The Difference Between Forgiveness and Trust

Most of us want to forgive. We don’t want to hold a grudge. We don’t want to be bitter. We don’t want our lives to be consumed with resentment. But more than wanting to forgive, we don’t want to be hurt again.

There is this natural belief that if we forgive, then we are not only saying what that person did was okay, we are being vulnerable enough to allow them to hurt us again.

Resentment becomes our only defense mechanism to protect our heart. I think many of us live with resentment and bitterness not because we want to, but because we’ve confused forgiveness with trust.

Forgiveness, according to Scripture should be offered unconditionally. In fact, if there are conditions, then it isn’t forgiveness. But trust has to be earned.

If you have been hurt; betrayed; abused; cheated on; lied to then it is easy to confuse these two things. In fact, so many people that we talk to often feel like they haven’t fully forgiven because their trust hasn’t been restored.

Forgiveness is a process, but trust is a prized possession. Once your trust has been broken, it becomes even more valuable.

As someone who has broken ultimate trust in my marriage can I (Justin) encourage you? Offer forgiveness freely; offer trust slowly.

Healing doesn’t come all at once. When you’ve been hurt, lied to or betrayed your heart is in a vulnerable state. What you want most is what you used to have.

What you long for is life before the porn; before the sexting; before the lie; before the cheating; before the Facebook relationship. What you are tempted to do is to equate forgiveness with trust…and when you do that you short-circuit your healing and the one whose broken your trust’s restoration.

If you desire the relationship to be restored, begin to communicate things that will build your trust. Give the person who’s hurt you an opportunity to earn your trust. Don’t hold them hostage to your suspicions…communicate with them what you desire from them to earn trust. What you shouldn’t be is fearful or paranoid…rather wise and discerning.

If you have broken trust in a relationship, it is so easy for you as well to confuse forgiveness with trust. Your feeling is “If you have really forgiven me, then we wouldn’t be having these conversations.” Ask yourself this question, “Has my spouse (friend, sister, daughter) not forgiven me, or do they not trust me?” When you confuse forgiveness with trust you begin to think that you can never do enough to be forgiven.

My guess is that it is much easier for the person you’ve hurt to forgive you than it is to trust you. They love you and want to forgive you, they are just fearful of being hurt again. Humility on your part will go a long way. Pay the price. Seek to do the little things that will earn trust.

The currency of any relationship is trust. Maybe today your relationship seems bankrupt because you’ve confused trust with forgiveness.

As we forgive, we free ourselves from bitterness. As we trust, we experience the process of restoration.

7 Responses to The Difference Between Forgiveness and Trust

  1. Jen

    Thank you so much on your article of forgiveness and trust. It has been very helpful lately in understanding my feelings and why I was choosing resentment. God bless!!

  2. Dickson

    You have bless my heart today,l belong to a church who do not know the difference between Trust and Forgiveness.

  3. Jeremy

    Very hard for me to forgive my ex-wife. I struggle with wanting her to pay or see some regret and sorrow on her part. I feel as though I can’t/won’t forgive until that happens.

  4. Very well said. In my personal experience, when I discovered the difference between trust and forgiveness, not only was my marriage able to truly begin restoration, but I was able to grow as well.

  5. Lisa

    Very pertinent to more than one family relationship. I do often feel as if I have not fully forgiven because there is a lack of trust. Glad to get some perspective on those thoughts and feelings.

  6. Angie Grigaliunas

    So true and insightful. Thank you!