Have you ever disappointed someone or broken a promise? Was the incident serious enough to ultimately compromise the trust between you? We all have been untrustworthy at some point. That doesn’t mean that we’re bad or selfish. Sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, we let people down. We give them information believing it to be true only to discover it lacked integrity. “You lied to me! I’ll never trust you again!”
There are some who will deliberately mislead others. While they reassure you they are trustworthy their actions contradict their words. Politicians are notorious for this. They make campaign promises knowing full well they will not follow through once elected.
We’ve also been deceived by those we believed in. “I promise if you tell me about your brother-in-law’s affair I won’t say a word to anyone. You can trust me.” “I promise to love and honor you through good times and bad all the days of our lives.” (That one hits home for a lot of us doesn’t it?) Or perhaps a coworker steals your idea and receives company recognition rightly belonging to you. Your underage child assures you that there will be no alcohol at Saturday’s party then stumbles home at 2 am reeking of beer. A minor infraction (“I know I promised to be at your retirement dinner but I totally forgot it was this weekend.”) may be easily overlooked. One of a more serious nature (“I can’t pay back the money you loaned me to buy a new car.”) might require more than a simple “Opps, sorry!” to move beyond. A damaged trust can completely destroy an important relationship.
There is a strong connection between trust and anger. My definition of fear is “a lack of trust”. We are leery of those we find unreliable. “I have to watch what I say around Uncle Joe. He can get nasty and volatile.” We may feel as though we are walking on eggshells around those we are suspect of. This anxiety (a mild form of fear – one of the three root causes of anger) can easily convert to anger as a means of self-protection.
Some believe that once broken a trust can never be rebuilt. I’m not one of those people. I’ve personally regained my faith in someone who deeply deceived me and restored a wonderful relationship with him that continues today. I’ve also witnessed couples rebuild their fractured marriages after a painful infidelity. But unlike respect, trust must be earned. Like many others I’ve learned the hard way that not all people are deserving of trust. But there are specific steps one can take to restore a broken relationship:
1. Consider the true nature and moral values of the offending party. Was this an isolated incident or a habitual pattern of behavior? Even the most astute people sometimes act imprudently.
2. Has the offending party acknowledged their mistake? Awareness is the first key necessary for any restoration to occur.
3. Have they offered a sincere apology and displayed a willingness to make amends or restitution? Saying “I’m sorry” is only the first phase. One needs to take the necessary steps to rectify the offense.
4. Does the individual fully understand the underlying issues that precluded their actions? By doing so, they are better equipped to prevent a reoccurrence.
5. Have they been willing to see the situation through your eyes? Do they fully understand the depth and scope of how this has affected you? Do they “get it”? Empathy and compassion lessens the risk of a reoccurrence.
6. Have they made the necessary changes and proven themselves to be consistent? Words are cheap; actions reveal. Only through repeated uniform acts can one prove they are reliable and worthy of your trust.
If all of the above components are present then individuals can move beyond the unfortunate incident and ultimately repair and rebuild the relationship. Like a broken bone: the area of the fracture, once healed, is stronger than that which has always remained intact.
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