Thursday, May 30, 2024
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What We Can Learn From Betrayal

Photo courtesy of Lori Greig via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Lori Greig via Flickr

I realize not everyone has suffered betrayal, disloyalty or heartbreak at the hands of people they formerly trusted. If that has never happened to you, feel free to move on to another article. But if it has, please enjoy learning from my experience.

Of course, we’ve all experienced that stinging sensation as the proverbial knife blade slides its permanent groove into our backs. Maybe we’ve even occasionally been the back-stabber. After all, we’re only human, right? Like putting lipstick on a pig, we give it a much nicer sounding name like “set up to fail” or “pull the rug out from someone.” Regardless of the lipstick, such a breach of trust and credibility still stinks when it happens.

In all honesty, I’ve been on both sides of this dreadful experience. And I’ve vowed to never do it again. Life is painful enough without me intentionally setting someone up to fail, betraying someone’s trust, or failing to defend someone when necessary.

But I’ve also learned a few things from those who have wronged me throughout my life or those so-called friends and/or acquaintances who didn’t come to my rescue (or even dared defend me) when I needed it most.

The longer I carry an unforgiving and bitter spirit, the longer I allow them to control me.

Obviously, if I’m holding on to years of resentment, that’s like a self-imposed imprisonment. How liberating it has been to learn God’s truth and free myself from the pain of past betrayers, traitors, back-stabbers and other such wrongdoers (It felt good just calling them that!).

I Don’t Have To Like Them 

But I do have to forgive and love them. If they are not Christians, maybe my forgiving and loving example will draw them to Christ. If they are Christians, maybe my forgiving and loving response will help convict them of their wrongdoing and elicit a marked behavioral change in their life. Jesus said loving and forgiving would be characteristics of His true disciples: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 NKJV) and “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25 NIV). This doesn’t mean we’re best friends — rather I can extend to them the love and forgiveness God has extended to me.

I Don’t Have To Be Like Them

The characteristic of running people down and not being there when they are needed is a trait I can eliminate from my life. The habit of knocking people down in order to elevate myself is something I can avoid. The perspective of looking out for “numero uno” can be overcome with the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV).

I Don’t Have To Rely on or Trust Them

Reliance or trust is a personal and voluntary choice. But here’s the interesting thing about trust — it is not really placed in someone else. Trusting exists only in how much of myself I entrust with someone. It takes time to develop and a willingness to make myself vulnerable. If I choose to do so, I recognize regaining trust takes time, and I do not need to rush the process. If someone has betrayed or falsely accused me, I don’t need to base my success, identity, or destiny on that person’s input or erroneous perception of me. As a valuable, God-affirmed person, I do not need or seek that person’s approval. I only need to trust myself to God and be true to Him as He intervenes and transform my life.

I Do Need To Forgive, Love, Bless and Pray for Them

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV). He is basically saying, “Act like your Father — show the family resemblance.” There is a certain degree of personal growth when I can rise above my feelings of anger and revenge to move on to a more mature level even when others may rightly deserve my anger and revenge. But I must remember, God loves me even when I disappoint Him, and He calls me to follow His example. No one can ever do more to hurt me than the pain my sin had upon Him.

I Do Need To Listen to Their Criticism for Some Element of Truth

Even in the worst circumstances, there are learning opportunities. Even the tiniest learned behavior resulting from a negative experience is beneficial to me. I don’t have to accept everything critical or false that is said — but I can sort through it to see if I find a nugget of truth that I can apply to improve myself. As a sovereign God, nothing happens by random chance. So there must be something to learn in each circumstance.

None of these steps are easy. As a matter of fact, I struggle with them from time to time. The ol’ “eye for an eye” system of justice rears its head quickly. But as a child of my Heavenly Father, I am called to the higher standard of “turn the other cheek.” He beckons me to, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father” (Matthew 5:16 NKJV). So when betrayal or false accusations come my way, I’ll do my best to use it for His honor and glory and my ongoing personal growth and development.

About Nate Stevens

A missionary kid raised in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens is a lifelong student of Scripture. He has enjoyed a 36-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. He is the author of "Matched 4 Life," "Matched 4 Life Workbook," "Deck Time with Jesus," and contributes to the Moments book series (Divine Moments, Spoken Moments, Stupid Moments, etc.). He co-leads a singles ministry in the Charlotte, NC area and is a popular speaker / teacher at conferences, seminars and Bible study groups, speaking on a wide variety of topics. Nate currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, is a newlywed to his beautiful wife, Karen, and is an active dad with two awesome kids, Melissa and Mitchell.
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