WITH the ongoing health crisis worldwide, many people are forced to slow down, avoid public gatherings and work from home if possible. But some can't stand the slow pace of life because without the busyness from normal activities, they can now more acutely feel the numbing pain of a broken relationship or friendship.
Whether you are the person who was hurt or the one who did the hurting, we are pleased to share some practical insights on how to restore a broken relationship. We spoke with the extremely knowledgeable and experienced Dr Barry Davidson, respected Christian counsellor and CEO of Family Life Ministries, who shared some of the key elements for reconciliation—forgiveness, remorse and rebuilding trust.
Have you truly forgiven the person who hurt you?
Forgiveness is perhaps the most frequently discussed issue when it comes to restoring relationships. It is something the Lord Jesus requires of believers: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). To carry out this command, some people say that forgiveness is simply a decision that we make based on obedience to God's word. But how can you know when you have truly forgiven someone?
According to Dr Davidson, true forgiveness happens when the person who was hurt is in a position to wish the offender well. He also explained what he considers to be the '5 truths about forgiveness'.
1. Forgiveness is an act of the will. It is not just something in your head; you have to make up your mind and be willing to forgive.
2. Forgiveness is very costly. It cost Jesus His life, and it is going to cost you your pride. Most times the victim wants to see that person (who hurt them) suffer, so to really decide that you don't want them to suffer is costly in that sense.
3. Forgiveness should be expressed verbally and specifically. You need to be able to say to the person, 'I forgive you' and tell them exactly what you are forgiving them for.
4. Forgiveness is not conditional, so you are not going to say to the person, 'I forgive you if you promise me that you will never do this again'.
5. Forgiveness is not impossible. 'I can't forgive you' really means 'I won't forgive you'.
Nevertheless, forgiveness is only one aspect of reconciliation. Another important part is rebuilding trust, which Dr Davidson maintains is the responsibility of the offender. “You have to forgive in order to be healed of hurt, in order to be in a position to be reconciled. But you don't have to trust after you have forgiven the person. You may, but your forgiveness can be sincere even if you don't trust the person,” he explained.
He warned that if you have forgiven someone who is not trustworthy and you begin to trust that person again, you are exposing yourself to danger for which reconciliation becomes almost impossible.
“A common mistake that pastors make is that they equate trust with forgiveness…but trust is something that is earned. [With regards to] the person who cheated or the person who physically abused his wife, for example, for her to trust him back in her space would indeed be stupid,” Dr Davidson admonished.
“So what we professionals do is that we encourage the forgiveness because unforgiveness affects the person who needs to forgive more than the person who needs to be forgiven.”
Dr Davidson added that the offender needs to work on themselves — grow, heal and change in order to make themselves trustworthy and be in a position to be back in the victim's space again.
“Because what has happened in the past is that we have had people who are abusers and they physically abuse their partners and they are very remorseful, but they are in the cycle of abuse. You make up and they start it again and it has a tendency of getting even worse. So what we are saying to people is, yes you have forgiven; however, this person has to earn back the trust.”
Next week: tips for rebuilding trust in your relationship.
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