Broken trust. It happens all the time. You cannot turn on the TV, read the news online or listen to the radio without hearing about a celebrity, politician or athlete that has fallen from grace as a result of broken trust.
Just this week the headlines have been flooded with the story of Notre Dame football player, Manti Te’o and his girlfriend that turned out to be a hoax. This was not just a misunderstanding, but an elaborate lie that now calls into question the character and integrity of this young man whose whole life and professional career lay ahead.
Also making news this week is Lance Armstrong. He finally confessed that he cheated. After years of speculation, controversy and vehement denials, he finally came clean and did so in an interview with the Queen of bares your soul, Oprah Winfrey.
The only difference between the average Joe and celebrity’s who struggle with trust issues in relationship is national media attention. You and I don’t have to deal with our issues in the headlines, but we do have to deal with them.
The list of famous people who have lost the trust of a spouse, friend or nation goes on and on. From Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart to Kevin Clash the former voice of Elmo – all have made choices that resulted in trust being broken and their character and integrity being called into question.
I recently read an article in which America was referred to as the “United States of Amnesia” in reference to the fact that we as a nation seem to be able to forget when trust has been broken and resume life as if nothing had happened.
Well that may be true when it comes to the rich and famous, but I don’t think that holds true for the average person. I know it does not for me.
Regardless of the situation you may find yourself in: a cheating spouse, a child caught in a lie or an employee who is stealing from the company – it takes two to rebuild trust.
Broken trust has impact for both parties involved. For the person who is responsible for causing the fracture in relationship there is ownership. Likewise for the person on the receiving end of trust gone bad, there is also responsibility – forgiveness.
How do you restore trust?
Well, there are no short cuts or easy outs. Restoring trust begins with personal accountability. Acknowledging what happened and the role each person played is an important start in establishing mutuality (both parties are willing to work at the relationship) and laying the foundation for restoration.
OK. that sounds nice, but really – how do you do it?
Well, every situation is unique, but there are some common denominators that are universal. Taking responsibility for your part is one way to begin. Honest self -evaluation is another. This is the idea of watching yourself with an objective perspective or “inner mirror” to gain insight into your intentions and self – interests. Asking the question, “would I trust me?” and “what are my intentions?” are a good start to help evaluate your integrity and determine if those who have been wronged have reason to begin to trust your behavioral integrity.
Rebuilding trust requires action. It requires both parties to give and receive. For the one who has broken trust it means becoming trustworthy. This is not accomplished overnight. It is done slowly over time allowing actions to do most of the talking. In his interview with Oprah Winfrey this week, Lance Armstrong said this about being trustworthy, “I’m not the most believable guy in the world right now, I understand.” Simply put, just because you apologize and acknowledge what you have done does not make it just go away.
Rebuilding trust also requires time. Although trust may have been broken with a stolen glance, a harsh word or knee jerk reaction – it requires the benefit of time to be restored. This means being patient regardless of which side of the broken trust you find yourself on. This is not the time to be keeping score or watching the clock. Patience is key – anything worth having is worth waiting for.
Lastly, trust requires truth.
In order for trust to be re established, truth is essential. Without honesty and a commitment to truth in the relationship trust will never stand. It will crumble like a high rise that is built without rebar.
I have one last question. How are you doing at being trustworthy? Do you need to work on restoring trust in a relationship with your kids, your spouse, a friend or co-worker? I know it is not easy, but I do know that it is a life long skill that serves to strengthen and enrich our relationships and ultimately is a step toward living in Christlikeness.