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.
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. But we’re not stupid, we’re trusting- which we should be. It’s normal to display all of these emotions, but we need to channel them in proper ways, so we don’t lash out at the innocent around us- usually hurting others we love. (If we do, they could end up avoiding us and keeping us at a distance- then we really feel all 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 others- our ability to trust them gets affected, too. (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 duped, like if we were paying better attention, maybe 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, maybe we put accountability measures into place, thinking that will solve everything- (believing whoever betrayed us will now be on a healthy path). But then, 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- I wouldn’t try. I don’t believe God calls or requires this of us.
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 do, but now we can’t. But- it is 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. But whatever it looks like, we can move in a healthy direction.
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! We need each other.
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 again. Trust is built with consistent behavior over time.
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 naturally 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.
Prayer: Lord, Jesus, It’s so hard to trust again. Help us on this journey to joy and healing. Help us be aware of your presence and love- that cannot be separated from us. Give us clear direction. Thank you that You are trustworthy. Amen.