How to Rebuild Broken Trust

“How can we mend our relationship if you won’t trust me?”

“How can I trust you when you continue to lie to me?”

Have you ever had such a conversation? For example, the spouse, reconciling with an erring mate, wants to restore trust, but can s/he? Mistrust smears gray over a relationship that used to glow with cheerful color. If only you could trust and bring back the joy.

If you’ve forgiven someone, but can’t trust him or her, you’re not alone. Forgiveness and trust are separate issues.

If you’ve forgiven someone, but can’t trust him or her, you’re not alone. Forgiveness and trust are separate issues. #trust Share on X

Forgiveness is between us and God. The culprit doesn’t have to change for us to forgive. Trust, on the other hand, requires change (Proverb 25:19). Here are some tips to guide you.

Use Discernment When Restoring Broken Trust

If you weren’t already in a relationship with this person, with your current knowledge, would you trust them? Would you encourage your children to hang out with someone of their character?

Realize Some People Can’t Be Trusted

The Bible tells us to stay away from certain types of people.

  • “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared” (Proverbs 22:24-25 NIV).
  • “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20 NASB).
  • “Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words” (Proverbs 23:9 NIV).
  • “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV).

Watch for Genuine Change 

Bathsheba suffered much in the months following David’s sins against her and Uriah. David fell about as low as a person “with a heart after God” can go.

Yet, when the prophet Nathan confronted David, he showed genuine repentance.


  • wrote Psalms that publicly confessed his sin.
  • fasted and prayed.
  • didn’t blame Bathsheba for his failures or make excuses.
  • didn’t repeat his sin (2 Samuel 12).

Watching David’s change restored Bathsheba’s trust in him. Like David and Bathsheba, trust blooms when the erring party returns to God and demonstrates heart change. But trust suffers as long as either party continues in willful sin.

Don’t Rush

Joseph put his brothers through a long series of tests before he opened himself to them. He didn’t assume time or hardship had transformed them (Genesis 42-45).

His brothers showed genuine heart change when they confessed their sin and demonstrated sorrow for what they had done. This was not a show to impress Joseph. They didn’t know he understood what they were saying since he spoke through a translator. Judah went so for as to offer his life in exchange for his brother Benjamin’s.

Genuine change will become evident. Watch and wait. And don’t give them a checklist to follow to earn your good graces. You want to see what’s in their hearts.

Recognize Your Limits 

God uses the process of mending to refine us. He teaches us to trust Him and His timing. Instead of rushing to trust your betrayer, trust Jesus. Let Him chisel out Christ’s character in you.

If you feel led to approach the one who harmed you, express your feelings to God first. Receive His comfort and perspective. Sometimes, after we forgive the person and receive God’s perspective, we no longer need to approach them.

Never approach the offender to punish him. Don’t say, “I forgive you for…” and name the offenses. Passive-aggressive anger shows you haven’t forgiven.

Give up trying to make the person safe. We cannot force people to embrace our viewpoint or desire a healthy relationship with us.

The quality of our lives comes from our relationship with Jesus, not from the person who wronged us (John 10:10). If this person continues in sin and blame, let them go. It’s not time to reconcile.

The quality of our lives comes from our relationship with Jesus, not from the person who wronged us (John 10:10). If this person continues in sin and blame, let them go. It’s not time to reconcile. #reconciliation Share on X

Relationships are sweeter with trust. But some people can’t be trusted. Jesus trusted His Father, not people.

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people” (John 2:24)?

How do we rebuild broken trust? Carefully, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Share your thoughts here.



Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Little Women, Big God

The forgiveness blog series begins here.

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  1. Yvonne Ortega

    Thank you, Debbie W. Wilson, for an outstanding article on the truth between forgiveness and trust. They are not the same, and we can rush headlong into disaster if we go against God’s Word and try to make them the same.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Yvonne, you are right. Sometimes our hearts long to drop our guard, but with some people that is unwise. We may wonder what’s wrong with us because the pressure is on us to trust. As you said, that can lead to more hurt and harm.

  2. Melissa Henderson

    This message is filled with great thoughts and wisdom. There have been times in my life where I did forgive someone only to have them continue with hurtful actions. I am learning to forgive and still use discernment in trusting.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Melissa, I learned this the hard way too. My forgiving doesn’t make them safe. A sad but true fact.

  3. Ann Musico

    This is SO important! Forgiveness is a non-negotiable. We are commanded to forgive. We are not commanded to reconcile with a person who is abusive or still in sin and hasn’t changed. That’s foolishness and God doesn’t raise fools!! Thanks for laying this out, Debbie.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen, Ann! God doesn’t raise fools!

  4. Fuller Harvey

    You have written many beautiful articles … and pointed the way to the Lord and His Word time and again, but I believe this is one of the most important posts you have ever created and shared. Thank you. I will share it with others. It is a treasure chest of Golden Truths and protection … a road map which, I believe, will lead MANY to Life and their true, safe Destiny in Jesus.
    Please repost/relink as often as the Lord prompts you in the future!
    In His great love and my own,

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you for your encouragement and for sharing, Fuller. I think this is important for people to know too. God’s prinicples protect us.

  5. J.D. Wininger

    Couldn’t agree more Ms. Debbie. It’s so important to know where (in whom) to place our trust. When placed with the right source, forgiveness comes and human trust can be rebuilt

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thanks, J.D. We can always trust Him to lead us on the right path.

  6. Julie Lavender

    I love this thought, Debbie: “God uses the process of mending to refine us.” Thanks for the clarification of “forgiveness” and “trust.”

    • Debbie Wilson

      Julie, isn’t it nice to know God doesn’t waste our suffering?

  7. Laurie

    Debbie, thank you for pointing out the difference between forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness is something we really do for ourselves, but learning to trust once trust has been broken is something we do for another. God will show us when trust is warranted. Great post!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Laurie, those are great thoughts. And if we listen to God instead of false guilt and “shoulds’ He will lead us.

  8. Jenny

    Hie Debbie, what a wonderful article, thank you very much l have learnt and been blessed a lot by it, l felt God had something to say to me through the article on forgiveness and trust
    Thank you
    God bless you

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Jenny.

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