“Why won’t you forgive her?” This question has followed me around since we had our falling out and forgiveness hasn’t had the appearance of certain criteria for some of my former friend’s entourage.
I have often raked this question over with my own questions. Have I forgiven her? I still have that icky feeling when I see her… does this mean I haven’t forgiven her? I have no desire to talk to her or hang out with her, does this mean I haven’t forgiven her? How do I know when I’ve forgiven her?
When I finally felt peace around her I knew I’d forgiven her. And when I also felt joy at her successes, I knew I was free from all forms of unforgiveness toward her or regarding the circumstances we’d been involved in.
But I still had no desire to hang out, or reconnect on the same level we had before. Even when the icky feelings were gone, and I enjoyed her successes and upgrades without any lingering resentment or edginess, I wasn’t looking for opportunities to rekindle friendship.
Because I don’t trust her anymore.
The realizations shocked me, until I realized forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. And forgiveness doesn’t mean trust is automatically reestablished.
Forgiveness is my personal freedom from bitterness, envy, comparison, anger, vengefulness, guile, suspicion, presumption, accusation, isolation and being false, or untrue to myself. It’s the gateway to fruitful, deep relationships. Forgiveness keeps my capacity to receive love and affection wide open so that I can also fully give love and affection in return. It is my key out of prison.
Trust is something that grows over time, is earned and requires stewardship in greater quantities. There’s the general trust, a public bus will get me from point A to point B, and this kind of trust is easily given to strangers who don’t pose a threat or danger to my well being. Then there’s that trust that comes in when a heart connection is made – the I want to get to know you better kind of trust. It’s a greater degree than general trust, in that it is given in more private ways. And this kind of trust can be grown, nurtured and developed to whatever degree we want it to go. But it requires levels of honesty, transparency, vulnerability and willingness to risk authenticity in order to be real.
This kind of trust is like allowing someone access to valuable paces in my heart; my thoughts, emotions and decisions. It’s leaving the front door of my life unlocked with an open invitation to enter any time. It’s not something we give out to just anyone, and it’s the kind of trust that isn’t easily repaired once broken.
But the thing about trust is that it’s not a right or entitlement. It’s impossible to demand trust from a person. Try it, I dare you!
Trust is something that can only be given, earned, established, and in order to keep it, trust has to be carefully stewarded, nurtured and cultivated. By both participants in a relationship. And it can only start being repaired if there is forgiveness – but whether or not trust is reestablished is not an indication of whether or not forgiveness has been given.
In the debacle with my former friend, one thing became crystal clear to me: How we valued each other’s hearts was not the same.
While she was willing to hide behind her cohorts, I was no longer willing to allow her access to the valuable places in my heart, or to continue to put energy into being vulnerable or transparent with her. It simply isn’t safe for me.
I wasn’t willing to live as a prisoner of offense, anger, or pain, so I forgave with all my heart.
But when it comes to trust, in the aftermath of our conflict the demands were one-sided; that I display forgiveness in their terms, meeting their demands and qualifications for relationship – and that isn’t how trust grows.
At least, not in healthy relationships where all parties are valued and cherished.