How Christians Can Handle Trust Issues
Trusting others can be tough for Christians but the results can be rewarding.
Mary (not her real name), a Christian acquaintance, impresses me in some ways. She can be kind, very generous, and willing to give her time to worthy causes.
I have always wanted to get to know her better, but she always seems to keep me at a distance. It is as if she put up a wall every time I tried to get to know her. At times, she could be rude or ignore me when I tried to initiate a conversation. She seemed to be suspicious of me, as I were out to get her. Her perceptions of me were skewed by a cloud of negativity.
Her hostility hurts my feelings, for I have not done anything that I know of that would make her distrust me. I did discover recently that because of some life experiences, Mary found it difficult to trust people. She longs to be connected, but her trust issues get in the way.
Like Mary, we long to be in healthy relationships with others. Trust has been recognized as a human need that all of us seek in our relationships. When our trust is violated, we feel terrible emotional anguish and anger, even though the world tells us to expect it.
When we don’t trust, we may be:
- Acting on our own insecurities and misperceptions
- Living in suspicion and constant anxiety
- Expecting that other people are going to hurt us or let us down
- On the defensive, expecting a verbal attack
- Worrying that someone in a relationship with us is going to reject us and leave us to face the world alone
- Are sure that people will discover and blab our secrets, causing us deep humiliation and shame
- Living in fear that we won’t be able to emotionally handle the betrayal of our trust
In today’s society, we are taught to distrust everyone and everything. We get emails everyday that try to steal money from us through scams. Thieves phish for our personal information so that they can rip off our identities and go on a spending spree. So-called religious people try to persuade us to join damaging cults. If we are single or widowed, cunning charmers will try to steal our hearts and then our money.
Then there are people who we consider friends who will turn our backs on us. In school, they will reject us because we are not cool enough to be with them. They may also blab our secrets and laugh at our dreams behind our backs. They lie, cheat, and manipulate people to get what they want.
When someone betrays us
What do we do when someone betrays our trust? First of all, we should not be surprised. Human beings are weak – men may stray from their wives, co-workers won’t do the work they promised to finish, and friends may spill our secrets. We can’t control what they do. We can, however, control how we react to to their hurtful actions.
God understands that sometimes, life is unfair and people can be untrustworthy. We are going to suffer because people have broken faith with us, sometimes through no fault of our own. God expects us to endure these situations patiently (1Peter 2:20). If we pray and ask Him for help, God gives us the strength to overcome the hurts of broken trust.
Healing a broken trust
A state of distrust is harmful to our emotional health. Here are some steps we can take to healing the fallout out of broken trust.
Trust begins with God: God is the only one in the universe that can be fully trusted. He keeps his promises to us if we ask Him. When we learn to trust God, the door opens for us to trust others. It is better to trust in God rather than men (Psalm 118:8). People will let us down from time to time.
Face our hurt: We must acknowledge the emotional pain that the betrayal has caused. We can’t heal until we face it. We can manage whatever comes because God will support us through it.
Forgive the perpetrator: Forgiving the person who violated our trust helps us to let go of the wounds and pain their betrayal caused. We may be tempted to hold a grudge and seek revenge, but retaliating will hurt us more in the long run that hurt them. We may not fully trust them again, but we are free to have a healthy relationship with them.
Go to the person and talk to them: This is a step that most people avoid, and it keeps them stuck in resentment and unforgiveness. Talking helps us unload all the negative emotions swirling inside us. When we talk to the person, we may get information that makes their betrayal easier to bear. Jesus said that if we are offended by a brother, we should go and be reconciled with our brother (Matthew 5:23-24). When we do, we must tread carefully, acting in love rather than anger. This kind of confrontation should not be attempted, however, if doing so puts us in danger.
People reap what they sow eventually (Galatians 6:7). We can’t allow ourselves to fret about what they are doing (Psalm 37:1-3). We need to put them out of our thought life and let God handle their lying, deceit, and betrayal. We have enough troubles of our down to deal with on a daily basis.
Give yourself time: It will take some time to rebuilt trust and re-establish a relationship. The Bible said that when someone who has been offended is harder to be won than strong city (Proverbs 18:19). We can love the person, which enables us to believe and bear all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love will keep us from the negative emotions that come with distrust.
It is OK to be cautious in our dealings with the person. We should prove all things first 1Thessalonians 5:21) and not just blindly accept that the person may have changed. Some people may never fully regain our trust, but as God has entended mercy and grace to us, we can do the same to them. We can then enjoy the benefits of a relationship without resentment and emotional pain.
Learning to trust others
The Bible tells us to do good unto others whenever we have the opportunity (Galatians 6:10) and to think well of them. This does not mean that we just blindly go ahead and tell strangers all our secrets. Trust has certain levels and people must earn their way up.
It is possible to give people the benefit of the doubt. That way we avoid feelings of resentment and unforgiveness. If people are totally untrustworthy, they deserve our pity and mercy, not our contempt.
Trust issues with church leadership
We Christians want to believe that our church leaders are trustworthy and are crushed when they don't live up to our expectations. We must extend the same forgiveness and mercy we do to others, but If church leaders continue in their positions, we face a difficult decision. Can these church leaders be trusted to lead me into a deeper relationship with God and teach me how to live a Christian life? If the answer is no, it may be time to find another church.
Trust issues in ministries
Church ministries provide a wonderful place for us to serve, grow spiritually, and build relationships with others. We may become close to the people with whom we serve. Trust issues, though, can subtly taint and eventually damage church ministries if they are allowed to fester.
Trust issues signs in ministry leaders:
- A frenzied need to control everything that goes on in the ministry because others can not be trusted to do things right
- Defensiveness and an inability to accept constructive criticism because they fear getting hurt
- Being suspicious and critical of their team members
- Blaming team members for the leader’s own lack of trust, even though the team has not done anything wrong
- resenting people who have broken their trust in the past
Ministry team members’ reactions to the lack of trust
- Team resentment against their leaders because they feel they don’t deserve the leader’s distrust
- Discouragement because of the negative environment
- Anxiety that the leader will pounce and accuse them of something
- Quitting the ministry, and sometimes not serving in that area again
- Leaving the church for a more positive environment
People can really hurt us when they lie, cheat, manipulate, gossip about us or break our trust in other ways. Taking the steps to healing can help us overcome our distrust and restore our relationships.