Wednesday, January 2, 2013

“Boundary Busters” Versus Basic Prerequisites of Trust in Forgiveness

Pastor Steve Cornell wisely notes that all offenses are not created equal. As previously noted, sometimes we can just get irritated with one another, and this differs from instances when people actually sin against us overtly. Though a person works towards forgiveness with someone who has offended them, when they have been betrayed, forgiveness does not automatically require intimacy or even reconciliation. Concerning the distinctions between forgiveness and reconciliation, Cornell states:
When deeply or repeatedly betrayed, however, forgiveness does not necessarily require that one immediately grant the same level of relationship back to an offender. Even when God forgives our sins, He does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions. Yes, being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are not enough to restore trust in such cases.
Just as virtuous attitudes and actions will help to rebuild trust, it behooves us to consider factors and behaviors which tear away and undermine trust within our relationships. For those who seem to be stalled in the Path of Healing or cannot secure the trust of someone you offended in the past, consider this list of factors which undermine trust. Consider how you feel about others – those with whom you have experienced conflict in particular. A number of factors appear below, derived from many authors on the topic and organized in a list of general, rough categories that are by no means authoritative or exhaustive. Some authors call these actions and attitudes “boundary busters,” and others apply the title to those who demonstrate them. Some of the factors tend to overlap, but they're a starting point to stimulate thought and self-examination.

  • Poor Communication
    • Lack of skill or commitment to overcome barriers
    • Misunderstandings can be misinterpreted as betrayals or malicious intent
  • Lack of Empathy
    • Discounting the perspectives of others
    • Minimizing harm experienced by others
    • Lack of kindness
  • Self Interest (that which is not balanced against the interests and needs of others)
    • Blaming behaviors (even if you're not seeking to diminish your own sense of blame)
    • Entitlement to payback through retaliation
    • Entitlement through inequitable standards (demanding perfection of others but not requiring the same level of accountability of oneself)
    • Inflexible and uncooperative regarding the limitations of others
    • Lack of gratitude
    • Lack of willingness to share respect and personal power through shared accountability
  • Pessimism About Others (Misanthropy)
    • Demoralizing (“one upmanship” and “looking down your nose at others”)
    • Deeply personal criticism of others
    • Assuming the worst about the abilities and the mostives of others
    • Inability or unwillingness to see freedom, love, and submission as functions that can be integrated and concurrent
  • Lack of Self Awareness
    • Insincerity and denial of own imperfections
    • Transferring of feelings from another relationship over on to another person unrelated to the intial conflict (“kick the dog”)
  • Irresponsibility
  • FOG: Fear, Obligation and Guilt (See Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward)
    • Assuming the worst outcome
    • Paranoia

Defining the Basic Prerequistes for Trust

In contrast, David Augsburger lays out prerequisites that should ideally be observed prior to confronting another person, either when repenting for a wrong done or just when offering feedback. These factors of consideration lay the bedrock of the foundation upon which trust can be built.

From Augsburger's book Caring Enough to Confront, Pg 52:
  • A context of caring must come before confrontation.
  • A sense of support must be present before criticism.
  • An experience of empathy must precede evaluation.
  • A basis of trust must be laid before one risks advising.
  • A floor of affirmation must undergird any assertiveness.
  • A gift of understanding opens the way to resolving disagreement.
  • An awareness of love sets us free to level with each other.

The next post will examine additional considerations
which help to foster trust.

Further Reading: