Dealing with the Wounds of Betrayal

Betrayal. A unique kind of intense pain that cannot be inflicted by a known enemy. No, betrayal is an emotional blade that impales the heart, thrust in by one whom we thought to be a friend.

Consider the situation of Nehemiah:

Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. ~ Nehemiah 6:10-12

This was not an act of betrayal. At least not in the truest sense of the word. Shemaiah might have been an acquaintance of Nehemiah, but his deception does not seem to take Nehemiah by surprise. In fact, Nehemiah does not even appear all that upset with Shemaiah personally.

Yet, we come to the Gospels and we read Jesus’ words:

“Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” ~ Luke 22:48

In today’s vernacular it might come out, “A kiss, Judas? Are you kidding me? Really?! Wow, that is low!”

Here was a man that Jesus poured His life into and ministered to for three years. They traveled together through thick and thin. In Matthew’s account, it is interesting that Jesus, even while knowing He is about to be betrayed, calls Judas, “Friend.”

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” ~ Matthew 26:48-50

The psalmist prophesies about this betrayal:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. ~ Psalm 41:9

I do not think Jesus was being facetious or sarcastic when He referred to Judas as “friend.” I believe He was driving home the point that, on His part, He considered Judas a friend. Furthermore, Jesus was letting Judas see the reality of his betrayal to that friendship.

Betrayal. The piercing of a heart by the hands of one who was considered a friend; one for whom sacrifices were made; one who was loved. What is a person to do if blindsided and emotionally slashed by betrayal?

First, give yourself permission to feel, and to acknowledge those feelings. Do not pussyfoot around acting as though you do not care. It is okay to cry, to be angry, to scream into a pillow, etc. There is nothing “weak” about acknowledging the pain of betrayal.

Acknowledge all your flooding emotions to God. Be real about your feelings—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Consider the psalmist who wrote:

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! ~ Psalm 137:9

To say the least, this was not a happy camper! Now, this was not a sicko who took a morbid delight in infanticide. Rather, it was a man expressing his grief and anger due to cruel captivity. I highly doubt the psalmist would harm even a hair of the head of a little one. Yet, he was able to truly express his various feelings to the Lord.

Too often many of us bury our feelings deep within. However, the feelings neither die nor dissipate. Instead, they may seem to be like lifeless articles forgotten in an attic or basement, but in reality are like living organisms eventually causing infections in our souls. By being honest and open about one’s feelings, and taking the time to cry and grieve, helps one’s heart and soul to detoxify.

Do not seek vengeance. Sometimes people threaten, “Payback is hell!” What is not realized is the fact that payback is just as much a hell for the one getting revenge–as the feelings eat away inside a person like deathly parasites.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:17-19

Betrayal wounds a person. Deeply. Betrayal incites a riot of emotions within a person, it is a spark igniting the flames of grief and rage. Betrayal is a pain all its own, and ones response to it is critical. One’s initial reaction is to retaliate—to confront the person head on. However, this will never ease the pain; instead, retaliation will usually start a series of cause and effect—none of which is good. If one chooses to nurse and nurture the hurt and resentment, it will grow to strangle the very one nurturing it. Resentment and refusal to forgive will rob one of light, love, joy, and peace. Although the temptation to hate is strong, hatred destroys the one who possesses it.

Romans 12:17-19 gives us five pieces of sound advice:

  1. Do not repay evil for evil. Just because someone else sins, do not add sin to your account. Just because a monkey flings its pooh, do not in turn behave like a monkey!
  2. Do what is honorable. People observe what goes on. Continue to do what is right and kind. Do not tarnish your character because of someone else’s lack of integrity.
  3. As much as depends on you, live in peace. This does not mean you become bosom buddies with your betrayer; however, there are tribes who have warred for centuries simply because one will not say, “Enough!” So blood continues to be spilled.
  4. Do not avenge. Adding violence and harm only adds more violence and harm.
  5. Let God repay. Understand, God’s desire is reconciliation; that is, persons unto Himself, as well as unto one another. Of course, this will not always happen. Regardless, persons will not get away for betraying love and friendship. There will be a payment. Leave this in God’s hand. He knows every reason and motive for the betrayal, and He will deal with the situation justly. Perhaps the hardest part is waiting on His timetable.

The process of dealing with betrayal is neither quick nor easy. It is a painful and difficult process. However, if one reacts and chooses to disregard the Scriptures’ instructions, and instead chooses to resent and/or retaliate, the person betrayed will be destroyed by their own devices. As difficult as the process might be, go through it. One has already been injured by one whom they trusted. Why add further hurt by reacting and holding onto inner poison?