I was driving by a local pizza place recently and noticed a red, white and blue sign on their window: Restoring the Trust. I don’t know the details, but I think I can guess this restaurant’s story: their reputation has been tarnished in some way and their reliability has been challenged by customers and now they are seeking a second chance. When your quality of work or character is called into question, it is extremely difficult to repair the damage. Our only hope is that people will afford us an opportunity to show we’ve changed after admitting that we’ve made mistakes.
I can assume that we’ve all done something that would warrant our posting a sign in our windows or on our foreheads that reads “Restoring the Trust”. We have all said something hurtful, done something hateful or acted somehow thoughtlessly and caused our co-workers, neighbors or friends to question our integrity. I make this assumption because I have done things and said things that have tarnished my reputation. I’m the kid that was suspended from grade school because I raised my hand in anger to a teacher; I’m the teen who belittled the influence of my parent at a time when I had a platform for appreciating them; I’m the man who has lied and cheated to get my way when I could have simply told the truth and followed the rules. I have had numerous occasions with several relationships where I was seeking to “Restore the Trust”.
I have come to realize, through the pain of seeking easier paths, that the only way to recover one’s integrity and remove the tarnish from one’s reputation is to seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt. Seeking forgiveness is not as simple as putting a sign in the window and expecting a second chance (as if a blanket statement that ‘mistakes were made’ could be enough. It requires admitting your faults, owning your mistakes and confessing your sins…personally and humbly. It then requires a willingness to offer restitution…graciously and generously. It finally requires a commitment to repent (i.e. to turn away from the actions you find shameful and transform your way of thinking so that the actions do not resurface). That’s what it takes to restore the trust.
This process, painful as it may be to initiate, does not always resolve the tension and repair the relationship. Sometimes the offense is too egregious for those harmed and restoration is not possible (which may be the most painful restitution to pay). Sometimes those who are offended are unwilling to accept our apology and we must accept that the damage is irreparable. But then there are times, when you’ve put yourself out there with all vulnerability that you hear the song of hope – “I forgive you”. Then the hurt begins to heal and the heart begins to warm. Then the trust is being restored.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
One final thought: Paul states in the above verse that we ought to forgive just as in Christ God forgave us. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve said, if you come to God in confession, with the promise of restitution and repentance, He will forgive you…always and forever.