Instantly. Trust Slowly.
H. Brennen, November 5, 2013
Recently I came across an article by Dave Willis, pastor and
writer in Augusta, Georgia, USA, entitled “18 tips that will
strengthen (and maybe even save) your marriage.” The tip
that intrigued me the most was this one: “If your spouse
breaks their vows, give them your forgiveness instantly, but
give your trust slowly. The first part is called “grace” and
the second part is called “common sense.” Wow! What a
Perhaps two of the greatest needs among humans are the needs
to forgive and to be forgiven. Unfortunately, far too many
are not forgiving because they are afraid to forgive or
stubbornly refuse to forgive because they misunderstand what
forgiveness is all about. In previous articles I
explained that forgiveness is greatly needed for the one who
is forgiving more than the one who is being forgiven. If
one refuses to forgive, it can cause serious emotional,
physical, social, and spiritual problems. This is the
reason it is important to forgive instantly.
When we understand the physiological advantages of
forgiving, we would not hesitate to forgive. An unforgiving
attitude suppresses the immune system, thus elevating toxins
in the body and increasing the chances of getting ill.
Here is a reminder of what forgiveness is all about.
Forgiveness is ceasing to hold someone guilty in your heart
for causing you pain. However, this has nothing to do with
accountability. Someone may have stolen your car and you
have forgiven that person, but you can still hold the person
accountable by reporting the crime to the police. A parent
can forgive the child for breaking a priceless figurine but
can still require that child to purchase a new one as an act
of restitution. A spouse can forgive her husband for having
abused her repeatedly for more than twenty-five years but
can still divorce him because she knows he will never change
or he refuses to change. If she stays with him, she will
eventually be either in prison, the mental hospital or in
the grave. Forgiveness does not absolve someone from the
consequence of wrong doing.
To explain further, forgiveness gives one the freedom to
think what is the best thing to do next. Should I stay or
should I leave? Should I keep my adult alcoholic,
criminally-minded son living in the home or should I put him
out. True forgiveness encourages someone to think
objectively. Forgiveness does not require
reconciliation. True forgiveness does not always mean that
one must restore the relationship to its original state.
That may not be wise. That might be deadly or emotionally
Now I hope you understand how one should forgive instantly
but trust slowly. This brings me to the subject of trust.
Trust is a very unique creature. When one has lost trust in
someone, it is very difficult to regain the same kind of
trust again. In the context of this article, trust is the
unconditional and unreserved acceptance and belief in the
behaviour of someone. Thus, if a wife always wastes her pay
check every week on alcohol and seeks help to stop from
drinking, then she may not want her husband to
trust her with money again (if not for a while). If a
husband is lured into the trap of gambling every week using
the household income but seeks help to stop the addiction,
it would be wise of him not to have his wife trust him with
money again (at least until healing takes place).
Forgiveness would have taken place but trusting in that area
will take place gradually. In other areas of his life
there might be full, unquestionable trust.
When it is comes to sexual unfaithfulness which always ruins
trust, it would be wise for the faithful partner to extend
trust very, very slowly. This means not to have sex with the
guilty partner until there is a
medical check up and tests for sexually transmitted
diseases, etc. If coital interaction is done then use
protection always (condom). Remember forgiving instantly does not mean
you must "jump in bed" instantly. That will be unwise.
Seek medical and psychological help for total healing.
Barrington H. Brennen
In many cases, the trust never regains the same intensity it
was from the beginning, but couples and individuals can
still be happier than they were before. Why? It
is because they have learned to understand each other with
wise compassion. Many years ago I met a
man who was very unfaithful to his wife. He was very
flirtatious and exhibited his colourful behaviour on social
occasions and parties. After redeeming himself in the
marriage and promising to remain faithful, the agreement was
that he would never attend a social occasion outside of
working hours again without his wife. If his wife
cannot go, he will not attend. That was their
success and still is today. They do trust each other,
but it is a different kind of trust. It is common sense,
pragmatic trust. Vulnerabilities are acknowledged and
love makes good sense.
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and
family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box
CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit
www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or