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Forgive Instantly, Trust Slowly


By Barrington H. Brennen, November 5, 2013

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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 great advice!

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 crippling.


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.


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 a. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002






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