The Life Challenge
The Difference between Trust and Forgiveness

The Difference between Trust and Forgiveness

Many people in recovery have a hard time with Forgiveness and Trust. We’ve been hurt. We’ve been victimized. We have trauma and PTSD in our past that haunts us. We’ve also done terrible things, with and in our character defects, to keep our alcoholism and addiction alive. To feed this disease we have to do negative things with negative people and channel negative energy. At some point we broke the trust we and others had in ourselves. At some point we became unable to forgive ourselves for what we did to ourselves, and the people we love the most. For some of us, what happened to us in active alcoholism and addiction makes it hard to forgive others, even when we can see that we need to. There is a big difference between Forgiveness and Trust. Forgiveness does not mean the instant restoration of Trust. Forgiveness is instant. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness is based on Grace and transparency. Trust is built on Works and authenticity. Forgiveness is given. Trust must be earned and rebuilt by the one who damaged the relationship. Forgiveness and Trust require us to do something that terrifies us: become vulnerable.

Some of us might be reluctant to forgive, because we think when we forgive people, we’ve automatically got to trust them again. No. That’s a whole different issue.

Let me say it again: Forgiving a person does not mean you have to trust them.

It means you give the other person a chance to earn the trust back.

Will you forgive me? Yes.

Can we go back to the way it was? No.

It does not work that way.

Forgiveness and a restoration of a relationship are two different things. Forgiveness is only on your part, whether they respond or not, whether they ask for it or not, whether they even recognize they need it or not. You forgive for your sake.  Forgiveness gives us release from the burning self-destruction of resentment. 12 Step programs, spiritual disciplines and world religions specifically mention forgiveness and resentment. When we forgive and let go of resentment it gives us freedom to move forward with love and grace for ourselves and the people we care for.

Restoration of a relationship takes far more than forgiveness. It demands authenticity and transparency. It takes repentance. It takes restitution and a rebuilding of trust. And it often takes a much longer time. How much longer? It depends on how honest the person who damaged the trust is willing to be, and how hard they are willing to work. If they can’t be honest about what happened, nothing else can move forward. If they can, then there is a lot of work to be done. It isn’t easy. But if the bond is valuable for the people involved, and they are willing to do the work it takes, the relationship can move forward in a positive direction and become healthy and supportive, based on honesty and trust, authenticity and transparency.

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