Steps to Take if you Need to Heal a Breach of Trust




“Shattered legs may heal in time, but some betrayals fester and poison the soul.”

― George R.R. Martin


We may have betrayed someone by breaking a promise, by gossiping about our friends, by breaking a confidence, by not being there for someone in our family who experiencing a life changing challenge, or by promising someone something and then not following through on it. It might be a major breech such as infidelity, for example, or relatively minor such as reneging on a promise to “do lunch sometime”.    In any case, a breakdown of trust occurs, and the awful consequence of that is, for some people, that they may never trust you again.


Have you ever been guilty of a breach of trust with someone?


What, if anything, might you do to repair the rupture?


  1. Acknowledge to yourself, that you have broken trust, that you have betrayed them in some way. Accept personal responsibility.  This is easier to do if you go to them first and acknowledge your actions rather than hiding them, hoping that the other person will not find out, and then be confronted by them about the betrayal.   Hard to be seen as being sincere in your apology if you’ve been caught red-handed.


  1. Tell the person what you have done without excuses, without mentioning possible extenuating circumstances (I had too much to drink); or sharing the blame with anyone else (the devil made me do it!).



This is slightly easier to do when you have made the decision to tell and seek forgiveness for your offense.  It is considerably less easy when someone confronts you with your betrayal.  The almost automatic reaction then is to deny (you’re imagining things); to excuse yourself (I was drunk); to include them in the blame (well, you did it first); to minimize the betrayal (I don’t know why you are so sensitive); or to counter-attack (well it must be nice to be perfect).


  1. Now comes the hard part (as if the first two weren’t hard enough). Shut up and listen to their response.  They will quite likely be angry, hurt, disappointed, or some combination of all three.  Their language may be (in your opinion) unfair or unreasonably harsh.  Try to remember that you are not the victim here.  Reply with empathic statements – I know you are deeply hurt; or, I can understand that you angry with me.  Do NOT rationalize or justify your behavior, even if a tiny bit of you thinks that there was some small excuse. This is not the time to raise it.


  1. Don’t confuse the matter by explaining that it wasn’t your intention to hurt them and betray their trust in you. Intentions matter little in the face of betrayal.  Apologize for your betrayal, and ask the person how you can fix the matter and reestablish a trusting relationship.


Asking what you can do to fix the relationship is not without challenges because they might well ask you to do something that you are, at least at present, unable or unwilling to do, or at least unwilling to do without feeling a great deal of resentment.  “You need to fire her, now!”


You will have to realize that the relationship might never return to its former level.  There may always be some lingering doubt, some small portion of mistrust on their side.  This is known as a consequence.


“Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise- by trading in our integrity and failing to treat life and others in our life, with respect and dignity. That’s really where the truest and the most tragic failures comes from… they come making the choice to betray another soul, and in turn, giving up a piece of your own.”

― José N. Harris, Mi Vida


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