It's over ... but you're not.
At one time or another, we've all been betrayed by someone.
Perhaps it was a partner who cheated, a friend who spilled our secrets, or a boss who gave our promotion to someone less deserving.
One of the most formidable tasks we can face is to recognize that betrayal as an opportunity to learn. We can choose to transform it into something other than hurt.
This happened to a woman I know, who I’ll call Elaine.
One day, Elaine’s husband of twenty years announced that he was in love with someone else. Worse yet, it was Elaine who had introduced this “someone else” to her husband. The other woman, Jan, was a friend and a colleague.
Their daughters had played at each other’s homes. Elaine got Jan a position at her husband’s company; that’s how Jan and her husband met and eventually fell in love.
Elaine told me the breach of trust felt like a behemoth that crushed her with its sheer bulk. She felt so kicked down, she had no desire to get up again, let alone rise above the fray. The only thing that comforted her was feeling hurt.
The most common, human response when we’re wronged is to get even. Elaine felt completely vindicated in seeking her revenge.
Elaine lived in a small community and took every opportunity to let everyone know how badly she had been treated. She reveled in letting everyone who would listen, know what a backstabbing, home-wrecking person Jan was.
As good as it felt to share her side of the story, it wasn’t long before Elaine began missing her ex-husband. Being a single parent was overwhelming. On weekends when the children visited their father, she wanted someone to hug her ... but she was all alone.
She knew she didn’t want to end up this way forever. Harboring all that resentment and anger really began to have an ill effect on her demeanor and was affecting her performance at work.
She was a creative person, but felt all her creativity being drained by the negative emotions she was investing into the smear campaign against Jan and her ex-husband.
Knowing she needed to change something, she began to work on her spirituality. She started to look inward for what she really wanted. She realized it wasn’t revenge, it was love. What she really wanted in life was love.
But how would she find love? Certainly not by going around bad-mouthing Jan and her ex-husband, nor by stewing in resentment while sitting at home alone.
One day, after not speaking to Jan for over a year, Elaine called her and arranged a meeting. When they met, she told Jan that although she didn’t like the way that she and her ex found each other, she had forgiven her and moved on. Then she said something remarkable.
Elaine actually thanked Jan for being so good to her children and to her ex-husband, and apologized for spreading gossip. After their meeting, Elaine felt a heavy weight lifted from her shoulders. All those ugly, dark emotions were dissolving.
She felt as if she could accomplish anything. A short time later, Elaine launched a new career and returned to school for her master’s degree.
Elaine changed her life. She is now happier than ever and she credits it all to the courage she found to forgive, and to instead open up to love and compassion.
We can’t stop people from betraying us and letting us down. By facing the betrayal, we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can choose to either fester in hurt and pain or open our hearts to greater love and compassion.
Festering closes our hearts, trapping us in painful feelings. Opening our hearts offers us an opportunity for even more love and greater happiness in the future.
You may be thinking, “OK, Mary. It's easy for you to say. You don’t understand my situation!”
Except that I do, because I’ve experienced my own betrayal and have counseled many people whose lives have been turned upside-down. I know it isn’t easy. I know it’s undoubtedly one of the most challenging situations to pull ourselves out of.
What I can tell you, is that opening up your heart is worth it in the end.
Love invites us to open our hearts “in spite of.”
... in spite of anger,
... in spite of tears,
... in spite of loneliness and pain.
We can easily justify revenge, shrink from the world, and feel like a victim. Yet, no matter how painfully we feel we’ve been wronged, we have a magnificent opportunity to discover something greater.
The real gift is that the person we think has betrayed us the most, is actually an agent of the divine, offering us the opportunity to find grace and greater wisdom.