What Forgiveness Is Not
“Do I have to trust him if I forgive him?” This question reflects one of the reasons people find it difficult to forgive. Being asked to let go of resentment and any desire to hurt someone who hurt us is one thing. But being required on top of that to trust that same person again makes it too hard!
The good news is that forgiving a person and trusting him or her are not two sides of the same coin. That means you are not required to trust a person just because you have forgiven him. The two things are related, but very distinct.
Forgiving focuses on an offense committed in the past. It makes it possible for the wounds you carry in your soul as the result of other people’s actions to heal. It is a decision you make to set yourself free by setting your offender free. Remember, for you to keep a man down in the gutter you have to be down in the gutter yourself.
Because granting forgiveness to another person is something you are doing for yourself, you can grant it freely and unilaterally. The other person can receive it or reject it, but he or she cannot prevent you from granting it and setting yourself free from the emotional prison you are in.
On the other hand, trust relates to the present. It is the measurement of the dependability, truthfulness, and integrity of a man or woman. Since trust is a measurement, it must be based on verifiable evidence and is dependent on a person’s behavior. It, therefore, cannot be subjectively granted. It must be earned.
For this reason, we describe people as “trustworthy.” When we do so we are declaring that they have proven themselves worthy of our trust because of their reliable performance in some area. They have earned our confidence by the manner in which they have conducted themselves.
Search the Scriptures and you will find that even though Jesus commands His followers to forgive everybody who sins against them, He never commands them to place their trust in people blindly. On the contrary, He taught them to be gentle as doves, but wise as serpents.
Regarding who to trust, Jesus taught His disciples not to throw pearls before swine. That is, don’t entrust something of value to someone who will not take care of it. And in the parable of the talents, He made it clear that a person had to demonstrate he could be trusted with a few talents before he would be trusted with much.
Trusting a person with great responsibilities and with important projects and aspects of our lives, who has not proven himself trustworthy, is not spiritual. It is foolish and irresponsible, and could lead to serious and unnecessary harm to that person and to others.
We have to balance trust with responsibility. The greater the responsibility and the greater the risks, the slower we should be to trust and the higher should be the standard the other person must meet in that area.
For example, a person’s word may be all you need to entrust him with your bicycle, but you would be a fool if you did not require a lot more than that person’s word before placing yourself and your family in an airplane for him to fly.
So here is my advice: Forgive lavishly and unilaterally. Then give the people you forgive an opportunity to earn your trust, where possible. Don’t be unreasonably hard, but don’t be naive either. And always balance trust with responsibility.
Hope this helps.