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You’ve forgiven someone, but do you now need to trust them?

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It's difficult, but possible, to repair trust in a person who's done you wrong.

Forgiveness is a practical act that becomes heroic when – with time and the help of God – you are able to pray for your aggressor and wish him well. It means no longer giving power to your enemy. Therefore, it is in your best interest to forgive.

But what about trust? If you forgive, does it mean that you have to trust the person again?

Between you and the other person

Unlike forgiveness, trust is a two-way street. On one hand, it is granted, it is given as a gift; on the other, you win it, you work to make yourself, once again, deserving of trust.

In the case of forgiveness, you do not need the other person’s cooperation in order to exercise you will to forgive. That is to say, you don’t actually need the other person to participate or to ask your forgiveness in order for you to choose to grant it.

Trust, on the other hand, is a gift, a value – a sibling to loyalty – and it has everything to do with feeling safe at someone’s side, both physically and emotionally. If you trust me, all your being feels safe at my side, protected, without any fear.

I compare trust to the talents that are entrusted to us, spoken of in the Scriptures; if we do not make good use of them, they are taken away from us. It’s like coming to a friend to whom you wish to give something that belongs to you, which you hold in high esteem and consider of great importance;  you ask him to open his hands, because you want to put in them something of infinite value for you, a great treasure – your trust – confident that he will use it for an exalted purpose and beautify it.

Just as this gift is freely given, it can also be taken back. Trust takes time to cultivate and grow, and it can be lost in the blink of an eye. You need to clearly understand that you have no inherent right to someone’s trust; it’s not something you deserve “just because.” The fact that someone chooses you, and chooses to pour their heart into yours, is a privilege that you must treasure and protect as your very self.

Just as you have the ability to make good use of your higher faculties, and may, by means of an integral life, communicate that you are trustworthy, so also, sadly, you have the ability to betray the treasure of trust that has been placed into your hands. Therefore, you must remain vigilant so that no feeling – nor action – contrary to your dignity takes over your decisions. You must respond to that gift, in proportion to its value, which is infinite.

 First, choose to forgive – and to ask for forgiveness

If someone has betrayed you, start by choosing to forgive. That is the first and most important step. If you are interested in trusting that person again, take the necessary time to watch, with charity and mercy, for signs of real, profound changes — changes that do not come from fear or desperation, but from love. Desiring what is good for them, and inasmuch as it is in your hands to do so, help this person to achieve the necessary changes.

I repeat, restoring trust takes time, and requires perseverance, dedication, and a lot of love. If over time you realize that there is no proof of deep change, but rather, that the offender exhibits the same attitudes and behaviors and has done nothing to truly restore your trust — that is, he or she has not shown any interest in repairing the damage done — then you can conclude that their hands are not a safe place for you to deposit the treasure of your trust.

Now, if it is you who have betrayed another’s trust, begin by asking for forgiveness, genuinely, with heartfelt contrition. Ask for another opportunity, and change yourself. That’s right: your receiving forgiveness must be accompanied by concrete actions aimed, among other things, at restoring the trust you have damaged and at improving yourself. It takes time, so do not despair.

It is important that you take this into account: the offended party is not obligated to trust you again, it is a choice. He or she has every right to choose to believe in you again, or not to. I know it’s sad, but it’s true. However, do not be discouraged; change, because it is a duty of justice for us all become the best version of ourselves.

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia, and has been translated and adapted here for English-speaking readers by Martha Fernández-Sardina.

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