Forgiveness is Free, but Trust is Earned

“Did you every feel cheated by forgiveness–like it didn’t work the way you expected?”

Here’s a thing I say a lot.  I’ve probably said it here before.  But when I say it, it’s often a light bulb moment for my clients.  So I don’t mind giving it another walk around the block. Here we go.

Forgiveness is free.  Trust is earned.

We forgive because God tells us to.  God has good plans for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.  Forgiveness is part of the plan.

We forgive because we want to let the poison go.  We forgive because we want to be free of the past and move on to the future.

We forgive, even if the other person isn’t sorry.  Even if they keep doing the same thing over and over and over.

Forgiveness is free.  We received it freely, and we give it freely.

But.

My dear, dear friends, hear me now.

Trust is earned.  We trust when, and only when, the other person is trustworthy.  

And we know the other person is trustworthy when they have behaved in a trustworthy manner, consistently, over time.

When the other person hurts me or disrespects me or ignores my boundaries, they are not being trustworthy.

Therefore, I should not trust them.

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Not even when they say, “Oh, that didn’t hurt as much as you’re saying it did.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Or when they say, “I was just kidding.  I didn’t mean anything by it.  Can’t you take a joke?”

Or when they say, “But you don’t really want that, because I want this and of course you’re a submissive wife so you have to give me what I want, otherwise God will be mad at you.”

In none of these cases, is the person worthy of my trust.

I absolutely do believe that people can truly be sorry, and that they can truly change.  

But God is the only one who can see their heart.

I have to see their behavior.

Consistently.

Over time.

charlie brown football

When we fail to understand the distinction between forgiveness and trust, we can end up like poor old Charlie Brown.  Trying to be nice, hoping for the best, and getting ourselves into the same mess over and over again.

It’s OK to be nice.  It’s good to be hopeful.

And it’s really, really great to forgive.

But until Lucy figures out how to be trustworthy, let’s find somebody else to hold the football.

Kay Bruner
I live in the Dallas, Texas area these days, with my family where I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice.  It’s my pleasure to work with clients who need to know, like I do, that we are all loved with an everlasting love.  I also enjoy sharing my story with groups, and I am available for speaking engagements.  

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