Betrayal happens anytime we trust someone and they abuse our trust. In short, the betrayer doesn’t value us enough to fulfill what they are obligated to do. (Like keeping wedding vows!) Being betrayed causes us so much pain because it hits us on the deepest possible emotional level, especially when it happens with someone who’s closest to us and a commitment has been violated.
When a betrayal is confirmed, we go into shock. We get angry, lash out, and cry. We can’t help but feel stupid- not recognizing the warning signs sooner. But we’re not stupid, we’re trusting- which is to be expected in a marriage. It’s normal to display all of these emotions, but channeling them in proper ways is important. We don’t want to lash out at the innocent around us- hurting others we love. When we do, they may end up avoiding us- holding us at a distance, (causing us to feel even more alone).
This thinking/feeling like we’ve been duped, forces us to make irrational decisions and unhealthy choices that affect our relationships with others (and also our spiritual relationship with God). What commonly happens, is we forgive the offense too soon. As Christians, we’re taught to be quick to forgive. Our friends will tell us we need to forgive. Since God forgave us, we should forgive others. True. But forgiveness for a betrayal can’t be hurried. It takes time.
We are relational- God made us this way- so when we are shattered emotionally by a person who is close to us, it causes us to question other relationships, as well. Our ability to trust others is affected. (I hate this part most of all- not feeling like I can trust ANYBODY!) A betrayal causes us to wonder, “If I was so foolish to not see this person was about to betray me, what else am I not seeing? Who else may be betraying me?” We feel taken advantage of, like if maybe we were paying better attention, we wouldn’t have gotten hurt.
We need to come to a place of total healing- this doesn’t just mean, “I forgive you, let’s move on and not talk about this anymore.” It takes time to forgive and seriously mean it. It can’t be rushed.
When we rush to forgive, we may want to put accountability measures into place, thinking it will solve everything- (believing whoever betrayed us is now on a healthy path). But when we find out something else, contrary to what we believe should have happened, we feel duped again.
We start putting up walls of protection. We go into a self preservation mode. We keep silent and isolated. We are constantly on guard- even around other people. We try to be better prepared so it won’t happen again.
We need to figure out how to react in healthy and scriptural ways. When betrayal is fresh, it’s close to impossible to turn around the next day and forgive that person. So we shouldn’t even try. I don’t believe God calls or requires us to do this.
Healing from the shock of betrayal takes time. In order for true forgiveness to occur, we need to be able to process our emotions. Let it sink in. Accept the truth. Sure, we’d love the pain to be over and done with. It’s so intense, we’d rather shove it under a rug, and move on, but we can’t deny what happened.
Simultaneously we want to know what’s in our future- whether this person will ever be trustworthy again. We don’t want the betrayal repeated. In our rush to heal and feel better, we crave clear direction for what we should do, because we’re confused about what to do. We want to feel safe and secure- and normally we should, but now we can’t. But it’s going to be ok.
The truth is, no one knows what it’s going to look like after betrayal. No one can predict- only God knows the path before us. But whatever it looks like, it can be healthy.
Healing can’t be done alone. We need a community around to help. Many of my posts talk about getting support from family or friends, counselors and recovery groups. I don’t like repeating myself, but it’s worth repeating!
It takes time to heal but in addition to that- just because months or years pass by doesn’t guarantee healing. If you remain stuck in your circumstances like I was for many years, not much healing happens. Just more anguish and hurt feelings. It takes time to rebuild trust. It takes time to work on a relationship. In many cases we may not feel safe- emotionally or physically. So how do we heal? How do we regain the ability to trust?
Healing doesn’t mean we trust everyone. We test a relationship to see if the other party has earned the right to be trusted.
Trusting does not mean a person has no accountability or that there are no boundaries.
In an effort to protect ourselves, we might withdraw from people, building up walls, but what we really need is to be open and honest. And it’s SO hard! But being open allows others to trust us. It goes both ways.
A betrayer has to face the fact that things will not be the same as they were before. The whole motive behind betrayal is selfishness. They assume once they’ve been forgiven, things resume just as they had been before. They do not expect to be held accountable. They do not comprehend the damage they’ve done. They do not know the effort it will take to for the betrayed person to regain their trust.
Apart from help by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will not be able to truly forgive, heal, or regain trust. We need to be open and honest with God- transparent before him- in order for the Holy Spirit to work in us. We need to surrender ourselves to his work in our life-whatever He’s calling us to do- whatever He’s trying to teach us in our circumstances.
Until we come to a point of confession (that we absolutely cannot do this on our own, without God’s help and strength)- we will not come to a place of healing. It is only after this coming to God and surrendering every part of our lives to him, is He able to work. When we come to a point where we’re asking the Holy Spirit for clear direction and we are obedient to whatever he calls us to, that’s when we will see fruit in our lives. Good fruit that will last. The fruit of the Spirit. Time doesn’t heal, but God does.