There are very few human hurts on this earth that wound as deeply, scar as permanently, and whose consequences are so irreversible as betrayal.
The very nature of betrayal makes it so. Only a friend can betray a friend, for a stranger has no hand with which to play the game. And only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.
The more intimate the bond, the deeper the knife wounds. A stranger holds no power over our hearts, but to love another is to forever walk with your heart outside your body – vulnerable, unprotected, defenseless.
(This inevitably leads us to the question: How do we keep our hearts soft and open in a harsh and dangerous world? That is not the question we will be answering today, but you can read a little more of my thoughts & journey in these posts – The Beauty of the Soul // Finding God in Heartbreak // Made To Be Loved.)
What overflows from my heart today is not a list of what we should/shouldn’t do when our hearts are broken, stabbed, bleeding. No, I think we get that enough from well-meaning fellow Christians who aren’t aware that, like Job’s friends, their counsel reek of condescension, rhetoric, and cruelty.
The human heart is a mysterious, tenacious thing that has the capacity to recover from deepest hurts. But for a broken heart to mend well, it needs tenderness, compassion, and empathy… from others and from ourselves. And today, I want us to give each other what our weary hearts need most. So come on in, grab a hot cup of something comforting, and let’s have a conversation.
Betrayal leaves us reeling as the threads of our life start to unravel. Our world comes crashing down and the bottom falls out of that relationship basket we were trusting in. We are left devastated, disoriented, and traumatized… and it takes a huge toll on our self esteem.
There we sit amongst the wreckage, wondering how on earth we are ever going to pick ourselves up and begin to rebuild a semi-recognizable life from the debris. And it is there that I have a message for you: Give yourself time, dear heart.
You need time to grieve. Grieving is a lost art in our generation, and we suffer so much because of that. We have mastered the art of “get up and go” at the expense of our hearts. We’ve been taught from a young age to get over things quickly – loss, failure, disappointment, pain – so that we’ve become adept at shutting out what our hearts are telling us we need.
We bury one wound after another under the cover of “You’ll get over it, try to be strong” and clichéd religious platitudes like “God never gives you more than you can handle. He works all things together for good”… and all the while, our hurts fester and infection spread until we reach that breaking point conventionally known as breakdown or burnout.
You need to give your heart space, time, and patience. You need to be gentle to your heart, even if no one else is.
Give yourself time to feel deeply. Wallow in that pain for a few days if that’s what you need to face it.
Betrayal often hits us like trauma, and the most common symptom of trauma is disbelief and emotional numbing – it is the mysterious wonderful way God created our bodies to help us cope with pain. But too many of us get used to functioning on that coping mechanism, not allowing ourselves to face our pain and truly feel it.
True healing comes only when our wounds are acknowledged, treated, and given time to heal in a protected space. We need to let our wounds come to the light so that they can heal. We were made to thrive, not just survive. And to do that, we need to get in touch with our deepest darkness so that light can enter in and bring healing on its wings.
We don’t make wallowing or self-pity a habit, but we do need to take some time to listen to our heart and give it what it needs. Jesus’ surrender in Gethsemane was raw, full of pain and desire; not a holier-than-thou, I-am-above-all-earthly-things kind of spirituality that we too often imagine.
Maybe we need to tear down the way we’ve built up religion – making God in our image which is basically idolatry – and start becoming more like Jesus and less like our lofty imaginations paint Him. Maybe then we’d have more compassion (for others and ourselves) and less cold spirituality that wounds more than the fiery darts of the devil.
We need to get real if we want to experience real, deep, redemptive healing. The gospel is all about real people with real, messy lives – Jesus never shoved anyone’s problems under the spirituality rug, and neither should we.
So give yourself time, dear one. The pain seems overwhelming now and your heart hasn’t the strength to hold on to hope; so let God within hope for you. You just let go, quit trying to survive, and let the waves of this storm carry you to safe harbor. One day, the storm will wear itself out and the sun will break through again.
Time doesn’t heal all scars (because we both know that there are some wounds that leave their indelible marks on our lives), but with time your heart will mend if you let it. Promise.
Very good words of advice here. I agree, I think too often we rush ourselves through a time when we are meant to be grieving. We think it is abnormal for us to just need some space and time, I hope your words will help others realize that it is okay to take the time to grieve.
I couldn’t agree more with what you said in this post. Right now we are currently grieving the loss of my husband’s job. I am 35 weeks pregnant and we have a two year old daughter. It hurts. We relied on this company for provision, and they just dumped us out like trash. I know they are running a business and not a charity, but it doesn’t change the fact that they turned our lives upside down. There are plenty of people out there who would tell us that this is a good thing, and I want to ask them, “how would you know that?” Nobody knows if he’ll find a job that turns out to be better than his previous one. That would be wonderful, but I can’t set my heart up for more heartbreak. My emotions are all over the place. I’m sad and angry. If I push those emotions aside in an effort to display my ‘trust in God’ it wouldn’t be genuine. Job was sad. He was deeply sad, and I love reading how honest he was with his friends and God. So I’m taking Job’s approach to grieving that which we lost. I’m just so glad to have a circle of friends who are supportive, unlike Job’s friends and family.
Thank you for being so honest and sharing your heart. I’m praying that God would help you pick up those broken pieces and be ever near you during this time of grieving.
Yes, there have been a few friendships over the years that fell apart and I needed to grieve. It felt weird at first to use that word to describe my feelings since no one was dead. It was then revealed to me that I wasn’t grieving the person, but the lost friendship. And like any other heartache, God used time to heal the pain.
Time heals everything!
You have a great perspective on how to realistically and maturely deal wit betrayal and pain. It is NOT an easy thing to recover from but knowing the end game or the way you want to come out of it gives you a mental goal. Take those long walks, scream into a pillow or if you NEED TO CRY, watch something that you know will springboard you into that deep cry you desperately need. Great post!
Excellent advice! We all grieve in our own ways and in our own time. There’s no right or wrong way. When my Dad died I went on many long runs, and punched a lot of things.
I totally agree that we live in a world where people just expect you to move on to the next thing so quickly and get over whatever hurt you may have experienced. Our hearts are fragile and they need time to recover and be built back up. We’ve all been there and we could all probably do better with being sensitive to this subject.
Thank you so much for capturing how important the process of grief is!
Thank you for this important post about the grieving processes, not just for someone that has physically died, but for a friendship or relationship that has died/been cut off/destroyed by hate and angry. Many people don’t realize this is grief. I’ve had to deal with this in the last 6 months and went through the stages of grief. Forgiveness is the only way to move forward and live a healthy and happy life!
It is even harder when you are betrayed by another Christian. I am so glad that God cares for us during these hard times!!
Great advice. Such a difficult topic. Thank you for sharing.
Your posts are always so timely. I am in a season of grieving at present. I recently lost my grandmother and today marks 20 years since my father passed. I bought myself a cookies and cream milkshake and had a moment. It’s been hard.
Getting over a betrayal can be difficult. I undergone the process myself and know how the pain lingers. The passing of time helps and prayer. I like your list of things to do to help. I did all of them except number 2.
This is beautiful! As I was reading the first part, I kept thinking “time is what heals” and then you wrote it. I was hurt badly when I was younger by a best friend and time did heal it. Forty years later, she apologized! This meant so much to me.
Wonderful perspective, backed up by scripture. There are many situations in which we experience a loss, and need-time-to-heal. Thanks for the reminder.
So much wisdom here…you’re completely correct in your statements about our culture not being good at grieving. I am hard on myself and often try to rush through the process rather than just feel it and let it happen for more than a day or two. Great reminder, God is working through all of our experiences.
Very deep and profound reading. Excellent advice and insight. I’m delighted to see the advice provided is backed up with sound biblical principles that are effective once they’re applied.
Yes, we do need to grieve. And just like an actual death, you don’t just grieve and get over it. There will be times when that grief will well back up, to be dealt with again.
Love this post! It’s true….for whatever reason, we don’t allow ourselves to grieve….to feel anger and pain. We must! The peace of Jesus doesn’t mean that we don’t experience these things, it means that WHEN we experience them, he is there with us. Thanks for sharing!!
Beautiful, and so true. There are so many times when instead of grieving I just “got up and went” as you said. I just kept going with my life pretending that it was all ok when I was really hurting myself. Wonderful post!
Such true words here! I have lived this, and I am so thankful I was able to give myself time to really grieve. I let the wounds hang open bleeding, rather than try to bandage them up and medicate them. Oh…it was such a hard time, but God was with me the whole way. I SO enjoyed reading this!