One of the most frustrating things in life is to be distrusted because of your past transgressions, especially when you know that you’ve changed. You’ve worked hard to be a new person. You’ve made every effort to make amends and set things right. You’ve taken responsibility for what you’ve done, and you’ve sought accountability to keep from making the same mistakes.
And yet…you’re still getting the side eye. There’s still a palpable reluctance to fully embrace you again. There’s still a disconnect in place of the intimacy that there was before, a distance—sometimes ever so slight—where there was once no separation at all.
“But I’m different now!”
“I’m not the same person I was back then!”
“I’ve really changed!”
It’s frustrating…but sometimes you have to take a deep breath and own the fact that healing broken trust is a process, not an event. You have to humble yourself and accept the fact that people’s reasonable reactions to your wrongdoing are just a natural fallout from the devastation you caused.
If you’ve betrayed your spouse, they shouldn’t immediately trust you again just because you say “I’m sorry.”
If you’ve repeatedly wronged a friend, they shouldn’t jump right back into the relationship like nothing ever happened just because you tell them you’ve seen the error of your ways.
If you’ve got a well-documented history of shady actions and questionable choices, your boss and your co-workers shouldn’t just give you the keys to the kingdom simply because you claim you’ve changed.
We’d all like instant restoration and unconditional reconciliation, but that’s just not reasonable, especially after an egregious wrong.
Yes, it hurts and angers us to not be trusted. It’s hard to not be believed by someone you love. But if you step out of your feelings, you have to admit that if the shoe were on the other foot, you’d have some trust issues too.
Keep in mind that, while there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1), there are most certainly some consequences that we may have to deal with. What God gives us in Jesus is forgiveness and spiritual life. What He doesn’t give us is a “get out of jail free” card. When it comes to the people you’ve hurt and the damage you’ve done, you often have to lie in the bed you’ve made. We all do. And sometimes that means showing humility and long-suffering with people who are now skeptical (understandably so!) regarding your newness of life. Wounds take time to mend, and there’s nothing you can do to rush another person’s journey of healing.
Don’t let the doubt that you face discourage you. Even if no one else believes that you’ve changed, stand firmly and proudly in your growth. Hold your head up. Don’t be arrogant or overbearing, but be calmly confident in the power of Christ working your life. Thank Him every day for the change that you know has and is taking place within you. And pray for the people who are still recovering from your wrongs.
When people continue to treat you like the old you, it’s very tempting to abandon your new path and go back down the old road that everyone thinks you’re on anyway. You start to reason that, since they all think you’re a liar or a cheat or an addict or whatever, you may as well go on and be that. “They’re never going to trust you anyway, so you may as well just be who they think you are.” Don’t listen to that voice. That’s the enemy trying hard to sabotage you and set you back. Stay the course.
Be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for your reputation to catch up with your character.
Just ask the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:26). “Sure, he claims to be one of us now, but not too long ago…” Listen, it might take some time, but if you’re consistent in your new walk, eventually your light will speak for itself. The naysayers will be silenced by the undeniable fruit on your tree.
And for anyone who remains unpersuaded by God’s work in your life, don’t sweat them. Just keep moving forward. After a while, the problem isn’t really with you anymore—it’s with them, and they have to work that out on their own. Don’t go crazy trying to prove yourself to people who have already decided not to believe anything you show them.
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I appreciate this article, I have been on both sides, I’ve been a very tactless Christian in times past and people didn’t want to believe I’d changed, so they stayed away and didn’t want to anger me, because I would bite your head off, I thank God for his mercy and grace for blessing me to do and be better, now I pick and choose my battles with spiritual discernment, to help, not to harm. I now have more patience and love for those that tell me they’ve changed, it’s not for me to judge, but to pray about every and any situation, God is in control and will bless the outcome, no matter how I feel about it.
Rigel J Dawson
Thank you for the straight forward facts. Yes, it takes time to rebuild bridges that have been burned.