’re serious about the relationship through continual investment
This is going to look different in every situation and every relationship. You have to be able to discern what comes across as patronizing and what communicates care. If you’re not sure, ask.
It might look something like, “Can I ask how you’re doing? Or can I tell you what steps I’m taking to show you I’m serious about changing?”
They might not be ready for that. If they’re not, pray for them every day and set a time to check back in to find out if they are ready and/or willing to interact with you.
4. Confide in someone that can help you move forward
You need someone to help you untangle how you got to where you are and how to navigate the road forward.
Make sure it’s someone you are willing to be completely honest with. You’re going to need to trust them enough to let them speak truth into your life and help expose the lies that led you to where you’re at.
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
We go to God for forgiveness but we go to each other for healing. While it’s scary to admit what’s actually going on in your life, letting a trusted person in is going to help take the burden off your shoulders and enable you to find freedom.
5. Focus on what TO DO instead of what NOT TO DO
The fastest way to step back on the merry-go-round and repeat the same mistakes is to just “try harder.” If you don’t want to keep hurting the people you love, you’re going to have to cut off the habits that led to losing their trust and build new habits that will help them feel safe to put their trust in you again.
If you’re not sure what those new habits should be, ask someone who has good track history in their relationships. Spend some time with them, notice how they interact with the people around them, ask questions about what they’re doing behind the scene that promotes trust.
6. Be patient with yourself and the rebuilding process
You know what I love about snow? A million tiny flakes cover the world as we know it and transform the landscape into something entirely new. On their own, those small little ice crystals don’t have anywhere close to that kind of power. But together, they do.
Every little thing matters.
If you’re a Christ follower, then you believe it’s not your own strength but God’s that leads you forward in redemption. It’s His power in you that transforms your thoughts, your words, your beliefs, and your actions. All of it might seem like small things on their own, but together, they are making the landscape of your life brand new.
7. Put your heart on the line
If you broke someone’s trust, it's likely they're going to put up some walls to protect their heart. They will be a little slower in being vulnerable, more cautious in taking you at your word, wary to believe you aren’t going to hurt them again.
If there’s any hope left of restoration, you’re going to have to be the one to take the lead in being vulnerable. Don’t demand it in return. Just offer them an inside look at what’s going on inside of you, if they want it.
8. Invite someone to be the intermediary for you
Emotions can run high when you’re doing damage control on your hearts. Having someone step into a role of helping you understand each other can ease the tension and help you continue rebuilding rather than taking one step forward only to take two steps back.
Make sure it’s someone you both trust and someone who can be unbiased in the situation. (Side note: be honest with them. They can’t actually help you if they don’t know what they’re dealing with.)
9. Don’t overshare but don’t hide either
Details can just make things worse. Consider what will alleviate fear and what will feed it. That doesn’t mean you should lie. Anything you’re not honest about will only come back to haunt you.
Give the other person the opportunity to ask whatever they want after setting the foundation that you don’t want to inflict any more pain than you already have.
Make a commitment that from here on out, you’re not going to keep secrets or hide. It’s going to save you a world of hurt.
10. Realize that the relationship might not ever be the same
God can take broken pieces and put them back together. But you can’t control whether or not the other person is going to be willing to walk that road with you. All you can do is let God do that with your own heart and life.
Even a restored relationship is going to look different afterward than it did before. I believe it can become even stronger, but it won’t be exactly the same.
Know that whatever you’ve done, God’s love can and will reach beyond it to bring you back home again. Hope is never lost with Him. And even if the relationship you want to see restored doesn’t experience that kind of rebirth, God is not limited in His ability to lead you into healing and wholeness.
This Sunday, we start a brand new sermon series entitled, The Comeback. We'll be looking at stories of redemption that came back from seemingly impossible situations by the grace of God. And we believe it's going to stir your faith to believe that nothing is beyond God's ability to redeem it.