When I was in 8th grade, I told one of my good friends a secret about a crush I had on a boy. Although I had been wisely advised by my family not to trust her, I did anyway. You can guess what happened—she blabbed. She told everyone my secret.
The gossip spread like wildfire and before I knew it, I found myself standing in front of my locker being mocked and teased by my nemesis—the girl who had been bullying me since 3rd grade. This betrayal was the apex of 5 years of adolescent backstabbing and drama, and in this moment I reached my limit. I did something I am not proud of—I smacked this bully across the face, which whipped her head back against the metal locker. Justifiably, I was suspended from school for three days.
I should never have hit the girl in the first place, but isn’t that how we sometimes feel when we’re betrayed? Wouldn’t we like to hit a pillow or scream at something or someone? While I do not condone hitting, we need to understand that the feelings we experience when betrayed are valid. It hurts. A lot. And it makes us deeply angry.
Fast forward 18 years and here I am again on the betrayed side of a relationship. But this time, of all the people in my life, it was a close family member—a woman I’d looked up to for most of my life, a woman who knew my secrets, someone I trusted and wanted to emulate. And the betrayal wasn’t a simple act—it is something that has continued actively for 5 years.
I know so many of you deal with familial betrayal, and that the hurt becomes fresh every time you come home or visit family. This betrayal is unfair on so many levels. Not only are they part of your family or inner circle or your best friend—people you should be safe with—but you’ve given up so much to be on the field or support someone on the field, and then you have to deal with this. We already have so much going on with learning a language, leaving behind everything we’ve ever known, and moving. We deal with broken relationships and re-entering the country and raising kids in a new country. We raise support, miss our family and friends, and face so many fears. Then throw betrayal in the midst of all that and it just feels like one more hard—impossible—thing.
Betrayal is not just a loss of trust in that person. It is also a loss of the sense of self. I had so many questions like, Why did she betray me? Did I deserve this? What is wrong with me? The part of my personality that came out when she was around was lost. The part of me that was known by her was gone; I felt hung out to dry and suddenly very insecure. I went through a grieving process, trying to understand why she chose to leave and betray me.
In general, I feel that I’ve dealt with that pain, but every once in a while, something else will happen or someone will say something that triggers my sadness or my anger. And I have to deal with it all over again. The betrayal I’ve experienced is one that will likely not be redeemed on this earth. So I have to ask God for forgiveness of my anger and then I have to forgive the betrayal, which hurts all over again. As my sister reminds me often, forgiveness doesn’t mean trust or reconciliation (although that would be wonderful!); it means sacrifice. When I forgive this person, I sacrifice my own desire for compensation and justification. Her sin against me has already been justified on the cross and I cannot hold it over her.
I’m not saying this is the process for all of us. What I am saying is that betrayals hurt and that pain is completely valid. I hope the next time you see your betrayer, you will have a little more peace and trust that Jesus has paid for that sin. I hope you will cry out to God, who is our comfort and knows ultimate betrayal. I hope that you will continue doing what He has called you to and not let the betrayal entrap you and keep you down, especially from Kingdom work.
And I also hope that my betrayer will be with me in Heaven so that we can embrace one another and perfectly forgive each other. That mental picture always adjusts my perspective and encourages me to not dwell on the past but to focus on where I am called to serve today. Maybe you can’t have that hope right now. If not, that’s okay; we always have hope that our tender God is constantly working out the redemption of betrayal.