Can a relationship be restored once trust is broken? I am sure D’Angelo Russell, point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, is asking this question after he broke an unspoken locker room code – you don’t gossip about a teammate’s personal business. Where do you begin if you want to rebuild trust when you are the one who perpetrated the damage?
What’s happened in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young (a.k.a. Swaggy P) in the last couple weeks has been an absolute mess. Russell secretly videotaped Young admitting to cheating on his famous fiance, Iggy Azalea (I will write another post about faithfulness in relationships in the near future. I didn’t have space to deal with both issues in one post). To make matters worse, someone leaked the video online. The reaction has been swift and severe from teammates and many NBA players.
D’Angelo Russell betrayed someone he considered a good friend. Rebuilding trust once it has been broken is not impossible, but it does take a lot of work. Here are some steps you can take to rebuild the relationship if you are the perpetrator of the relational damage.
Ask God to break your heart over the trust you broke. I think rebuilding trust begins with brokenness over the broken trust. Only God can give us the gift of brokenness and repentance. In Psalm 51, David asked God for a contrite heart – where God completely humbles the will, emotions, and intellect under the consciousness of guilt. Pray for a broken and contrite heart.
Come clean. Go to the person and humbly admit what you’ve done. Don’t hide or dismiss the hurt you have caused. Don’t wait to get caught before you come clean. One of the ways we know the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts is we come clean before we are forced to come clean.
Acknowledge the extent of the damage you’ve caused. Don’t treat the betrayal as a relational misdemeanor. Betrayal is a relational felony that needs full acknowledgment on your part.
Apologize for the betrayal. The apology must be sincere and from that place of brokenness. No qualifiers, no justification and rationalizing it away. “I am sorry that you feel hurt by what I did.” is not an apology. Try:
“I hurt you, and I am sorry.” Would you please forgive me?”
“I was wrong to betray you by _____________, and I am sorry. Would you please forgive me?”
“I betrayed our relationship, and I am sorry. Would you please forgive me?”
Expect an emotional response. There will be an emotional response from the person you betrayed. They may cry, yell, refuse to talk to you. This is part of the process of rebuilding the relationship. Don’t get angry at their emotional outburst. Let the person vent their anger and talk through their pain.
Ask God for the will to rebuild the relationship. When you betray someone, it can make you think that it is impossible to restore the relationship. If your desire to work on restoring the relationship is low, but you love and care for the person, then ask God for the desire to do whatever you need to do to repair the relational damage. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is available to energize our wills to do what we cannot do in our own strength.
Be consistent in your behavior. The person you betrayed will have a hard time believing your words, but you can begin to build trust again by being consistent and truthful in your actions. Keep your word going forward. Be honest. Actions speak louder than words.
Be patient. Recognize it will take some time to rebuild the relationship. Depending on the gravity of the betrayal, it could take quite some time for the relationship to get back to normal if it gets back to normal at all. Don’t pressure the person into reconciliation. Remember forgiveness is immediate, but reconciliation happens over time.
Accept the hard truth. Unfortunately, sometimes the infraction is so severe, and there is not a will for reconciliation, that the relationship will dissolve. If the person you betrayed is adamant about not rebuilding the relationship, then the unfortunate conclusion is, you might have to accept that hard truth of moving forward without that person in your life.
Recovering from betrayal is not impossible, but it will take a lot of prayers, honest conversations, sacrifices, compromises, and humility.
Next Post: What is the responsibility, of the one betrayed, in rebuilding trust?
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What are some other steps a person can take to rebuild trust once it has been broken?