A tumultuous relationship may not be the result of a lack of love but a lack of trust. Often in these relationships a certain amount of tension is present and minor infractions escalate into explosive conflicts. On the surface it would appear that love no longer ties these individuals together. However, their repetitive interactions and, at times, moments of mutual aid and concern would suggest otherwise. And so, perhaps it is the element of trust that has been broken and not love.
Trust suggests benevolence towards the recipient. The recipient must be ascertained to be honest and a secure place to confide and rest. Trust must be present for the expression of the deepest level of love. Love is, after all, perhaps the most vulnerable state of being. Before fully loving, we must be able to fully trust. A sensitive emotion or state of being like love is unlikely to be shared fully with someone with whom trust cannot be securely established. If that sharing is surmised to be at risk for being abused, then hesitation or even withholding of the full depth of love may occur. In this sense, the response becomes a means of self-preservation.
Perhaps the greatest definition and demonstration of the meaning of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which states:
“4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (emphasis mine).
Trust is damaged when the opposite characteristics listed within the verse are demonstrated. When love is given, and yet in response impatience, unkindness, envy, boastfulness, pride, rudeness, self-seeking, anger, etc is offered. The response is then unloving in expression regardless of the intention to be so or not. Over time, the mishandling of love by these means creates a barrier within the sender. He/she comes to learn that the recipient cannot be trusted with the full extent of one’s love.
With this said, it is also important to address the verity that perfect love is impossible to achieve. Only God is capable of consistently demonstrating perfect love. Perfection, or the lack of shortcomings, is not the point of focus. The focus is on the conscious effort. The inability to demonstrate perfect love does not give warrant for the lack of conscious effort to work towards constant improvement. Marriage is a prime example as to how the emotion of love serves as the foundation but the work of love builds it up. A parent to child relationship, sibling to sibling, or friend to friend relationship is no different. The work of love cannot be neglected! At times it is easier to respond rashly in an unloving manner than to take the time and energy necessary to respond in the right way. However, a relationship is worthy of such effort.
When a wall of uncertain trust or even distrust has formed in a relationship, time and work are necessary for breaking and rebuilding that wall. The wall wasn’t built immediately and so a sudden change of behavior or words will likely not immediately break it. Be diligent in the pursuit of rebuilding. Perhaps the first action needing to be taken is a sincere apology. In some instances, a break in trust due to unloving behavior cannot merely be ignored or assumed to have been given a continuous pardon based on whatever connection may exist in the relationship. An apology is an act of strength not weakness. It takes true strength to reflect and acknowledge wrongdoing and the need for personal work. From the point of apology, begin to study and practice each characteristic of love. Become highly intentional to demonstrate them. The test, of course, will be to pause before a response to determine a more loving approach. The repetitive practice will form habits that will be reflected positively in both individuals and the relationship. Again, it isn’t about the achievement of perfection but progress.
Love takes work, and sometimes an insufficient effort towards that work results in a break in trust. Love and trust may continue to exist despite the weakened state of the relationship. However, they may come to exist at a lesser level. A hesitation or withholding to some degree of love and trust may persist until the recipient has been ascertained to be a safe and secure resting place. This uncertainty manifests in the form of the continuous presence of tension between the individuals within the relationship. It’s never too late to begin the necessary work of improvement, however. It merely requires resolve and intentionality to personally take on the characteristics of love.
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