Good relationships have the earmarks of friendship. The better the friendship, the stronger the relationship. That includes the family. Husbands and wives. Parents and children (as the children grow the relationship transitions to a friendship). Brothers and sisters. God intends for us to be friends.
A foundational quality of any relationship is trust. When trust is broken the relationship is broken and cannot be whole until trust is reestablished. Solid and enduring friendships are based on character, not just personality. Applying the principles of friendship to our marriages would make them healthier.
What are some of the marks of trust in a friendship that can be measured in a marriage? In parent and child relationships? Here are three actions that communicate that you are trustworthy to others.
- We communicate trust by being loyal with our words.
Trust is broken when we are not trustworthy with our words. That not only means being a truth-teller and keeping promises, but also involves what we say when the other is not present.
Friends take their words to each other seriously. They don’t speak negatively about each other or allow others to do so. Friends are loyal; this includes our words about each other when we speak to others.
A pastor friend asked a well-known preacher what his greatest disappointment had been in his ministry of over fifty years. He quickly responded, “The betrayal of a close friend”. Why did he not have to think about the answer? The pain of betrayal was still remembered. We remember the times when trust was violated. It makes us hesitant to trust again. This is why we need God’s grace to help us forgive and to love again in the future. I wonder how many new friendships we have forfeited because we have refused to ever “get burned again“.
Always defend the name of your friend. It is common for those that have served in political administrations, after leaving their time of service, to write a memoir. Frequently it will include something sensational that was negative; because people want to read such things, it is included to help sell the book. These “kiss and tell” books involve matters that were spoken in confidence, never intended for public ears. I have little respect for those that do those things.
I prove my love to my family by how I speak about them to other people. They need to know that I am loyal to them – and that they can trust me, when they are not present.
Blaise Pascal wrote, “I maintain that, if everyone knew what others said about him, there would not be four friends in the world.” The fact that he wrote this almost 400 years ago shows that human nature doesn’t change. Our hearts are wicked and we have a tendency to be disloyal when we are under pressure or it serves our interests. Or we just want to run others down to attempt to build ourselves up.
Only God can help us with this.
“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
- We communicate trust by keeping confidences.
This is similar to the above thought, but a little different. Confidences involve those things that our friends share and specifically ask us to keep private and confidential.
When someone shares a confidence they trust one to keep it. Often it involves a disappointment, failure, or personal matter. They are trusting us with sensitive information.
“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” (Proverbs 11:13)
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” (George Washington)
Confidences in the family are often broken later or to that “one special person” the individual knows. It’s like the friend that had shared a private matter with a friend and later discovered others knew of it. He went to his friend and asked him if he had shared that information. His buddy said, “Yes, but only to one person and I told them not to tell it to anyone else“. And so it goes – and the circle widens.
In the family circle we spend so much time with each other we observe our loved ones in the best and worst of times; we see each other when our guards are down. Our proximity and time spent with family increases the number of these “confidential” moments that shouldn’t be shared. This includes times we are hurt by words or failed promises by parents or by the bad treatment of a sibling.
After this happens (and it will, your family is composed of sinners), we have a choice. We can forgive them – or we can tell others about the failures of our family. Friends don’t do that with each other because they love each other. Neither should family. This is a betrayal and erodes trust – which is fundamental to a good relationship.
The Bible says that love “…thinketh no evil…” (I Corinthians 13:8).
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)
I have purposed that I will not share negative things about my family and be loyal to them in the way I talk about them. I want to be loyal to them in my words. I want my children, my wife, my brother and sister – and my parents who are now in Heaven, to know that I will always speak well of them. I would be grateful for them to give me the same gift as often as I have stumbled and offended them.
“Every man should have a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
- We communicate trust in not judging the motives of others.
This is when a relationship is mature and love is strong. Rather than immediately questioning motives (what a cynic does) we give margin and the benefit of the doubt. I had rather be proven wrong about a person when I trusted them than to assume wrong about them when they did no wrong. The way we see people influences the way we treat them.
God’s Word says that love “…beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…” (I Corinthians 13:7).
In the spring of 1977 I was sitting in my New Testament Survey college class and my teacher and mentor, Dr. Wymal Porter, said, “Never judge a person’s motives; you don’t know what they are. That is God’s job and He will do that on judgment day.”
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts…” (I Corinthians 4:5)
That was a life-changing moment for me. I told the Lord that I didn’t want to do that and began to seek to purge that out of my heart with the help of God. I haven’t succeeded fully, but I have seen growth.
Our corrupt nature tends to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. With God’s help we can reverse that and begin to judge ourselves by our actions and others by their intentions. Yes, it is important to hold people accountable for their actions, but I also think it would be a better place to live if we extended mercy and didn’t think that we knew exactly what was going on in the mind and heart of the other person. We can do great harm when we always act on that premise.
Close friends give people some space and believe in them when others do not. That is what Barnabas did for Saul and he became the great Apostle Paul.
I have not always done this well with my wife and children. There have been too many times when I have assumed what I thought what was happening or what they were thinking and came to a faulty conclusion. And I hurt them. I began to ask God to help me to slow down, to be quiet, and to listen. It made an amazing difference.
One of the great words in the Bible is “mercy“. God loves and delights in mercy. I’m so glad for that.
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)
“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” (Richard Sibbes)
It’s true. Friends trust one another. We need God’s help to do this because He is the only faithful and true One. May our friendships, marriages and homes reflect the heart of Christ. It will transform our relationships.
Perhaps your trust has been shattered by someone in your family. Bring your brokenness to Jesus and He can mend your broken heart and help you to start anew. That is the purpose of the cross and the empty tomb. It is where new life begins.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Our Savior is the only One we can fully trust. If He lives in your heart then He will give you the desire and ability to cultivate trustworthiness in your life – because He is trustworthy. This is one of the qualities that makes Him such a dear Friend. It will strengthen your friendships – and your family relationships.