I don't think any of us have NOT experienced betrayal.

As early as childhood, it was not uncommon to have a sibling run to tell Mom that we were the one who spilled the orange juice, or raided the cookie jar.

When we reached school age, it was a bit of a shock to see our best friend playing our favorite game with someone else at recess.

Perhaps many of us can remember our junior high school days, when we learned the one in whom we confided, blabbed our secret to others and the whole school knew, or so it seemed. We'd never be able to face that one we had a crush on, and we just "wanted to die!"

In college, it may have been someone who stole our unique project idea, and got the best grade.

At the workplace, a co-worker may have passed off our idea to save the company money, as their own, and THEY got the promotion and a raise.

There are all types of betrayal... even something as simple as a houseguest breaking something and leaving without telling us. Or it can be the worst kind... the infidelity of a spouse.

We all have faced some sort of betrayal in life. Many of these hurts pass from memory, in time... some never do.

How does one deal with this kind of pain? In the more severe of these scenarios, it has been my experience that there is a process we go through. Of course, the first emotion is shock. We just cannot believe that the person in whom we have put our trust, has actually betrayed us. We felt safe with that individual; we shared so much of our own personal selves with them. Now, we walk around in a daze rehashing everything and still coming up with the pure shock of it all.

From the least betrayal -- as a little brother tattling, to the worst -- as an unfaithful business partner or spouse, the degree of emotions may change, or the length of dealing with it all, but the process appears to be the same.

A mental health professional probably has files containing all the textbook cases and the particular steps one must go through in dealing with betrayal, and I am certainly not a trained professional. Therefore, I can only relate what I have experienced and observed... and I have noticed the following:

As the shock begins to wear off, it seems that self-condemnation sets in; that somehow it is our own fault, and we must be to blame... like, "what did I do to cause this?" Sometimes, we will be so grieved at our loss that we will apologize to the betrayer, just to have them back in our life again. If they agree to return, this may set up an unhealthy pattern of repeated behavior. The quality of life, then, usually becomes very distasteful, to say the least.

If the betrayer doesn't return, we feel foolish for having humbled ourselves in the first place. We then realize that we are not at fault, and we get angry. Often, we turn that anger inward... it is called depression. Life seems so unfair. We have done all the right things. We have played by the rules. Still, the unthinkable happens.

Anger can last a long time. However, if we are ever to have peace of mind, we must somehow come to terms with the betrayal AND the betrayer, and just forgive. We must let it all go. We cannot contain all that destructive emotion, no more than we could carry acid around in a paper cup!

I do not know if it is possible to forgive anyone, or even ourselves, in the emotional realm. All I know is that when I have been wounded, I have needed help from God. I see it as a spiritual thing, if it is really total forgiveness. Some damage is so deep and far reaching, that only the Great Physician can heal us. The emotional scars can be so ugly, that only the Balm of Gilead can soften them (Jeremiah 8:22).

Unfortunately, our soul's healing doesn't happen overnight, any more than our bodies can quickly recover after an extensive illness or radical surgery. The good news is, God is in the healing business: He heals our body, soul, and spirit. As in any wellness procedure, we must follow the Physician's advice.

The first thing prescribed, is go to the Father in prayer. Forgiveness is NOT an emotional feeling; it is a DECISION. (The feeling comes later.) Once we realize that, we have to tell our Lord that we need help even to decide to forgive so-and-so. It also helps to have a trusted prayer partner who will agree with us (Matthew 18:19) or even the elders of our church to anoint us with oil for an UNSPOKEN request, if we don't feel the liberty to tell them (James 5:14-16).

Secondly, we need to pray for God's help with the emotions and memories of the heart. We have been injured, and we need divine intervention to recover.

Thirdly, we have to understand that the Word of God brings healing; therefore, we must read the Bible. The Scripture must be applied to our hearts daily as one would apply a medication, or medicinal dressing (Psalms 107:20, Psalms 119).

The Word is used as a cleansing agent for the mind. (Ephesians 5:26). The Word also tells us about revenge (Romans 12:19), and how it is God's will that we forgive others if we ourselves expect His forgiveness (Mark 11:26). The Word will also help us work through our anger (Ephesians 4:26).

The Word tells us that Jesus knows about betrayal... how one from His inner circle betrayed Him with a kiss (Luke 22:48), for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). A "friend" turned Jesus over to murderers, for MONEY. That is certainly a whole lot to forgive! Christ knows about the temptation to hold grudges, yet He didn't give in to sin (Hebrews 4:15).

After we have confessed unforgiveness to the Father, have declared that we have decided to forgive and have sought His help, have read and meditated on the Word, and have worked and prayed through the anger, there is only one thing left to do: IF IT IS POSSIBLE, let that person know that you have forgiven them. I say "if it is possible" because this step is only possible if that person is still alive and if you can locate them.

Some people move away and we have no way to find them. If that is the case, ask God to take care of it, and make a way to get word to them, if it is His will, and His perfect time. Only God can control some things, and is best left to His discretion. The fact that we are WILLING, is sometimes enough for Him.

In the event they have passed away, just ask Jesus to give them the message! I don't have any scripture that verifies that we can do this, but we are all bound together by the spirit of God if we are all born again, so it makes sense to me that it is possible to send a message to a loved one in Heaven! (This is not to be confused with communicating with the dead through any mystical means.)

If you aren't sure that the individual went to Heaven, just tell Jesus that you have forgiven them. He already knows, but we must verbalize some things... not so much for Christ's sake, but to cement it for ourselves.

God has called us to peace. Jesus paid a high price for it (Isaiah 53:5), then gave it to us. Claim it, receive it, and enter into a new level on your upward journey!

.............The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. - Numbers 6:24

Rev. C. L. Moser -- 8/30/03