What do you do when trust is broken?

We’ve talked about how to trust and how to be trustworthy in the context of chronic illness – even when it’s really hard. We know how important trust is, and what a gift it can be. But what do you do when trust is broken? When things don’t go as they should go, when words are said that can’t be unsaid, or when actions speak louder than words and the message they send is wrong and unkind? 

It’s happened to all of us, and it will happen again. We trust someone, and we are let down. Or we let someone else down, and feel like we’ve failed them and ourselves as well. Or perhaps we’ve simply refused to trust for so long that our relationships lie in tatters around us, and our world is not the place we hoped it would be.

What do we do? Can trust be repaired?

I think so. Trust is a decision we make over and over, and so there are always opportunities to learn to trust again. We live in a world that is moldable, and full of possibilities. We serve a God who is able to work in impossible situations. Furthermore, people are not static, we are continually developing and changing and so relationships too can always change for the better. But how do we get there? Here are some steps you might find helpful:

ONE: Grieve that we live in a world where people are not perfect and trust is broken. 

Grief is about acknowledging hurt. Nothing can be changed until it is accepted in all its complexity, and one way to accept is to mourn.

Grieve for what could have been.

Grieve for what can never be.

Grieve for opportunity lost.

Grieve for feelings hurt.

Grieve for broken relationships.

Grieve for a torn apart world.

Grieve that life is not as it should be. This might sound depressing, and a bit like wallowing in self-pity, but I want to maintain that it is important. The reality is, life is not supposed to be like this – full of struggle and brokenness and trustlessness. When we accept this, it is going to be painful, and there’s going to be some grief involved. That’s okay.

TWO: Define the situation.

Having your trust broken hurts. Failing to be someone who is trustworthy hurts. It can be really helpful to define the situation to yourself, as though you’re telling someone else. Aside from all the emotions and interpretations and meaning you’ve placed on things said or done – what actually happened? What was actually done? What was actually said?

It’s easy, in our leap to deal with the pain of a broken relationship, to assign blame wrongly. Take a step back, take a breath, and give yourself a chance to write things out.

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THREE: Talk together about what happened.

Sometimes it’s better to wait for a while before bringing up the situation, sometimes it might need to be addressed straight away. Whatever the case, it can be helpful to define the desired outcome before you go into the discussion. What will make this conversation ‘successful’ in your eyes? This is important because so often we enter conversations with unrealistic expectations (the other person will apologise immediately with tears) and then we throw yet another emotion (disappointment) into the mix. Here are some expectations I find helpful:

This conversation will be successful if: 

  • I listen to what the other person has to say. 
  • I accept blame where appropriate and ask forgiveness.
  • We remain friends.

Sometimes the conversation is not going to be ‘successful’ according to our definition – and that’s okay! It may be painful, but it can be helpful to remember that you tried to fix the situation; God is ultimately in control; and there may be another chance for resolution.

FOUR: Make the decision to trust again. 

Trust is crucial in relationships, and a beautiful gift. When broken, it can be really difficult to continue in a relationship, to make the effort to reach out, to be trustworthy.

There are times where it is not possible to trust someone in the same way again, and times when you will need to redefine your relationship with someone so that you can trust again. What is important is that we remember that we serve a great God. Trust is always possible in some respect and mended relationships can happen. Let’s face the future with hope, because while trusting will always be costly, not-trusting is even pricier.

Note: These steps happen best within the relationship, but sometimes that’s not possible. Most of them, you can still go through just with yourself and God, or perhaps a friend outside the situation. Leaving relationships as broken and as messy as they are when the breach of trust first occurred, is only going to be more painful in the long run.

//So what do you think? Are these steps helpful? Do they seem too optimistic? Too black and white? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Have you read my memoir, Two Sisters and a Brain Tumour? It’s the story of (you guessed it!) two sisters, the diagnosis which turned their lives upside down, and ended up saving them. It’s a raw, honest account of hunting for hope in the darkness of chronic illness and caregiving, and finding laughter and even joy along the way.

You can find it here!

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I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Twitter! Meet me there for more interesting reads, resources and community.two sisters

The beautiful gift of trust in chronic illness

‘Relationships are built on trust’ – that’s a phrase you hear often. But have you ever considered that trust might be more than a necessity? That it might actually be one of the greatest gifts you can give someone, particularly someone who is living with a chronic illness?

The Oxford dictionary defines trust as the ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.’

Think about that for a moment. With this definition in mind, how would you feel if someone said, ‘I trust you’? I’d feel pretty good. I’d feel recognized, validated and affirmed. I’d feel more confident in myself. I’d feel challenged to ‘keep up the good work’. All that from three words. 

Continue reading “The beautiful gift of trust in chronic illness”

Expectations and why they’re good: Christmas

Did you know that it’s impossible not to have expectations?

Try it.

However vague, we always have some sense of what an event or a holiday or a job or a coffee-date will be like. Often, when we say we had “no expectations” what we really mean is we had “low expectations”.

Christmas and the holiday season bring a lot of expectations.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Christmas”? Food, fun, community, isolation, stress – whatever connotations you have, they will form part of your expectation for the season.

Christmas and the good thing about expectations

Chronic illness can make expectations necessary.

Continue reading “Expectations and why they’re good: Christmas”

Why must we express our anger to God? (Book Review: A Sacred Sorrow)

“Lament” is an old fashioned word. I can often be more of a ‘let’s just move on’ sort of person myself. Yet the Bible teaches that there’s something sacred about our sorrow.

I’ve recently finished A Sacred Sorrow: reaching out to God in the lost language of Lament. This book by Michael Card was given to me by a friend after my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I must admit I thought I knew quite a bit about turning to God in the midst of sorrow, but this book helped clarify and stretch my understanding.

Most of all, it helped me understand why it’s important to cry out to God – even when I’d prefer just to ‘move on’.

If you want to an overview of the book, read on. If you want to skip to my assessment, scroll down!

Continue reading “Why must we express our anger to God? (Book Review: A Sacred Sorrow)”

Loving a sick person is too hard! (Watchers, we are not impartial observers)

I’ve been absent lately.

I’ve discovered that it’s quite difficult to type with a broken wrist!

I’m also settling in to what it looks like to be at home, loving someone going through chemotherapy.

It’s not easy. Patience and domestic duties have never been my strong points. Far from it actually. Some days I want to give it all up and become an “impartial observer”. It hurts much less when you fail and takes far less effort!

Nevertheless, God has called me to be a Watcher right now, so I pray and know He will equip me in all the ways necessary (and probably in a lot I’d like to pretend aren’t necessarily, like the ability to  ‘see’ what needs  to be done around the house or remember to pick up my own clothes from the floor).

ALSO an exciting piece of news: This is the 100th post on Called to Watch! Is there someone you know who might find this blog helpful? Take a moment to send them the link, or sign up for email updates!

Being a Watcher is hard, and instead of ‘really’ caring, it’s tempting to disengage emotionally. When this happens, we become “impartial observers”.

Continue reading “Loving a sick person is too hard! (Watchers, we are not impartial observers)”

I have a chronic illness: Is God calling me to sacrifice my health?

Dear Emily,

I have a chronic illness, and I’ve recently been challenged about what it looks like for me to serve, specifically in mission (whether domestic or overseas).

Today’s post is my thoughts in regards to a series of questions I was asked by Wendy.

Q1. Why does it seem noble to sacrifice personal comfort to serve God in a third world country, but not to sacrifice your energy (as someone who has chronic fatigue) to serve in my own country?

Firstly, I think you’re right when you say there’s a difference between giving up your health security in a general sense (moving to a 3rd world country) and specifically sacrificing it, knowing exactly what the consequences will be.

Both scenarios involve potential daily suffering, but they are different, and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that at the very beginning.

Continue reading “I have a chronic illness: Is God calling me to sacrifice my health?”

“I’m fine, don’t worry about me!”(Watchers, we are not Saints)

“I’m okay.”
“I’ve got this.”
“Honestly, it’s fine, I promise.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are only a Watcher, and instead begin to think that we are (or should be) a “saint”.
This is what it looks like:

Watchers, we are not saints

Do you…

  • …. feel guilty all the time. I’m not a good Watcher. Not even passable. Why can’t I do anything right?
  • … gloss over your hardships and sacrifices. Oh I don’t do much, not at all. Yes I spent all day driving my loved one to appointments in the rain, but that doesn’t matter. It was nothing!
  • … never share your problems. I’m going fine. One’s got to do what they’ve got to do! Other people have it worse, after all.

Continue reading ““I’m fine, don’t worry about me!”(Watchers, we are not Saints)”

3 reasons it is good to be sad after a chronic illness diagnosis

I don’t like being sad. Do you?
Being sad means I no longer feel like laughing at someone’s joke or daydreaming in the sun.

Being sad can mean I get headaches from crying, or find it difficult to concentrate during lectures, sermons or long conversations.

And yet, the truth is, when tragedy strikes our loved ones, it can actually be helpful to be sad.

Here’s why.

3 reasons it’s good to be sad:

1. Sadness is reality

Let us not lose sight of the fact that when someone we love is suffering we ought to be sad.

It’s not merely ‘okay’ or ‘acceptable’ – but it is good.

If your heart does not break at the new distress of someone you love, something is not right.

Feeling sad means you’re human.

It means you have a living, breathing, sympathetic heart, and that is good. We were not created to be stone statues, but living people created in the likeness of a God who weeps as well as laughs.

Sadness is the right response to tragic reality. It means you see the world as it is. Life is not all happy games and hopes fulfilled. It is just as equally a dark valley and night time tears.

To see and feel sorrow when it is present is good.

Sadness is the right response to tragedy. It is part of being human – tweet!

Continue reading “3 reasons it is good to be sad after a chronic illness diagnosis”

The 3 dangers of being sad after a chronic illness diagnosis

Sadness after a chronic illness diagnosis, that’s valid, right? 

It’s a good thing… yes?

Well – sort of.

Sadness can be restrictive

Strange as it may seem, having mixed emotions can actually be a saving grace.

If we are sad over our Loved One’s suffering, but simultaneously frustrated at the doctors, angry at God or jealous of others, no one feeling has complete control.

After all, we’re only human, and cannot plumb the depths of ‘anger’ at the exact same time as we are reaching into the extent and intensity of ‘grief’.

With many emotions comes also many options for relief, more opportunities for someone to say ‘me too’.

Yet when we are simply sad, it can become all-consuming. We can easily develop ‘tunnel vision’, and our sadness may push aside every other happiness.

In one sense that’s okay. It’s not wrong to feel grief, and immense grief will be felt immensely.

But it can also be harmful, because we all need some measure of distance. Continue reading “The 3 dangers of being sad after a chronic illness diagnosis”

What I learnt when I cried in church

I hesitate to share this. It’s personal. It’s ‘deep’… and this is in itself is normally an indicator that I shouldn’t post it on the World Wide Web.

We’ve looked at why it’s okay to cry in public and also how to respond. Now this is my story…

My story of public grief (and what it taught me about God and chronic illness)

I believe it’s important.

This experience was one of the times I have seen God teaching me ‘in the moment’. It was a valuable lesson – and so I share it, not for sympathy or scandal, but so you might also see the God I saw that day.

Continue reading “What I learnt when I cried in church”