Sunday, December 3, 2023

Forgiveness and Trust

January 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Domestic Violence and Christianity

Does Forgiveness = Trust?

By Barbara Jones-Schroyer

It is important for us to understand the difference between forgiveness and trust when we are working with or in relationship with abusive men. The terms forgiveness and trust are laden with religious implications for many people. Frequently in faith communities, forgiveness is interpreted to mean the same thing as trust. When well meaning pastors or clergy encourage a woman to forgive, i.e. reconcile with her husband or partner who has abused her– when trust has not been established through repentance and changed behavior over time, it not only circumvents a healthy process of accountability but more importantly, it can jeopardize an abused or battered woman’s safety. Let’s take a look at what these two concepts mean.

Dictionaries and online sites offer many definitions of forgiveness; here are two:


“Forgiveness happens when you let go of your anger, your negative thoughts as well as resentments towards someone who has done you wrong. When you forgive a person, you willingly decide to move forward and you see that person’s actions in a much broader context, rather than letting the actions define that individual. Forgiveness is pretty much an internal process that does not require both parties to be involved. You have to choose to either forgive somebody, or let it be. They don’t have to have the same mutual feeling, and it isn’t a two-way street.”


“To cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed; to give up claim to requital from or retribution upon (an offender); to absolve; to pardon; — said of the person offending.”

We can establish a couple of points from these two definitions of forgiveness:

1)     It is a choice

2)     It is an internal process

3)     It involves giving up resentment and anger

4)     It does not necessarily involve the offender

What about trust? What does it mean to trust someone? From

“Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.”


“Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

“To have or place confidence in; depend on.”

Forgiveness has to do with a person choosing to let go of negative feelings toward the person who has harmed them; it does not mean the forgiver should necessarily trust the offender.   To help clarify our understanding, consider the following scenario: suppose you asked a neighbor whom you trust to come and stay in your home to protect it while you go on vacation. After you returned, you found out that the neighbor stole money and valuables from your home. You called the police, there was an investigation, charges were filed and the neighbor was brought to justice. As a Christian, at some point you may decide to forgive your neighbor and it may take some time because of the harm they caused. But your choice to forgive is to unburden yourself of negative feelings -it’s your  personal process for your well being and to follow through with Christ’s command to forgive. But would you trust that neighbor to stay in your home again next time you went on vacation? You may never trust that person again in that capacity and you may set a clear boundary/limit not to be in relationship with that person; hence, you can forgive without trusting.

This story helps to lift the religious confusion surrounding the issues of forgiveness and trust. When trust has been broken in a marriage due to domestic violence, the burden of repairing the trust is on the person who broke it- the perpetrator of violence. Sometimes the perpetrator’s wife/partner decides it is too difficult “to have or place confidence in or depend on” his intentions. Her safety  may be at risk and she chooses not to stay with him. But if the victim of domestic violence decides to stay in relationship with the man who battered her, it is up to that man to demonstrate a thoroughly repentant and changed life for whatever length of time it takes… not in words only, but in beliefs, actions, attitude, etc., and he will demonstrate this new life with a humble spirit. That is what builds trust.

For more information on this process see our post “The Journey of Change-What it Looks Like.”


2 Responses to “Forgiveness and Trust”
  1. I love this! SO happy i found this! Just what i was looking for!

  2. Good article, concisely put.
    For those looking to read more on Forgiveness (what it is and what it is not) there is a link on my Resources page, in the ARTICLES list, that will take you to an sermon I recommend by Bob Kerry. Go to and scroll down to find the item by Bob Kerry.

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