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Are you trustworthy?

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  ~ Psalms 19:7

What does trust mean to you and how do you value it?
How do you treat the other person in the relationship?
Do you view your word with integrity?
Are your actions committed with integrity?
Are you giving into the relationship, or just in it for what you can get from it?
Can you be trusted with everything the other person has to offer or only the things you value?
Do you trust the other person with all you have to offer?
Do you trust yourself?
Without trust, does a relationship actually exist?

This summer has seen several formerly close friends approach me and ask “to be friends” again. Some asked the question outright; others skirted around the words but were suddenly offering invitations again.

I’ve been cautious with all of them, because they violated the trust I had in them and our relationships. By “trust” don’t mean that they shared confidences outside of our space, I mean that the friend I believed them to be, they proved not to be by their words and actions. I no longer trusted them with my friendship or any part of me I had to contribute to the relationship. Why? Because they had misused what was freely given. The primary issue between us was trust.

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord. ~ Psalms 4:5

The first person to ask didn’t acknowledge her ill treatment of me at all. Our relationship broke four years ago. Throughout this time, we have interacted in social settings without a word being said about the breach in our relationship. Finally, this summer she said she understood that I reacted from my perspective and that was okay, she just wanted to be friends again. As I attempted to explain that it wasn’t just “perspective” it was my experience with her that taught me a hard lesson: I valued her and our friendship more than she did, as proven by her treatment.

From her point of view, she valued me more than I valued her. That was interesting for me to hear. I told her, “I’ve seen what you do for the friends you value. You’ve never done anything for me. Even when I told you I was in a fragile emotional state and needed help, you offered me nothing, but you continued to take.”

She tried to change the subject. She still didn’t want to talk about what led to the breach; she just wanted the breach to mend.

That’s not possible.

God tells us to confess our sins. Confession is a form of conversation. When we confess our sins (offenses) to God and to people, we have to talk about what we did, how our actions affected the relationship, and what we’re willing to do to heal that breach and move forward in the relationship. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us on how to point out a brother/sister’s offense against us. We are to tell them what they did and how it affected us. Jesus continues, “If they listen to you, you’ve gained a brother/sister.” The alternative is, if they don’t listen, we’ve lost them. If someone truly hears you and values you, their behavior will change in respect to your relationship.

If a person is not willing to discuss the affect their wrong-doing had on someone, but they are more than willing to offer excuses for their behavior, then they are not accepting responsibility for their speech and/or actions. They are not truly apologetic. They won’t really change their ways, because they don’t really think their ways are wrong. They think you’re wrong for being so “sensitive” to their behavior towards you.

I asked this first person what friendship meant to her because we were obviously operating from different definitions.

She said it means “fun” to her. “A friend is someone to hang out with and do fun stuff with!”

A friend is much more than that to me. A friend is love, support, availability and comfort… for starters. God is my friend. You have to be more than “fun” to be put in a category that describes my God.

Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites. I hate the gatherings of those who do evil, and I refuse to join in with the wicked. I wash my hands to declare my innocence. I come to your altar, O Lord, singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all your wonders. I love your sanctuary, Lord, the place where your glorious presence dwells. ~ Psalms 26:1-8

The second person called after only a few months of silence and the occasional stilted conversation. She asked for forgiveness for and offense that had already been forgiven. Because there had been no resolution through conversation, she thought I was holding something against her. I wasn’t. I had released the offense and the relationship with my forgiveness – meaning neither had any hold on my thoughts or emotions any more.

She asked me, “I just wanted to know if you wanted to be friends still, because relationships take work. This has been like breaking up with a boyfriend – do I want to try again or not…. I don’t want to put in any work if you’re not even interested in the friendship. You don’t have to say anything now; I just wanted to get that off my chest.” Mmmmm… perhaps, that wasn’t quite a question….

I tried to reply that I didn’t have anything to offer other than what I had already offered in friendship – my sincerity as a person – and if that had been rejected and tossed aside, I didn’t know what she was asking for.

She said she loved me and would always have fond thoughts of me, but if her treatment of me was the only hardship I’ve experienced I was far more blessed than she. Mmmmmm….

I corrected her. She was by far not the only person to take relationship with me for granted. “Many have claimed to love me and proceeded to treat me in ways that didn’t represent love at all. So I have learned to hear peoples’ words as I look to match them to their actions. You’re talking about putting work in, what have you done for this friendship?”

“Well, nothing… yet…. I just wanted to know if I should bother trying.”

“That’s not for me to tell you.”

The conversation with the third person actually took place last fall. This was her second time apologizing for a grievous offense against me, so it wasn’t a long drawn out conversation to get her to stop making excuses for her behavior and stop looking for sympathy for all the sad things in her life. She owned up to her words and her actions and acknowledged the fact that her actions not matching up with her words led to a breach of trust in the relationship. She offered to make amends in order to mend the breach. Almost a year later, I’m still waiting on her to make amends.

I believe amends are necessary when forgiveness has been granted. Making amends is a way of showing your love. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture. It can be as simple as following through on your word the next time you give it. Each action you take to improve a relationship builds trust. When you make amends you are expressing your desire to remain in relationship with the other party.

I want all the breaches of trust to heal in my relationships, I do, but I can only do my part. I can only live up to my word. I can’t live up to the other party’s word, silent expectations, or defend myself against their unfair judgments. Rebuilding trust is a process that begins with a word and is followed by action – doing what you said you would do.

Think about it… that must be why God is so popular! He has performed His Word time and time and time again. We can trust in the Lord because He does what He says he will do. God is the ultimate example for everything we need to know in life, for every behavior we need to learn. When you get stuck on one Biblical principle, you aren’t exploring the totality of God or allowing for all the opportunities for Him to show up in your life. For example, if you’re focused on receiving forgiveness and what that feels/looks like to you, then you’re missing what you should be giving into the relationship once you’ve received the forgiveness you wanted. I’m looking for people to act on what they already have.

The long and the short of it is that the history of the relationships, not just one offense, has led to my no-confidence vote. I do not trust that these people will treat me well. Their brand of “love” is very selfish, very self-seeking. They do not have the love, respect, consideration
and compassion for me that the Bible teaches. I know they’re aware of it, because that’s what they want from me – Godly unselfish love.

The relationship may be stagnant, but I am moving forward. I do my best to live what I believe, so when I am rejected, the light within me is being rejected as well. Jesus taught that when we are not welcome or listened to in a space we are to “shake the dust” of that place off our heels as we leave it. (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5). My role is not to convince people that I am worthy of their effort or time to mend the damage they did to
a relationship. My role is to offer the best of me every time I offer any of me.

Think of it this way, we all received forgiveness when Jesus died on the cross – that was the beginning of our work in the Kingdom, not the end. If we just take Jesus on the cross and keep Him there, we miss the whole point and benefit of the saving grace God provided through His sacrificial act and we miss out on all the promises God has made to His chosen. Forgiveness is the beginning of new, improved relationship. It’s not a way back to the former relationship. We have to take our forgiveness and walk forward in faith to give the best of ourselves in the relationships God has blessed us with. We are to give the first and best to God first. From what we offer to Him, He multiplies for us to offer to others.

But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me. ~Psalms 13:5-6

Anytime is a good time to ask yourself these questions for any relationship you’re laboring in:

What does trust mean to you and how do you value it?
How do you treat the other person in the relationship?
Do you view your word with integrity?
Are your actions committed with integrity?
Are you giving into the relationship, or just in it for what you can get from it?
Can you be trusted with everything the other person has to offer or only the things you value?
Do you trust the other person with all you have to offer?
Do you trust yourself?
Without trust, does a relationship actually exist?
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It doesn’t even matter

I’m not a popular person in my family. Not well liked at all. I used to think I was ostracized because I spoke up for myself, which opened the family to scrutiny.

Now I know it is because I spoke up for myself. I acted on faith and actively freed myself from bondage.

When I was fifteen, an aunt told me that she resented me. Up to recently, I’d always thought she resented my youth, innocence and opportunities.

However, I now realize she resented my voice, my strength, my truth, my faith. Even when I didn’t understand the power of any of those characteristics, I exhibited and used them effectively. She resented my ability to stop others from hurting me. She resented the fact that I lived as if I had a right to live. I was true to my conscience, my beliefs and to myself.

A short while ago, I received a phone call from another aunt. She checks up on me occassionally, mostly to keep me appraised of family drama. I had just gotten into bed and answered with a drowsy, “Hello”. She apologized for waking me. I told her I hadn’t yet fallen asleep. She then launched into the latest furor: a relative was lying on me. They were besmirching my name and my testimony. She wanted me to go shut them up.

My lids began to descend. “I know the truth,” I told her. “They know the truth. God knows the truth. It doesn’t matter what they say.” On that last word, I fell asleep. I don’t know how long she was talking, before I heard, “Shawnda! Are you sleep…? Good night, baby, I love you.”

I repeated the sentiment, hung up, rolled over and went into a deeper sleep.

Had her call only consisted of words of love, the effect on my equilibrium would have been the same. I wasn’t moved. I didn’t get excited, anxious or offended.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  ~ Mark 4:35-40

I rest in a truth that gives me peace.   

During the recent call with my aunt, I realized (consciously), for the first time, that what people think and say doesn’t matter at all – to my peace, to my right standing with God, to my faith, to my love walk. What matters is my integrity to my word, faith and belief. Am I being as true as I know to be? How am I acting out what I believe? How am I praising God with my lifestyle? How am I honoring Him with my life? That’s all that truly matters.