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When my friend Melissa came back from her vacation, she never could have anticipated what was waiting for her. She had been with her company for 15 years and considered them family. Not only that, but Melissa had also just received a big promotion and a raise before leaving for the beach.
After her vacation, Melissa received a text message from her boss asking her to come in early, and in all her years working for the company, the only time anyone was called in early was to be let go. She even said to her husband, “Man, what a way to end a vacation. I have to go in early tomorrow. I guess someone’s getting fired.”
What she didn’t know was that she was the one being let go. Her boss explained that while she was gone some situations had come to light that jeopardized their trust in her. Her termination was immediate.
When Melissa asked what the details of these situations were, all three examples he gave were exaggerated and grossly distorted to make her look bad. Yet, they all centered around her coworker and also best friend, Karen.
Melissa couldn’t believe it, and after pleading her innocence her boss just said, “I’m sorry. We’ve made our decision.” Karen had been such a close friend for so long that Melissa was totally blindsided when this trusted and treasured friend chose to reject, abandon, and betray her.
She couldn’t wrap her mind around what happened and her pain caused Melissa to close herself off to others in her life. Her anger turned to resentment, then bitterness, then hopelessness, and eventually she sank into a deep depression.
In her isolation, the enemy worked overtime to convince her that if she couldn’t trust her best friend and people she had known for years, then surely she couldn’t trust God either.
Yet, by God’s grace, in the midst of that pain, Melissa cried out for truth and found it in the pages of Scripture.
The words of God’s truth exposed the lies the enemy was feeding her and allowed her to trust God, and others, once again.
If you’re in a place like Melissa, where you’re in need of healing from the pain of betrayal, here are five ways you can begin the healing process.
1. UNDERSTAND THAT ONE PAINFUL EXPERIENCE DOESN’T HAVE TO COLOR YOUR WHOLE FUTURE
Every summer I look forward to the return of our backyard hummingbirds. To lure them in, I fill our five feeders with sugar water colored with drops of red dye. My boys love to watch when the red food dye is added to the pitcher. By just a few drops of food coloring, the whole pitcher is transformed, and with a quick stir it’s completely red.
Isn’t that exactly what a painful experience does to us? The sting of betrayal, the pain of rejection, and the grief of abandonment can color our lives, just like those few drops of red dye. Yet, the only way to get the red dye out of the water is to keep pouring fresh water in until it runs the red out.
When we’re hurting, we have to keep pouring in what is good, healthy, and helpful until the pain of betrayal is run out. If we aren’t careful, betrayal can cause us to have trust issues for a lifetime, causing us to close ourselves off and not risk being hurt again.
2. UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTENTIONAL AND UNINTENTIONAL BETRAYAL
Just as Melissa experienced betrayal at the hands of someone she trusted, you too may have experienced intentional, premeditated betrayal at the hands of someone close to you. Intentional betrayal happens when someone willfully decides to hurt you for some reason, be it selfishness, personal gain, or because they are just flat-out terrible. There is, however, what I like to call “accidental betrayal.”
Even as I wrote this article, I realized I may very well have committed who knows how many acts of accidental betrayal in my life.
I’ve been guilty of not keeping confidences because I didn’t realize the seriousness of the information.
I’ve not shown up to a gathering that I promised I’d attend.
I’ve chosen to spend time with one friend, at the expense of time spent with another friend.
Does this make me a horrible person? I hope not.
Does it make me an occasional flake? Maybe.
Friend, all of us make mistakes. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we inadvertently hurt someone we love dearly, or are hurt by someone who never meant to hurt us. But the accidental, unintentional, all-too-human betrayals can hurt just as much as the vicious, calculated, premeditated kind, which is why we have to know how to respond and heal when we’ve been betrayed.
3. ACCEPT WHAT HAPPENED AND ALLOW YOURSELF TO GRIEVE
If we want to heal from the pain of betrayal, we must allow ourselves to experience not just the betrayal, but also the emotions that come with it. We’ve all heard the experts say that if we don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain, we can’t heal from the pain.
By accepting what happened and allowing ourselves to grieve, we can learn to admit the hurt we feel from our betrayal and eventually learn to forgive those who hurt us.
Admitting the hurt we feel is what allows us to fully forgive, and fully heal, so that we can open up to others again.
4. BEGIN THE ONGOING PROCESS OF FORGIVENESS
When we carry around hurt and anger, it festers and grows into a spirit of bitterness and offense. Our wounds cause us to see every interaction through the lens of that pain. When we have offended and bitter spirits, we aren’t free to love life in the way we are created to live.
This is why there is great power in forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the betrayal is okay. It doesn’t mean what the person did to you is okay. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, not a release of guilt to the offender. It sets you free from the weight of carrying around that offense.
Once we forgive those who have betrayed us, we can begin to truly feel free from the bitterness we feel and the fear of future betrayals.
5. BE MINDFUL WHEN YOUR “TRUST-TRIGGERS” ARE FLIPPED
Sometimes certain situations trigger us and we can flip on or off in an instant. When we get triggered, it becomes more difficult to trust the love, good intentions, or even the loyalty of those around us.
Here are some common situations that trigger us not to trust:
When we feel like our trust-triggers are being flipped, we can learn to say, “This is just triggering my rejection switch. I know that person isn’t betraying or rejecting me. I am just taking it that way.”
Even though we might experience betrayal and rejection at the hands of broken people in a broken world, we can still trust God for our good.
When we put our trust in him, we know we are putting our faith in the one person who will never disappoint us, never hurt us, and never betray or abandon us. If you have been living life carrying around the pain of betrayal, and living life feeling unloved and unlovable, I want to remind you that you can begin to heal today.
You can overcome pain with God’s help and live in the security of knowing he is with you and will never betray you.
You were created to live an abundant, joy-filled life, a life centered around all Jesus has for you!