Because trust is part of reconciliation, it is possible to come together again and then work on that trust. The other may have to earn back that trust a little at a time if the betrayal was deep. You can begin to trust when you see what I call the 3 Rs in the other: remorse (genuine inner sorrow seen in the other’s eyes), repentance (an apology that flows from the genuine inner sorrow) and recompense (truly trying to right the wrong). Please be patient as these three in the other may take some time and your trust may build slowly.
I was raised in an abusive family situation and now my trust is damaged. When my husband apologizes, I have a very hard time believing that he actually has remorse. How can I train myself to see and believe the remorse that is displayed while the apology is said?
Remorse is an inner sorrow for unjust actions while repentance is the outward expression, such as an apology, of that inner sorrow. In the 1970’s the psychiatrist R.C. Hunter stated, and I think he is correct, that most of us, even those who are not trained as mental health professionals, can identify false forms of forgiveness. There is what he called a certain smug-like quality to insincere forgiving or seeking forgiveness. Therefore, are you getting a sense of anything “smug” in his response of apology to you? Look into his eyes. Are those eyes trying to hide something or is there an openness to you, to your hurt? As another quality in your husband that might help you, has he shown an interest in what I call recompense or making it right again for you? The 3 Rs of remorse (genuine inner sorrow seen in his eyes), repentance (an apology that flows from the genuine inner sorrow) and recompense (truly trying to right the wrong) may be a more full indicator for you of your husband’s genuine attempt at the fourth R: reconciliation with you.
Reconciliation is different from forgiveness. When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly. Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation. So, you can forgive without reconciling.
With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):
1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did? We call this remorse;
2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you. We call this repentance;
3) Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends. For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way). We call this recompense;
4) If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person? If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship. Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?
For additional information, see: I thought it was possible to forgive someone without ever trusting them again. Is this not true?
I was told I have not truly forgiven someone, because I do not trust the person anymore. I thought we can forgive an offense, but have to work on restoring trust. Sometimes trust can be restored and reconciliation occurs, but other times it does not. I thought it was also possible to forgive someone without ever trusting them again. Is this not true? Please advise.
You show wisdom in making the distinction between forgiving and reconciling.
Forgiveness is a moral virtue that can start as an interior response to the one who acted unjustly. In other words, forgiveness starts with an insight that the other person has inherent worth, as you do. It also eventually can include what the philosopher, Joanna North, calls the “softened heart,” or compassion for the other.
In contrast, reconciliation is a negotiation strategy between two or more people who come together again in mutual trust. One can have the forgiving thoughts and feelings toward the other without interacting with the other person if that person continues to act in a harmful way. A goal of forgiving is to reconcile, but this does not always occur. Reconciliation involves trust, which can be difficult to re-establish unless the other shows what I call “the three R’s” of remorse (inner sorrow), repentance (a verbal expression of that sorry), and when possible recompense (making up for the injustice). These three can help re-establish trust, which usually takes time as the offending ones show a little at a time that they can be trusted by their new actions.
Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .