Betrayal hurts. Whether it's from a spouse, a parent, a child or a best friend, when someone is disloyal and lets you down, you feel it deeply.
"Et tu, Brute?" is a Latin phrase meaning, "You too, Brutus?" Supposedly these were the last words of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Brutus when Brutus stabbed him. You may not die at the hand of your betrayer, but something inside hurts so badly you might wish you were dead.
About 35 years ago, I told my wife I was done with our marriage and wanted a divorce. That betrayal wounded her deeply. In a moment of intense anger, my dad once told me never to call him "father" again. That rejection sent me into a tailspin of grief and despair. Through the years, some good friends who were involved in my church betrayed my friendship and left cursing my name.
Tragically, traits like faithfulness, loyalty and steadfastness are not as common as they once were. Some have suggested there is a "narcissism epidemic" in our country, and that too many people today belong to the "Me, Me, Me Generation." When it's all about me, then my commitment to any relationship is subject to my emotions and my wishes. Turning my back on others isn't that big of a deal when I'm the center of my world.
Betrayal happens. So how should we handle it when it does?
Here are four things to consider—none of which are easy:
1. Die gracefully. Whether you're dealing with the dissolution of a marriage or the death of a friendship, it's always better to take the relational high road in the aftermath of betrayal. You can kick, scream and bite with a vengeance, or you can entrust your life and soul to the one who understands. Don't forget that Jesus was scorned, rejected and betrayed on a regular basis. He understands.
To choose to die gracefully is not to deny the reality of your situation. It is, however, to say, "Jesus, help me to die to myself as You did and to forgive as You forgave even from the cross." The death of our supposed right for vengeance never comes easily, but remember, with God in the mix, death is never the end of the story.
2. Learn abundantly. When there's an issue and conflict between two parties, one person is rarely to blame for everything that happened. Years ago, a very good friend accused me of something I did not do. I was livid. I ranted and raved for days building a case for my defense, attacking his character in the process. Then the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, "What will you learn in your pain?" Of course, my immediate thought was, "I'm going to learn how to hurt that guy!" Again came the gentle prodding of the Spirit: "Kurt, don't make this about how right you are; make it about personal and spiritual growth." A wise man or woman will ask, "What can I learn from this betrayal and this experience?"
3. Forgive profusely. It's easy to talk about forgiveness but difficult to practice it. Maybe you've noticed it's way easier to hold on to a grudge and stay bitter than to release someone from our judgment.
Our human nature demands vindication. We want revenge. We don't typically drift into forgiveness. Sometimes it's necessary to correct someone's action against us. The unjust offender may, in fact, suffer some natural consequences for their injustice toward us.
But walking in unforgiveness is not an option for a Christ follower. We forgive because we've been forgiven. We forgive to set the other person free of our judgment but mostly to set ourselves free from the bondage of unforgiveness.
4. Love lavishly. God's love for us has absolutely nothing to do with our performance, and He calls us to love as we are loved. When betrayed, love. When wounded, love. When falsely accused and rejected, love. When everything in you wants to scream, curse and take somebody out, love. Love because it changes you. Love lavishly because the alternative is never good. Love because you are loved.
When your "Brutus" sticks his knife in your back, by the grace of God choose to say, "Ego quos amo, perducat vos, Brute!" ("I love and forgive you, Brutus!")
Kurt Bubna is senior pastor of Eastpoint Church, a nondenominational congregation in Spokane Valley, Washington. He is also a blogger, speaker, radio and television personality and author of Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot (Tyndale House Publishers). This column originally appeared at pastors.com.
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