Recovering From Betrayal: Learning to Grieve

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.

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Idream of Eden. We were made for the Garden and the full pleasure of paradise. We got separated at Eden and we spend our whole lives searching for a way back into that secret paradise. All of life's pursuit + pain + questioning can be traced back to man's search for home. Our deepest instincts tell us that we are not home outside of this reality, and our souls will never stop searching until we return. Only there will we find rest and our true being. There, we begin to dream again the dreams that have laid asleep in our hearts all along.

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