My husband, Seth, and I live on a 23 acre farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We’ve lived here for years. Over time we acquired an eclectic group of farm animals, including six sheep, nine goats, two dogs, three cats and a donkey named Barbie.  For ten years we enjoyed the large animals. I can say that without reservation, because it was my husband’s responsibility to feed, water and muck stalls through summer and winter, regardless of the weather and usually at 5:30 in the morning.

In the past few years my husband retired and I sold my analytical testing business, so we began to travel more, taking trips to Italy, England, and eating our way through several US cities.  Travel was difficult with the farm responsibilities.   So, Seth decided to downsize the farm, and he adopted out the large animals through Last Chance Ranch in Quakertown.  He was comfortable that they all were going to good homes but it was a sad day when the trailer pulled up to take them away.

On that beautiful day in July, three volunteers with a huge trailer came to the farm.  They loaded Barbie,  then the sheep,  and then they began to lure the goats into the vehicle.

Billy, the largest of the goats, watched from a rock.  He seemed to realize what was going on and jumped the fence, heading for the woods with his sister, Lexie, close behind.  They disappeared.  After about thirty minutes of trying to lure them back, the volunteers headed out with the rest of the animals.  Seth was confident that later that afternoon Billy and Lexie would be back and he would be able to deliver them to the Ranch.

Oh, they came back. But they would not let him get within ten feet of them.  These goats who, for ten years, would eat out of our hands and beg to be hugged and petted, watched us from a distance.  Ten years of feeding, caring, loving — and one act broke their trust.

Meet Billie and Lexie.  Yes, they are still with us on the farm.  We are working to regain their trust.  It’s a slow process.

Can broken trust be rebuilt?   YES!  But it takes commitment, patience, and understanding.  Here are some key steps in rebuilding trust.

  1. Determine, from the victim’s (aggrieved party’s?) perspective, the exact nature of the violation and what event caused it. If you are not sure, ask the person in an open and caring fashion.  Acknowledge the harm.
  2. Admit that the event destroyed trust.
  3. Accept responsibility for the violation. Admit that you caused the breach of trust. Don’t waffle or try to excure yourself. Debating or denying responsibility impedes repair.
  4. Express your remorse in a heartfelt and honest manner.
  5. Ask for forgiveness.
  6. Offer to fix it. What can I do to make this right?
  7. Offer to put in place a mechanism to prevent it from happening again.
  8. Recognize that the victim may forgive but may take a long time to regain trust. Be patient and understanding.

What we learned here on the farm is that it takes a long time to build trust.  And it is always fragile, cannot be taken for granted, and can be broken with one act.   Repairing trust is hard work but well worth it. Billie and Lexie will be with us for a long time.