KENNEWICK -- What do you do when you feel betrayed? Next to feeling abandoned, betrayal may be one of the most painful emotional and spiritual experiences to have in relationship to another person.
From Joseph in the Hebrew scriptures being betrayed by his brothers, to Julius Caesar by Marcus Brutus, to a spouse by their unfaithful partner, to Charlie Brown in the comics by Lucy with a football, the hurt can be devastating.
Do an internet search of the word betray. You will see the stories and poems about betrayal and its destructive cousins are legion.
By now you may realize reflections such as this are steeped in heartache. The details are not important here, but the feelings and meanings -- well, you likely have your own stories of such harm and can recall their toxic effect on you. The dictionary paints an ugly picture of betrayal: to help an enemy, surrender somebody or something treacherously, go against a promise, or reveal something unintentionally.
Thus the maelstrom swirls: How could they? How could I have trusted so foolishly? I should have known. How dare they? The grip of feeling offended tightens. However, to my great surprise, it's not around the other's neck, but my own. Even when you have every right to protest and punish the betrayer, you may be shocked to discover that the residual poisons of resentment and retaliation may be more corrosive to you than was the traumatic offense itself.
One of the more courageous persons of our time, Martin Luther King Jr., offered an incredible challenge in the face of betrayal: to give up the right to be offended.
In terms of extremely difficult things to do in life, this ranks right up there with forgiveness. For many, forgiving a betrayal or a betrayer may be nearly impossible -- the pain is too deep, too specific, too personal. "Give up the right to be offended" -- Ha! It's enough to make a preacher cuss!
And yet, Jesus (no stranger to betrayal) wades right into the morass of our rage speaking more words about forgiveness than any other topic.
Thus the opening question to you and to me still beckons: What do you do when you feel betrayed? Where in your mind, heart and soul do you go while mired in such frustration or bitterness? How do you gain some perspective and guidance so as to not get swallowed up in a trench of distress?
This is no time for pithy, pious platitudes. But, I believe it is precisely here in the dirt of our humiliation that we begin to mature as persons. It is precisely in our poverty of spirit, when we don't know what to do, that we can open ourselves to creativity, hope and wisdom.
As the great Sufi poet Rumi taught: "Not until faithfulness turns into betrayal and betrayal into faith can any human being become part of the truth."
* Rev. Dr. Timothy Ledbetter is hospice chaplain for the Tri-Cities Chaplaincy.
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