The danger of unearned trust

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In the article A Healthy Dose of Loyalty I read that “People who were apt to forgive their partner without that partner making amends tended to show a gradual erosion of their self-respect…” I would word it differently, but that sounds spot on to me. I’ve seen it play out in marriages, and it’s ugly.

Forgiving is good, but if that means leaving yourself wide open to more of the same, it’s a problem. If you can’t or won’t hold your spouse accountable for their wrong actions, they are unlike to change. Beyond this, unearned trust may be an indication that the person who is offering that trust has issues with self-image and/or self-respect. They put up with things they should not because they feel, or have been told, that they don’t deserve any better. This creates an inequity in the marriage that will eventually cause problems.

I suspect those of us who follow Christ may be more prone to this than others because we tend to confuse grace and trust. I can offer grace to someone I know I should not trust. Grace does not leave me open for more of the same, nor does it make me feel like I am inferior to the other person. Grace is a loving act that has nothing to do with the person who has done something wrong; it is a choice I make. Grace does not say I am weak, stupid, or inferior; it says I choose to act better than I feel like acting.

If you are “too trusting”, if you routinely let your wife get away with wrong behaviour, or if you tell her “It’s okay” when she has made no effort at amends, or maybe has not really apologized, PLEASE STOP! This is not loving, it’s enabling wrong behaviour. This does not make your marriage better; it only sets you up for problems in the future.

If your bride is letting you get away with things, or accepting an empty apology as if it was a real confession of guilt and a change of direction, PLEASE don’t accept that! I understand the temptation to think you are getting by easy, but realise that it is wounding your bride in ways that both of you will pay for later. Also realise that all those things probably are not forgotten, and maybe not even forgiven; odds they will come back to get you someday. Maybe she won’t mention them, but the anger and hurt she has built up may come out all at once – a volcano of emotion that will bury you and possibly kill your marriage.

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8 Comments on “The danger of unearned trust

  1. My intention is not to cause dissention on this issue, but rather to provide another perspective. Like love, trust is a choice we make. We do not earn love and we do not earn trust. Oh, a person can make it easy for others to trust them just like they can make it easy to love them. Therefore, the reason we make a decision to trust is based upon how much we love the person and how much we honor and respect them, which in turn determines how much we are willing to submit to them. In a healthy relationship, we don’t submit to those that we don’t give trust.

    Therefore, in a healthy relationship, there will be times that a person may not be trustworthy but we have to make a decision to trust them, the same way we have to make a decision to love, honor, and respect them, because giving them trust is part of submission to them.

    To provide balance, we husbands, it is a requirement of us that we love our wife the way Jesus loves us in every situation and circumstance. That means, we would not give them a reason to not want to trust us. On the other side, because Paul tells wives to love their husband, it is because their decision to love is the foundational step is providing opportunities for their husbands to give them trust.

    I know this is not a perfect world, that is why as couples not only must we learn to forgive one another like Jesus forgives us, but we must also learn to be accountable to one another as Jesus was accountable to His Father.

    • @John Delcamp – It seems to me what you are talking about it respect or honour, not what I would call trust.

      I trust that the sun will come up because I have found by experience that this is true. I trust God, again based on experience. I also “trust” that people will fail me from time to time.

      After 27 years there are a great many places where I trust my bride – because of my experience with her. For example – if someone showed me a picture that supposedly showed her in bed with another man, my first thought would be “that’s photo-shopped”. I trust her in this area so much I would doubt the picture before I doubted her fidelity. OTOH, if she had engaged in multiple affairs, I would have good reason to think the picture was real.

      The first definition for trust when I looked it up is “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something ” To me this is trust – it is based on who the other person has shown themselves to be. I can not choose to trust them when they have proven to be anything but trustworthy. I could choose to ignore their past, and to pretend to trust them, but I don’t see any wisdom in this, nor do I see any biblical command to do this.

      • Paul,
        I used to thing the same way because that puts the responsibility of our trusting upon the other person. However, trust is just as much about our responsibility as it is the other person. When people tell me that they will do something by a certain time and usually don’t, I still decide to show them trust by not going ahead and doing what they said they would do until the very last moment when I know they are doing something else. Example – Man tells me he will have the church lawn mowed and trimmed every week before week-end services. For 4 weeks, he does not do it. Week 5 I tell him I need it done by 4 PM friday and he says okay. It takes 4 hours to mow and trim the lawn. I decide to wait until Friday Noon before I jump in and do the work because I make a decision to trust him even though he has not “earned” my trust for the past 4 weeks. There are times in our lives that we must “put confidence in them, hope, rely upon them” (also part of the definition of trust) even though they have not “earned” it. We must decide to trust. Granted, when a person’s character is such that it makes it easy for anyone to trust them. then our decision to trust is very simple, easy, and basically an instinct decision. But when the person is like the example I gave, then the decision to trust is very difficult and sometimes it is even unwise to decide to trust them.

        We decide to trust God even when we don’t see Him, don’t see Him moving in our circumstance, when the way before us is dark and stormy. That decision is easy if you know the character of God so well to know He is always faithful in every situation, but it is difficult when you haven’t experiencially learned the character of God through intimacy with Him. Yet it is when you don’t know and decide to trust, that you learn more of God.

        • @John Delcamp – If you have ensured you are free at noon to start the mowing, and if you check at noon to see if it’s been started, then I would say you do NOT trust the man. To me trust would be ignoring it and assuming it would be done. Perhaps then our difference is one of semantics.

          A Scripture that might be of use here:

          “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” [Luke 16:11 ESV]

  2. Great post and so very true. I have lived through the experience of giving someone unearned trust and it cost me dearly … financially and emotionally. There is no way to ask a deceased person “Why?!” Trust but verify until the psychological wound is healed in both the offending party (so they don’t repeat their offense) and in you. And vice-versa if you are the one who erred. This extends to spouses, family, friends…anyone important in your life.

  3. For me bottom line, trust is and should always be eared. That only comes with knowing a person. Matthew 7:20
    Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Facts or factual because they have been proven. There’s no question that God loves us. I would consider this a fact. Husband or wife we must ALL be held accountable for action good or bad. Business on the other hand is whole different ball of wax. If I pay for a service, then I expect to get served. Paid service has nothing to do with trust.
    This entire article feels a bit all over the place. Not sure if the title represents the content written. Is it about trust, self-esteem or forgiveness?

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