“I never thought she would do this to me!”
“How could he?!”
How many times have we heard someone say that? And haven’t we thought it ourselves? Who has not been torpedoed by a very close relative or associate when some confidential information is suddenly revealed in a conversation? A stab in the side will heal sooner than that sharp knife of betrayal.
Some people never recover from its shocking stab and lifelong enmities originate from just one such instance when another person’s true intentions suddenly stand revealed.
From stealthily opening the city gates to an enemy, to failing to keep a confidence to actively hastening another person’s downfall or shock, betrayal is a familiar human condition.
If “betrayal” is too big a word, we can call it a sense of being let down. Has it happened to you? Then you know that depression and pain follow a loss of trust. It takes a while to get used to the idea that the other person’s attitude to you was quite different from what you thought it was. It might be a single sentence tossed across the room or a joke in a conversation intended to expose you to an adversary or senior but it falls on the mind like a physical blow.
The odd thing about being let down with a nasty bump is that it often happens with the people we least expect will turn against us. But that is exactly who the most successful betrayer is because he/she knows you very well and will use that knowledge to his/her advantage and to promote his/her own cause. You feel angry and hurt. How could a person you loved and trusted betray you in such a way? Many thoughts race through your mind: Do you confront them? Do you expose them? How do you handle this?
Everyone reacts to such shocks differently. Some people disappear from the scene, fear and embarrassment driving them to stay hidden. Some people have it out with the betrayer within minutes (“Can you step out for a minute?”). Others counter the injury more systematically and challenge the intentions or perspective of the person who wielded the knife, so to speak.
You could try giving the person a chance to explain. Might it be a misunderstanding and not really betrayal? Should you sizzle silently with frustration building inside of you? The longer you resent another person and give negative energies a chance to deepen, the worse for your emotional health. In the end it is about your recovery. What goes round usually comes round and anyone who puts out negative energy will one day suffer from it himself/herself.
But what if knowledge of the betrayal reaches you much later? Say months or even years? When it is too late to do anything about it? I know this is very difficult but you must find ways to make peace with the betrayal. I don’t have the answers. Perhaps the only thing we can do is to put it behind us and try to move on without thinking about it every day.
The writer is Series Editor, Living in Harmony, (Oxford University Press). email@example.com