Betrayal


Webster defines “betray” as to be disloyal to. He doesn’t get into the effects of betrayal, particularly those of the victims. Just “to be disloyal to.”

For any needed clarification of the word, we have two classic examples of betrayal: Caesar and Jesus. Everyone knows the stories of their betrayals and the complete devastation it brought upon them. History doesn’t enlarge on the personal and emotional reactions that were felt by the two men, separated by time and geography but joined together by the deception of their friends. All it records are the quiet but eloquent responses of each man. “Et tu, Brute?” and “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Their level of restraint is alternately impressive and wise and frustrating and disappointing. It conjures the phrase “taking it lying down.” At the same time, it also teaches us how to behave in a lose-lose situation and how to forgive, even (or is it especially?) our friends.

The subject of betrayal hit home recently—twice. A relative (young) shared a house with three other young adults, one of whom was a close friend. After almost a year of maybe a few ups and downs, but mostly a static arrangement, a sudden eruption involving all four members of the household occurred. The biggest hurdle of all, though, was that the most trusted close friend crossed them all, including my young relative. And yes, money was involved.

The other incident happened to me. I shared a very private and confidential bit of news with a very close friend, specifically stating that it could go no further. I was assured that it wouldn’t. Needless to say, I discovered to my chagrin later that that person discussed the information at length with at least two other people I know of. And it’s a good bet that those people carried the story further. The old feather pillow effect comes to mind.

It would be interesting to know how Caesar and Jesus felt after the disloyalty of their friends. We know what they said, but how did they deal with it internally? Of course, neither of them lived long enough afterward to be able to show us their long-term survival efforts.

Would they have “kissed off” their friends? Or maybe just never confided in them again? Would they have continued living their lives as before and never mention the hurt and potential damage? There are so many options, but each one carries the sting of betrayal, the blister of pain, and the depth of denial.

Bottom line? Betrayal, disloyalty, abandonment… are all designed, whether innocently or deliberately, to hurt, to offend, and to inflict pain. How the victim handles it is a whole other dilemma.