[serialposts]Now, where do we go from here? You’ve done the hard work of forgiving a person who wounded you. You’ve worked towards peace while promoting reconciliation, which is forgiveness between two people. Now you make a choice to release the relationship, or move forward building a new foundation of trust. It is not easy.
It is difficult to walk back into a relationship that had been discarded as worthless, asking God to heal the broken places and build a structure of trust founded on Him. To be that vulnerable with another human being when you have been wrong OR wronged OR both… that takes God’s courage and strength. That takes a humble heart. That takes trust…
When my friend who I had harmed extended forgiveness to me she also offered the opportunity for a relationship beyond reconciliation: whatever you want or do not want, building new or walking away, involved in each other’s lives or not. She offered this beyond the forgiveness. If I had at any time shown myself untrustworthy and up to the old antics of: judging, gossip, lies, half-truths and more; she would have had good reason NOT to trust me. I would prove through my actions that I have not changed.
“You need to clearly communicate that, while you have forgiven her, you do not trust her yet, for she has not proven herself trustworthy. There has not been enough time to see if she really is going to change.” (Cloud and Townsend)
I am convinced one of the key aspects of trust in the midst of reconciliation is genuine repentance. Moving forward in a relationship, building trust is dependent upon a heart of contrition. If you are only speaking the things you think I need to hear so that I will forgive you and we can resume interacting the way we always have, then you are not interested in changing. You just want the conflict over so you can have your own way and get over the messy stuff.
“True repentance is much more than saying ‘I’m sorry’; it is changing direction.” (Cloud and Townsend)
The gospel of Matthew says: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” The fruit of genuine repentance is humility and the ability to admit failure, that you have been wrong. If you have a desire to know if a person is worthy of trust then look for the fruit of repentance. There you will find a heart in desire of change. If a relationship has been fractured you can not have trust without proving that you can be trusted.
So what do you do next? First, release the anger, shame and guilt that can bind you. Forgiveness is always the first step. Learn to allow the guilt and blame that others throw at you to be their issues, not yours. Do not take on what God never intends for you to carry: manipulation, guilt, rage, and more. Start with you by developing good boundaries. If a relationship is filled with abuse, gossip, lies, life-sucking and/or the continual cycling of these types of overwhelming negativity then consider what it means to step back. Forgive. Promote peace and reconciliation where you can. You have to set some clear boundaries for yourself and for the relationship so that you do not fall headlong back into the same old patterns.
“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” (1 John 1:5-10 NLT)
What have you learned about forgiveness, reconciliation and trust?