Betrayal, Broken Trust, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Whew! Betrayal – Broken Trust – Forgiveness – Reconciliation. Difficult words in our vocabulary and an even more difficult topic for those of us who have experienced betrayal and the broken trust that accompanies said betrayal. 

Betrayal – to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to. Deception, dishonesty, duplicity. 

Broken Trust – When the trust and faith you placed in someone has been shattered by betrayal.

Forgiveness – to grant pardon to; to cease to feel resentment against. Absolution, grace, mercy.

Reconciliation – to compose or settle; to bring into agreement or harmony. Make peace, placate, resolve. 

In my life I have experienced betrayal by some people who were closest to me – some big, some small, but each and everyone of those instances left a mark on me. And, I’ve even experienced betrayal by some that were not so close to me, and while that indeed hurt at the time, those instances pale in comparison to the others. 

But with each betrayal, the result was broken trust. And for me, once trust is broken, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to regain. Caveat: regaining full trust (maybe even partial trust) from me depends upon the circumstances of the betrayal, and whether there is a continuation of further betrayal on the part of the offender. Let me give an example: let’s say that you have someone in your life that continues to lie to you on a regular basis – or purposely hides certain actions that are against our moral code. The offender only offers words of apology when confronted with those actions or in that lie. They ask for forgiveness and swear that they will never, ever do whatever it was that they did again. They act like they are repenting for a little while until things seem to be a little better in the relationship. But, when the offender feels that the relationship has healed somewhat and the “heat” from the offense is gone, the offender returns back to the same behavior as before. That is what I deem to be a situation of broken trust with no true repentance. 

Can we then have reconciliation with the above example? To answer that we need to examine the condition and understanding of what repentance is. Repentance – to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent. I believe that true repentance occurs when the following two actions happen – turning away from those behaviors that caused the offense and doing everything within one’s power to stop themselves from repeating such offenses again. 

Therefore, I contend that there cannot be true full reconciliation if there is no true repentance. True reconciliation involves both parties doing all that they can to repair and regain trust. But, it cannot be done if the offender does not truly repent of their actions. Sure, they may slip up here or there, because after all we are all human, but returning time and time again to the same, or similar grievous behavior that wounds another person does not demonstrate true repentance. 

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18, ESV). John MacArthur offers the following note on this verse: “Although we should do everything possible to be at peace with others, it will not always come, because it also depends on others’ attitudes and responses.” John MacArthur ESV Study Bible. 

If I am the offender towards another I have a strong view of what is required on my part for true reconciliation to occur. When I offer repentance to another, I do so not just within my own power. I am a sinful being, and it is only through God’s goodness and the work of the Holy Spirit that I am able to change my behavior for the long-haul. I realize that I can only be truly reconciled to another when I exhibit a complete willingness to be under the Holy Spirit’s direction and walk away from offensive behaviors forever. Sometimes I experience an immediate and permanent change. Other times it is a slow progression away from the offensive behaviors, but by and large it is positive progress. And, I can only hope for true reconciliation with a party that I have wounded, if I exhibit that true repentance. 

Heavenly Father – If at all possible bring true reconciliation into my life with those with who have offended me, and also to those whom I have offended. Bring your power, grace, and mercy to both parties involved and cause each of us to have a contrite heart and forever more be subject to the continued guidance of your Holy Spirit to walk in the path of true repentance. 

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