This post has been a long time coming. Not only has there been a gap between the last post and now, but I began writing this post over a year ago. Then I thought maybe it would work for Good Friday. Why the delay?
The topic is all too painful for me. While it has been some years since I encountered betrayal, the pain still surfaces and with it come doubts. I was not ready to share, and I am not sure about it even now. Those looking for a dramatic, confessional post had best look elsewere. No high drama here–just deep pain.
I will warm up with some generalizations. Betrayal happens in Christian lives–perhaps particularly in those who seek a deeper walk with Christ. Those who betray us are often, usually, believers.
When we are young, such encounters are painful, but knowing there are probably years ahead to heal and maybe reconcile helps ease the way. When betrayal occurs late in life, it brings with it whisps of feeling that the situation is permanant, and a sense of hopelessness creeps in.
Betrayal comes in many forms (we will leave physical decline for another post). After decades of marriage, spouses depart for younger partners, a boss decides you are no longer necessary or valuable, friends suddenly withdraw from your life, a church turns its back. Whatever form it takes, it hurts like hell.
First, our Lord, who was innocent, experienced betrayal. Second, no one else is totally innocent in the complicated relationships that comprise betrayal. And finally, Judas did not need thirty pieces of silver. He wanted to wound—he wanted to exalt himself in the eyes of others. He wanted Christ to be brought low. It is important to keep those factors in mind while recognizing that not every disagreement, not every slight, not every separation is a betrayal.
Characteristics of Betrayal
A sudden rupture in fellowship
A break without logical reason or explanation
Refusal to discuss situation
I had plenty of warnings, but rather than setting personal boundraries, I allowed a relationship to become harmful. So I was blindsided by betrayal by someone I named friend. It remains one of the most painful and destructive experiences of my life.
With the sudden withdrawl of friendship, part of my social circle, my support system, quickly followed. We went from personal and online interaction to nothing. Silence. Distance.
I had to negotiate this with my sons as well. Sons who do not think very much of today’s church. Sons who have suffered terrible betrayal at the hands of Christians. All I could do at the time was remain silent, but the situation underscored their suspicions that Christians are intersted only in those who think exactly alike, and hell is for the rest of us.
At the same time, I encountered some months of my life turning upsidedown. I needed fellowship and prayer, but I could not trust. I paced the floor days and nights. I threw myself into projects to escape pain. I examined my heart and scoured my emails and writings for clues of my own condition. Alone, I probably repented of things I had not done and missed the obvious. My belief that believers do not have to be in complete agreement to fellowship was challenged.
After some YEARS, my relationship with this friend eased. At least they no longer completely ignore me. I have set some boundaries and adjust them often–not a guarantee that this will not happen again but less likely that I will have a hand in it. They have never discussed the reason for the break nor for reentering my life.
I struggle most with those who believed my friend’s woeful tale of what I did or did not do. How could they, knowing me, think that I would say or do cruel things? How could they, knowing my so-called friend, not see the situation for what it was? How can they think their coldness, loyalites to falseness, reinforcement of the lie–how can they think that is Christian? Yet lives go on in pulpit, pew, and and parking lot–unscathed, unaware, and uncaring of the pain such attitudes cause others.
What To Watch For
Manipulators–the need for control
Gossips–would rather talk about someone than to them
Passive-Agression–it is still agression
Those who have no interest in prayer
How To Heal
Reverse the process. Do the opposite of what the betrayer did. Attempt clarification and intiate contact.
Repent of your part–an unclear message? A hurried email? An insensitive comment of your own? Learn more care in communication.
Shut your mouth. Do not engage in your own campaign for vindication. This is not a democracy where the one with the most votes wins. It is about total surrender to a benevolent monarch.
Pray for enlightenment. Seek truth even if it means you were wrong.
Do not plant your heart in a defensive posture.
Seek new relationships. God will bring them to you–whether you are thirty or eighty.
Refuse to return to unhealthy patterns that allowed the break to become so costly.
Do not become part of someone else’s betrayal. Send gossips packing. Instruct others to untell the lies they have spread.
We are at once the betrayed and the betrayer. We are in need of forgiveness just as surely as we need to forgive. If we do not grasp that truth, we will nurse on bitterness, spread discord, and disrupt fellowship. Stop keeping score–love does not keep a record. Refuse to swallow the lies of hopelessness. Behave as one redeemed with brokenness and humility. You may have expereinced betrayal in the past, but right now you are reading a blog post–you are free.
‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou