At the same time, it was important to me to give you something that you could implement quickly. These tools are not simple or easy, but they are effective. You know this about me already: I’m a Christ-follower and, in my estimation, many of these options fall short of their intended effectiveness if Jesus isn’t in the middle of them. But you don’t have to be religious for these steps to work for you. So please don’t stop listening and give these ideas a chance to go to work in your life.
Here are the five steps to recovery after trust has been broken:
I know – I started with the one that is the hardest. Let me first say that forgiving is not forgetting. I’m not asking you to ignore the pain you feel when recounting the way in which your trust was violated. I’m not diminishing the raw feelings or emotions you experience when recalling those horrid moments. The problem is that there is a tangible and real cost of hanging onto and persisting in those emotions. Unresolved conflict, bitterness, resentment: they could affect your physical health.
Repeated studies, like this one from Johns Hopkins Medicine, indicate that the act of forgiveness lowers the risk of a heart attack, improves cholesterol levels, improves sleep, reduces pain, reduces blood pressure, and lowers anxiety, depression, and stress. The connection increases as you age.
Karen Swartz, M.D., and director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital says “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.” Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode and produces undesirable changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.
Kevin and Cheryl Rose are special and long-time family friends who recently moved to Arizona so Kevin could receive treatment from Dr. John Murphy at the AZ Good Health Center in Tempe, AZ. Dr. Murphy built his practice around integrative and holistic care. In other words, you don’t treat the body separate from the mind, separate from the emotions. All must be aligned for the best treatment outcomes. Forgiveness is a critical contributor to the outcome.
You aren’t crazy. Your next question probably sounds like this: How can I possibly forgive? You were damaged deeply by the other person(s). You can imagine that simply saying “I forgive you” probably isn’t going to get the job done. It’s part of the equation, but the real power is backing it up with action. One element that empowers this action is deciding to forgive whether they deserve it or not and whether they asked or not. Let that sink in for a moment. If you evaluate the long-term damage that we do with our actions and our words, none of us deserve forgiveness.
Sometimes it is possible to speak to the person(s) directly. There are times when folks are completely unaware of the impact that their behavior is having on others. They will appreciate you taking the risk to say as much. Other times, it’s mean-spirited and malicious with intentional disregard for those on the receiving end. As you can imagine, one relationship has a great chance of improving while the other is headed for dissolution. Don’t waste time trying to talk through issues with someone who does not have the decency to hear you out. It’s virtually impossible to make this assessment if you don’t try.
Forgive And Love Yourself
Often, the hardest person to forgive and love is the one looking at you in the mirror! How many terrible decisions have you made in your life where you continuously and viciously remind yourself of your shortcoming? You wouldn’t treat another person or animal the way you think about yourself. So start here. We are all imperfect and have blown it in ways we never imagined possible. Those moments are not reflections of the person we are or that we desire to be, so remember this about those who hurt you.
Your worth is not determined by how others treat you. You have inherent and intrinsic value. I believe you are a reflection of God and made by Him in His likeness. Imagine an artist who designs marvelous works of art. Now imagine that one piece of art begins judging the value of other pieces. Is that not ridiculous? The only one who gets to determine the value of the artist’s work is the artist.
You have value because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe that you are unique and deserving of honor because of this. There aren’t a lot of people who will take the time to remind you of your inherent value. I recommend that you remind and reinforce this yourself to yourself. Often.
Radically Adjust Your Expectation Of Others
At a leadership retreat several years ago, I vividly recall a pastor’s wife talking about the pain she had experienced over many decades in ministry. I’m not sure if you know this but people can be terribly unkind. While it’s supposed to be different inside the church, it’s often more pronounced because it is not supposed to be that way. No one is immune to the attack, not even the innocents hit by supposedly “friendly” fire. She said that she had come to realize that the only way she could love others was to free them from her expectations.
I’m not advocating the elimination of standards. I am promoting the idea that we are often unreasonable in our expectations of ourselves and others. Our standards for justice and mercy are often skewed based on bias. That bias can unfairly weight the scales against, or in favor, of ourselves. The result is that we can be overly harsh on ourselves or too easy on ourselves. Rarely do we have the capability of determining the correctness of our expectations. This you can know with confidence: you will disappoint yourself and so will others.
Are you prepared to deal with it when others let you down?
Maintain A Standard
If you don’t have a standard then abuse is a distinct possibility. Do not abandon standards. You should be treated with dignity and respect. This is an appropriate standard. Relationships are founded on trust and it would be impossible to have an authentic relationship if you did not hold to this standard.
You can forgive without violating the standard. If you are consistently misled or mistreated by your leader, it is reasonable to forgive him or her while looking for alternative employment. There is no requirement that you always be treated “fairly” and yet when there is a pattern of mistreatment, you must determine when it violates your standard and take appropriate action.
You should not tolerate abuse. Physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse should be reported and addressed with immediate consequence. When I managed Site Support and Service Desk operations in the Americas for my employer, there was a situation where an employee threatened physical harm to one of my team members. The standard for acceptable and appropriate behavior demanded that the situation be addressed immediately by Human Resources. That’s what a standard does: it clearly defines unacceptable behavior.
If you don’t have a standard for what is an acceptable treatment of your person, then define it. It’s one way to make sure that you don’t tolerate it in the future.
Don’t Do This By Yourself
I know this doesn’t seem possible. You feel alone in the midst of the betrayal. It would be much easier to crawl into your shell, or better yet, a cave and remove yourself from the pain and the drama. There is no healing in isolation. You aren’t the first to be betrayed, and you won’t be the last.
The world is full of survivors like you. Find them. Listen to their story, their survival experiences. Often you will find steps they took that will propel you on your own journey toward healing. As you work against isolation, you will find this key point to be true: you can not superimpose your past experiences onto others.
It’s the beauty of doing life in community! You will realize that there are wonderful, trustworthy people in your life. People who have your back, who genuinely care about your well being. They might be in the next room, next door, or thousands of miles away. Whether virtual or face-to-face, these people remind you that you have good reason to hope for a better future.
I’m one of them.
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