I will define betrayal as any experience which continues to produce guilt, resentment, anger, fear or helplessness. The confusion often comes when you want to let it go, because it happened so long ago; or you want to believe that “they did the best they could,” so shouldn’t feel trapped and demeaned. How you respond to a betrayal experience will make a huge difference in how you choose to see your life, and will be mirrored in all your relationships, including your feelings about yourself.
Has someone you deeply trusted ever betrayed you? Have you ever betrayed someone you love? Does it surprise you to think that it might be a common problem in every relationship? Whether the acts were deliberate, accidental, or just a misunderstanding, the hurt, resentment and fear linger for years. It can stain even the closest relationships – sitting there unprocessed, ready to leap and confound when another hurtful situation arises. In this way betrayals can stack up, surprising us years later when “I thought I’d finished with that nightmare in the last relationship!”
You can rage and punish yourself and the other, thereby keeping the resentment and guilt fresh with a daily reminder. Or you might feel the need to minimize the pain with denial, and choose to stay in a hurting relationship, acting “as if” all were forgiven. In either case, if you can’t eventually let go and truly come to peace with the overwhelming feelings, you must hold a shield over your heart, not trusting. And that limits emotional intimacy. You can’t fake trust in your deepest self!
This doesn’t affect just the one relationship, it destroys self-esteem as well, and compromises your ability to trust anyone, including yourself. If you choose what looks like the easiest path – to leave without forgiving – you may discover that you attract others with whom to repeat the pattern, wondering why you ever tried to trust again! What is Trust? I believe that trust requires faith in the basic integrity of someone. We must also acknowledge that there are times we need to separate a person from his/her actions: be angry at the action while loving the being.
It also helps to recognize that trust and love are not the same. You can love someone, but feel you cannot trust them with some aspects of our lives and affections. There are times, due to a multitude of reasons, you might be afraid to share everything with your partner, parents or children, keeping some thoughts private. Some are not so great with money, or dependable about time or remembering tasks. Incidents of insensitivity, or neglect can bring strong feelings of betrayal, hurt and doubt. Yet you know that you love them still, and work toward the changes that opens both hearts to the possible return to trust. Forgiveness might return the relationship back to trust. Yet there are times when you simply should NOT trust someone, because they are not strong enough or emotionally capable of honouring the trust placed in them.
Forgiveness is a major shift in awareness, one that supports the courage to return to a relationship after a serious breach of trust. Ironically, it can also strengthen your ability to let go of a connection that no longer serves your needs. If you are not bound by rage, hurt or guilt, it is easier to say “Good bye” without more hurt and drama.
How Can You Forgive? Few have been given step-by-step instructions on what to do if you feel betrayed. You may have been told to “forgive and forget,” but couldn’t. Forgiveness is a word that evokes conflicting meanings within each person. The most powerful result of forgiveness is to allow the forgiver to reclaim the peace of mind that comes from letting go of past hurts. You need never to condone the action, nor deny the painful feelings – in fact, you must bravely acknowledge the facts and experiences totally in order to know what you are ready to release.
Perhaps most significantly, in terms of sanity and safety, forgiving does not require having to let the betrayer back into your life! Forgiveness is about accepting any lessons learned, releasing the feelings still trapped inside, and seeking peace of mind. Only then is it possible to let go of the remnants of the shame, fear and anger that is created by betrayal.
In everyday life, Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness ~should be a Leap of Faith, from many disciplines, if you practice using them. You will experience real reduction of stress and anger, and release stuck emotions. You will learn forgiveness of the Self and ending perpetual self-punishment: perhaps the most difficult process of all!
You must through this process free yourself from the shame and pain caused by others, as well as your own mistakes, you can regain personal power and self-respect. It is by learning to trust yourself that you lose the terror of abandonment by others. And by releasing any unproductive guilt from your own mistakes, you can accept the lessons learned, and move on to self-love. You will discover that is only after committing to “Never again!” is it safe to say “I forgive.” My advice is to give you the guidance, encouragement and strength to say both!