Definition of betrayal
1: the act of betraying someone or something or the fact of being betrayed : violation of a person’s trust or confidence, of a moral standard, etc. the betrayal of a friend, a betrayal of trust, a betrayal of one’s principles.
2: revelation of something hidden or secret a betrayal of one’s true feelingshttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/betrayal
Betrayal is such a tricky thing. The definition is seemingly straightforward; yet the experience of betrayal is often murky and emotional. For me, I often feel betrayed, get angry, and then don’t stop right away to go back to figure out what it was that upset me so much. I’m not good at identifying a betrayal in the moment. Is anyone really that good at it?
No betrayal is easy to handle, despite what some people say, and I can’t tell whether a known or expected betrayal is worse or better than a surprise. Maybe the time to adjust to the idea or expectation of a betrayal makes the experience of it less horrible? I’m not sure if that is true.
What I do think is that the amount of betrayal one feels is directly proportional to the importance one placed on the relationship. For instance, a betrayal by a spouse or someone else close to you would be felt more deeply; at the same time, a person who continues to betray you over and over, yet you accept it, that betrayal might sting a little less. Maybe it all goes back to expectations, another subject I’ve been thinking and writing about lately.
But all betrayal hurts and reveals something about the relationship betwixt the betrayed and the betrayor. To be hurt by another’s behavior, to take that behavior personally, I believe reveals that the betrayor has some sort of power over the betrayed; I believe we give away that ability to hurt; to wound; to betray us. Even if the betrayal is just over a social contract, a “rule” that is accepted societally, it still hurts.
Taking the argument to its logical conclusion, would one be able to reduce or eliminate the sting of betrayal if one just doesn’t care at all? In other words, would eliminating expectations of anyone else mean that one is safe from these feelings? A seductive idea, certainly.
Yet, to care about the ideas and feelings and actions and behavior of others is what creates human connection. If the actions of others has no impact on us, are we really connected? If the hurt of others doesn’t affect us in some way, do we really know that person, do we truly care about them? What do we lose when we close ourselves off from being hurt, from giving another the power to hurt us?
The answer for me, overall, is that the value of human connection trumps the possibility of being hurt. Or, put another way, grief is the price of love as I’ve learned over and over. When we open ourselves up to care, truly care, about others, we are opening ourselves up for hurt, for betrayal, for having our expectations trampled on. When we open ourselves up, we are giving others the power to hurt us.
I’ve recently been struggling with feelings of betrayal in several relationships. Since loyalty is a core value of mine, there are some specific markers/behaviors that equal betrayal to me. There are relationships where I know there is a lack of personal care (like a business relationship) and I know that I must protect myself and not show vulnerability so as not to be taken advantage of. However, in more personal relationships, when I’ve let down my guard and don’t seek to protect myself, I leave myself open to betrayal and to hurt. The concept of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” really resonates with me. I’m not a person who easily leaves myself open to being hurt again once someone has betrayed me the first time, in fact it truly rarely happens that I can.
And so, while I do believe that the connection to others is worth the potential cost of leaving ourselves open to be hurt, I am also a huge proponent of listening when someone reveals who they are. If someone isn’t safe, if betrayal is something they do without remorse or with a focus only on themselves rather than seeing what they’ve done, listen and take a step back.
I’m doing my best to listen and adjust; at the same time, struggling to understand how best to move forward and grieving.