hurttwiceBetrayal stings because it’s usually at the hands of someone we trusted. Of course, betrayal can happen amongst strangers; sometimes people look away when they ought to help a fellow human being. Maybe you’ve heard of “bystander syndrome”?

When someone with whom we were once close lets us down, it feels so personal, and it is, as we’ll now have some healing to do. When people lie, cheat, steal, or repress what’s happening, though, it’s a reflection of where they are on their own path, and not of anything lacking within you. I’m speaking not just of romantic relationships, here, but of familial ones, friendships, and relationships between colleagues. Not everyone is able to speak clearly about what they want, or what’s happening within them. Some people are terrified of change. Sometimes there’s an attempt or desire to communicate, but the other party just won’t have it. Of course, there are people who simply want to do what they want to do, without the pain of challenging conversations and consequences, but this kind of behavior comes out of fear, weakness, a lack of integrity, a character flaw, or a state of total desperation. Most people do not set out to hurt anyone. They just lack the tools to live openly, honestly, and in alignment with what’s true in their hearts. It takes courage to do that, and we are not always courageous.

The worst consequence of betrayal for most people, is a feeling that they can no longer trust their judgment and intuition. The idea that something has happened “behind our backs” or “under our noses” is devastating. We feel we’ve been made the fool, but in reality, the other party or parties have just shown the level at which they’re operating at this point in time, which is subject to change. I don’t want to come across as lacking empathy or understanding; we can all look back at choices we’ve made that have hurt other people. Hopefully these things happened unintentionally, or as a result of our growing in a different direction, or being too young to handle things in a better way. Not everyone knows how to handle these situations well, and sometimes we learn by blowing it badly.

If you have hurt someone, a heartfelt apology is always the way to go (unless time has passed and you fear your need to apologize may wreak havoc on the other person’s healing process), with the understanding that you may not be forgiven, depending on what’s happened. If you’re the wronged party, I recommend forgiveness.  You don’t have to say anything at all, but within yourself, I’d unhook your journey from the event that’s hurt you. I’d let go of the rage or pain or grief (after you allow yourself to feel all these things deeply, of course), because nothing productive comes from holding on to our list of ways we’ve been disappointed. That’s not something you want to carry into your future.

I think these experiences are always worth examining, so we can know ourselves, and so we can learn and grow. In cases where it’s possible, compassion goes a long way. Sometimes we humans really make a mess of things. Maybe we’re in pain, blinded by a need to cling to something, anything that will be a source of comfort. That doesn’t make it okay, but maybe eventually you can factor that in. The main thing is not to allow these experiences to harden you. You don’t want to move through life defensively, with the outlook that people will hurt you or leave you or lie to your face. Some people might do that. Maybe you’ve picked a string of people who’ve done that, and in that case, you need to look at what’s motivating your choices, but whenever possible, after you’ve allowed yourself to mourn, to examine, to understand, and maybe to forgive, you really want to get on with the business of healing and letting go so you can move forward freely.

Life is too short and too precious to swim in a sea of despair and bitterness.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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