By Kathi Bush MA, LCPC
Welcome back for Part Five. We’re almost done! Up to this point, we’ve covered three points that are essential to building trust. They are: trust is established only in time, trust should happen with “safe” people, and trust is established when good repair work is done following a relationship injury. Now on to point four:
Trust should coincide with good judgment and character discernment.
Many people have felt regret over trusting in a friendship or relationship they shouldn’t have. They didn’t recognize markers or red flags that could have tipped them off. When they eventually recognized signs of trouble, they weren’t sure how to get themselves out. Growing up, they weren’t intentionally trained in character discernment, so they ended up learning it haphazardly, making mistakes that could have been avoided. Sometimes patterns emerged as they got hooked into the same cycle. Eventually, they connected the dots and tried not to repeat mistakes.
One common pattern people find themselves in is to trust “too easily,” giving trust before enough time has elapsed to see if it’s warranted. Another pattern is keeping a consistently harmful relationship in “status quo” mode, hoping the other will change.
A third pattern particularly affecting Christians is remaining in a consistently unhealthy or harmful friendship because the other is also a Christian, and they think they “should” be able to make it work (or, if the friend is not a Christian, remaining in it to be an example of “unconditional love”). These Christians sometimes view stepping back from the relationship as a spiritual flaw or disobedience. In Scripture, we are called to live unified in loving, compassionate, forgiving community and to not harbor bitterness against one other. (Col 3:12-14, NIV, 1985). But we can still fulfill these commands while respectfully stepping back from a relationship that consistently causes harm and has repetitively unsuccessful repair attempts.
We all have different needs and areas of brokenness, so what is a good match for one of us may not be a good match for another. Once we’ve developed fairly good character discernment, we tend to recognize good fits sooner than before. Seek and pursue people that are a safe fit for you. Then give and develop trust in those relationships.
Barker, Kenneth (General Ed.). Burdick, D., Stek, J., Wessel, W., and Youngblood, R., (Assoc. Eds). (1985). The NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Bible Publishers.