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Life Lessons...When Trust Is Broken

Betrayal.  It’s an inescapable condition all humans experience at one time or another.

 It can come out of nowhere when you least expect it.  We tend to remember the times we have been betrayed more vividly than those times we have purposefully or inadvertently betrayed others.


The interesting thing about betrayal is that the only people who can truly betray you are those you trust.  Unfortunately, once that trusted person has betrayed you, it can be difficult to repair that relationship. 


Betrayal can occur in all relationships.  But the intensity and depth of the relationship determines the magnitude of the emotional distress you will experience from that betrayal.  Without some level of trust, betrayal cannot occur.


For instance, I may trust a lawn worker to mow my yard while I am out of town.  If he doesn’t, he betrays me.  But the level of emotional distress it causes is slight because the relationship is not deep.  But if a friend or spouse betrays me, the emotional effects can be traumatic and lasting.  For some people, that level of betrayal may cause them to never want to trust again. 


For each of us, the difficulty is remembering we all betray each other at times.  For whatever reason, every human fails at times.  The key is forgiveness.  But forgiveness can be difficult.  Yet, what a shame it would be to miss out on a close personal relationship in the future because of a betrayal in the past. 


When you are betrayed, it is easy to desire revenge, to experience sadness and grief, or to be depressed.  You may even want to build an emotional wall between that person and yourself to prevent further heartache.  But the loneliness and isolation that can occur from being entrenched behind that wall is just not worth it.


Granted, there are times when you may need to set boundaries with a “serial betrayer.”  Hopefully, those are few and far between.  In most instances, betrayal is a human being human.   It is the risk of being in relationships. 


Just remember, forgiveness is not for the other person.  That person may not even care if you forgive them.  Forgiveness is something you do for you!  It doesn’t require an apology from the other person.  It doesn’t require that person admitting wrongdoing.  In my experience, I spend a lot of time thinking about the betrayal and the pain it has caused, whereas the other person isn’t thinking about it at all.  Holding on to that anger and hurt is just frankly a waste of time.


I had a mentor who always said, “Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  When you forgive, you free yourself from bitterness that can eat you alive.  You give yourself permission to move on, perhaps even repairing that relationship. 


We have all been there.  We have all dealt with the hurt of betrayal.  Even the most perfect person, Jesus.  As I try to live my life more like Jesus, I am reminded of His forgiveness towards betrayal especially as we approach the Easter season.  I learn from how He handles His whiplash of being loved one minute and rejected the next.  How He remained peaceful and graceful while being overwhelmed with sorrow.  How He reacted when people hurt Him deeply.


On the Sunday before He was crucified, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the joyous shouts of a throng of people lining the road to declare Him the Messiah.  The praise and adoration shouted from the crowds must have sent a surge of assurance through the disciples who followed Him.  Those same people would betray Him within a few days yelling, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” 


The city of Jerusalem was teeming with a surge of crowds entering the city for Passover Week.  Having rented an upper room, Jesus sat down for a Passover meal with His 12 disciples.  But before eating, He washed the feet of each man.  He knew they would desert him.  He knew Judas would betray Him.  He knew Peter would deny Him.  Yet He still chose to wash their feet. 


After eating the Passover meal, Jesus went to the garden of olive trees called Gethsemane to pray.  He took with him three of His closest disciples, Peter, James, and John.  He asked them to pray for Him as He went up the hill to talk with His Father.  Three times He came back to find them sleeping. 


The isolation closed in around Jesus as He experienced the terrors of that night on Gethsemane.  He pleaded with the Father to take “this cup” of suffering away if possible.  The coming agony of His plight caused Him to sweat drops of blood due to extreme anxiety. 


The agony of the cross. Forsakenness. The full fury of God’s wrath. Jesus pleaded for a stay of execution. Could anyone blame Him? Could there be another way? If not Jesus, then who? If not Jesus, there would be no hope.


Everyone ends up in Gethsemane sooner or later. Maybe not today or tomorrow but someday. A mother’s cry.  A father weeping.  A broken home.  Betrayal.  A dark season. A painful experience. Confusing days. Pain. Crushed. We do not have to polish our image and pretend. But sooner, rather than later, we need to escape the pain and free ourselves of the burden.  Forgiveness.  It’s within the power of each of us.  There is truth when we pray, “Forgive us, as we forgive others.”  How can we expect forgiveness when we refuse to forgive others?


If you look at old television shows on cable channels, the Andy Griffith Show is one of my favorites.  It’s set in the small, southern town of Mayberry, North Carolina.  The town drunk is Otis, and Andy is the sheriff.   On a regular basis Otis would be put in jail to sleep off a drunken stupor, and Andy would place the keys right outside the cell door. Any time Otis wanted to leave, he could let himself out.


God does the same.  We succumb to anger and bitterness. We lock ourselves in our own jail.  But God leaves the keys of forgiveness right by the door so we can let ourselves out and be free whenever we want to leave.  Do you need to reach for the key? 

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Anne Hope is the award-winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative.

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