Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Forgiveness vs Trust

Both forgiveness and trust are crucial in healthy relationships, but the two are often confused.  This confusion prevents people from forgiving and moving on.

Hopefully this article can bring a little clarity.  I want you to be a forgiving person.  But I also want you to be wise in your relationship decisions.  You can do both!

What is forgiveness?  Here are just a few ideas from the Scriptures:

Forgiveness is an essential component of the Christian life.  We forgive because God commands it and because He has forgiven us.

. . . and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

–the model prayer, Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness is letting go of anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge.  It is honestly wishing God’s blessings upon those who have wronged you:

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
Instead,
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”  

–Romans 12:19-20

Forgiveness is trusting in the sovereignty of God—believing that His purpose will be fulfilled in your life, regardless of what others have done to you.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
–Genesis 50:20 (Joseph’s words to his brothers who sold him into slavery).

Forgiveness, however, is not the same thing as trust. 

Jesus commanded us to forgive everyone, but he didn’t command us to trust everyone.  In fact, Jesus himself didn’t trust everyone. Consider this passage from John’s Gospel:

Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.  But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.  No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

–John 2:23-25

Jesus was the most forgiving, loving man who ever lived.  But he knew he could not trust all people—he understood human nature.

Let’s put all of this together:  Forgiveness should be freely extended to all, but your trust must be earned.  Do you see the difference?

In other words, God commands me to forgive those who have harmed me.  I must not seek revenge—I must let go of the hurt and anger.  But God does not command me to immediately trust those who have harmed me.

This is where many people get confused.  They believe that in order to forgive, they must completely trust the one who sinned against them (as if nothing happened).   This is simply not true.

I’ll give you an extreme example.  Suppose a young woman has an abusive boyfriend.  I would advise her to forgive the abuse, but also to end the relationship and avoid the abuser.  Continuing the relationship (and the abuse) would not glorify God.

Trust is a fragile thing.  Once it has been broken, it must be restored.  Hopefully this can happen after we forgive.  Unfortunately, there are times when trust is broken beyond repair.  This has happened to me and to those I’ve counseled with.  In these cases, my advice is to forgive and move on—without attempting to restore the relationship.  There is no contradiction here—we can wish blessings on someone from a distance, without putting ourselves in harm’s way.

Be quick to forgive, but slow to trust.  These steps are necessary for healthy relationships and a healthy soul.

 

23 Comments

  1. If I may add, even more difficult would be to trust one’s self again after knowing how much you’ve hurt someone you love very much.

  2. you’re right. this helped. thanks kuya 🙂

  3. How timely. Thank you!

  4. What if you have forgiven but can’t trust anyone anymore. and if you can’t trust, how can you love even if you want to?

  5. Good question.

    I recommend you let people earn your trust.

    There’s a balance here. We should not just automatically trust people. At the same time, we don’t want the “don’t trust anyone” approach–that isn’t healthy either.

    Hope this helps.

  6. It’s not entirely biblical… it’s just an opinion… it happend to me… it’s unfair… God always trust us even though we fail a lot. My counselor told me that friends are like gifts, some lasts for awhile, some lasts a life-time. Forgiveness is a must. I just feel there’s a hypocrisy in not trusting. But, Love is the only solution: Love keeps no records of wrongs and it always trusts… always hoping for the good… God sees the good in you… not the wrongs you have done… But if the person is not treating you right (just in case he’s an evil person) it’s your responsibility to tell that person that he’s not doing the right thing. Just treat him as an ordinary person or sinner. Pray for them. Love thinks no evil… God doesn’t want to harm you… nor should you be harmed by anyone… But the Bible tells us not to associate with someone who says he loves God but does immoral things. There should be boundaries and limits to what other people can do to us. If you help correct the mistake of the other person, you have win him and restored your friendship…

  7. You’re right. To trust too soon is not safe but not too trust completely for life kahit trustworthy naman yung iba, is also wrong.

    Thanks.

  8. Rajah,
    I appreciate your comment, but I’m not sure exactly what your point is.

    I’ve stated that trust should be earned–I stand by that.

  9. I think some are bothered with the idea that you forgive someone but don’t trust them after doing so. Do you mind clarifying that matter Kuya?

    To some, it may seem hypocritical to forgive someone and then when that person comes to make amends with you, you avoid that person because you don’t trust them.

    I guess there should be a clear distinction. I remember someone said if you forgive a person, it means you’re lifting that person up also from the muck of shame and guilt. you’re setting them free from condemnation.

  10. Let me give you a simple example.

    Imagine someone borrows 5,000 pesos from me and promises to pay me back. He never returns the money. I would forgive him, but I doubt I would trust him enough to loan money to him again. Letting go of that debt doesn’t mean I’m obligated to continue loaning money.

    In the same way, we are not obligated to entrust our hearts to those who have not earned our trust.

  11. yes, i agree with you kuya kevin.
    we are not obligated to entrust our hearts right away after we forgave,he or she must earn our trust first.

  12. KK have you ever been in a relationship?

  13. i agree with kuya kevin =)

  14. hi kuya kevin,
    what about for the married couple? what if the husband committed adultery, can the wife should be asked to restore her trust to him after what he had done? pls. kuya kevin, i need your opinion about this,,thanks…

  15. Anonymous,
    Before I answer, let me say I’m not as much of an expert on marital issues.

    Here’s my quick answer:
    Even in a marriage, trust must be maintained. If it is broken, it must be earned. Hopefully this can happen, but there are times when it cannot. It depends on if you are willing to forgive him and if he demonstrates he wants to change.

    In our era of STD’s this is not just an issue of fidelity–it is an issue of life-or-death. I would never ask a woman to expose herself to HIV for the sake of staying married to an unfaithful, unrepentant spouse.

  16. Thank you for this post. I brought my fiance, who had hit me before, to church and he became baptised. After that I uncovered his lies to me, and how he had been unfaithful to me by seeing his ex. Everytime he uses what the bible says about forgiveness to tell me I’m a terrible Christian. I’ve read many articles and books that teach the importance of taking time to trust but none that have explained how trust and forgiveness are different. Thank you for your post.

  17. It hurts to read it but my mind opened when I read this blog. Thanks kuya kevin. I looking forward to have counselling with you 🙂

  18. Amen to the point that these two are different. On the other hand I think that in a relationship first step is forgiveness and second step (a long process) is to restore trust. Your example was indeed quite extreme and can’t be applied to each and every relationship problem.

  19. Hi Kuya Kevin.Yes I do believe about what you’ve mentioned about forgiveness and trust.But sometimes, i find myself very hard to forgive a person depending on how deep the reason is. But why is it so hard to forgive a person u love most?Do u believe in that?If the CLOSEST person in ur heart has done something wrong that really hurts you, it’s harder to forgive.About trust, I’ve already encountered losing the trust of someone because of my own fault.Yes I’m aware of it. And I felt a sudden regret about it..

  20. What is your opinion about a person who gets upset I don’t trust him and says I haven’t forgiven him. I feel he needs to show me a pattern of trustworthy behavior. It’s almost as if he’s brushing me off and rushing me to trust him again. I don’t think that’s fair. I feel if he is really as repentant and cares about relationship he would do all he can to win my heart and trust again. This rush trivializes the value of what was lost in our relationship as a result which is intimacy! And I am not talking sexual. My point is be honest with me! Ugh is frustrating. Pray for me on this issue because I can not bring this up without him becoming mad at me and accusing me of being unforgiving. There are certain things that trigger past memories and then I feel very insecure. If he cared he would be concerned about my feelings. I have forgiven him so many times for the same thing and it feels abusive frankly!

  21. I’d recommend you talk with a pastor or counselor about it.

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