I recently wrote an article called Betrayed and the outpouring of support, love, and questioning was unexpectedly incredible, humbling and unlike anything that I have experienced thus far in response to my writing.
I realize that most people have been betrayed in their lives. And, most people have also betrayed another at some point. So, there is a lot of common ground surrounding this unfortunate, yet unavoidable issue.
An old expression keeps coming to mind and gives me pause for thought:
“When you point a finger at another person, remember that there are three fingers pointing back toward yourself.”
When I look deeply enough at myself, although it is not fun to do, I can find a lot of truth in the above quote. It is so easy to blame, but we also need to find the common thread that is called ‘being human’ and get on with life at some point.
Must we forgive a person right away after a betrayal—or at all? Do we need to stay friends, lovers, or acquaintances? Do we push a betrayal to the back of our minds in an effort to stay perpetually positive?
I also remember this:
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
I don’t think there is any recipe that is right for all people or that will serve us well in all instances. There are too many scenarios to consider. But to acknowledge and maybe even accept the imperfect thread of humanity that runs through all of us does serve us well.
Does this mean we forgive? I believe so, and I’ll tell you why. I have heard that:
“Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” ~ Joanna Weaver
And this makes a lot of sense to me. If I allow my heart to harden and become jaded, what does it do to the person I have been betrayed by? You guessed it—nothing.
Instead the anger, sadness or hurt can grow fast like a cancer in my own spirit and that is definitely not what I want.
So what to do? While I am still fairly early in my journey, I already feel more at peace with the situation. And there are a few steps I have taken that helped get me to this point:
1. I acknowledged the betrayal.
I realized the seriousness of it. I didn’t push my feelings down about it and generally faced the truth about what happened.
2. I communicated with the person who betrayed me and set boundaries.
This I did on my own terms and in my own way. But I clearly conveyed that I was upset and what I expected if the relationship was to be righted again.
3. I realized that it is up to me to feel better.
I have purposely done more fun activities recently. I have gone out and spent time with people whose company I enjoy. I can’t expect my betrayer to feel badly or comply with my wishes.
4. I have realized that all apologies are not created equal.
This one is tough, as it is not pleasant to get a half-hearted apology—still we must not take this personally either. (At this point I would like to point out that an apology that contains a ‘but’ in it is no apology. “I’m sorry, but. . . ,“ never turns out well, as the person making the apology is still making excuses for their behavior instead of owning up to it.)
5. Number four does not matter—really!
Back to drinking the poison—a betrayal with a bad apology is a double betrayal. And no matter what the outcome, it is up to us to get over things. Yes we may have been tight with and emotionally dependent on our betrayer, but re-read number three which leads me to the next step.
6. Forgiving is a lot like meditation. Keep coming back to your breath.
Focusing on our breath is hard to do in meditation. We purposely have to redirect our mind towards the sought after path.
The same is true with forgiveness. I demonstrated it in steps three through five. We forgive. Our mind wanders back to the pain or anger—at both the betrayer and ourselves (for falling prey). Then we redirect to being responsible for our own feelings. And repeat again and again.
But shouldn’t we be allowed to feel sorry for our poor betrayed selves?
Sure. That is a definite option. But not one that I would choose or wish upon anyone else.
It is a good bet that I will be focusing on my “breathing” for some time as I still feel like a semi-burned piece of toast. And yet, I am starting to scrape the blackened part off a bit so I can live with myself comfortably once again.
Stay tuned, many blessings, and if I can do this, so can you!
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Tess Mayer/Flickr