Betrayal is a difficult thing. Maybe it’s a minor incident, something small that was said about you. No matter how minor the issue, you’re in that “head space”. You’re questioning the foundation of your closest relationships and the sincerity of those who claim to like you and even love you. You wonder why you allow yourself to invest so much of yourself and allow people into your life who have the ability to hurt you. What is it all for? Why do we allow ourselves to believe in others and to trust in them when it all just ends in disappointment and anxiety? Perhaps you even doubt your own like-ability. After all, if someone could talk about you that way, then they didn’t really like you in the first place, right? And if those closest to you don’t actually like you, then what does that say about you?
There are several important struggles you’re facing – one to forgive, another to stay vulnerable, and another to deal with the insecurities that come up in the midst of it all.
The struggle to forgive is one that I am now rather familiar with. The things I’ve had to forgive are actually not even that serious or earth-shattering in the broad scheme of things. In fact, given the powerfully painful impact of these “smaller”, less serious incidents; it’s scary to even consider how crippling anything “bigger” could be. How much more would I doubt the sincerity in every word and every action? For how much longer would I have to wrangle that doubt into submission so that it didn’t turn into cynicism?
In the past year, the act of forgiveness has taken on new meaning for me. As has the act of forgetting. It’s as if you are in a never-ending cycle of attempting to forgive, feeling guilty for not being able to let go, and getting angry all over again. And when you’re repeatedly faced with the same offense, it feels like you’re not allowed to move on. On top of that, you’re mourning a loss; the loss of something that was once pure but is now tainted; the loss of the ability to be lovingly tolerant and patient.
Forgiveness, for me, was quite a long process. I prayed for God to help me forgive and let go. And then I prayed for God to forgive me because I knew that my attitude was wrong. I read articles, read the Bible, and fervently listened to sermons in which I felt sure God was speaking to my heart. I tried to submit every negative thought to God and asked him to give me guidance as to what to do and where to go with these relationships. In the process, I learned a lot. I grew in my relationship with God, I became more acquainted with the meaning of submitting everything to Him, and I matured as a woman. However, I knew that I hadn’t quite achieved “the goal”.
My perceptions of others were still colored by doubt. It was exhausting (it is exhausting). I didn’t like who I was becoming in reaction to these incidents and I was tired of the cycle. Finally, after numerous attempts to “forgive and forget”, I decided that the best thing to do would be to pull away. In this particular situation, neither pulling away or staying was easy, but staying was getting to be too difficult. I was sure that the only available solution, the only way to love as God would want me to, was to love at a distance.
But God had other plans. Circumstances brought me to a place where it became clear that instead of pulling away, we were meant to try again. He called us to “stick it out”, talk things through, and figure out how to move forward in a healthy way. This time around, we would work on honoring God in our relationships and we would rebuild what was broken. Conversation helped remove the bitterness and in an incredibly short span of time, things are turning around rapidly. It’s still tough sometimes, those colored lenses still manage to interfere on occasion but I recognize them as the devil’s attempt to get me back into a negative space. God has so definitively intervened that I’ve decided he clearly wants me to fight temptation and work on improving these relationships as well as myself.
Recently, I experienced a setback (hence this particular entry). What happens when you’re faced with it all over again? When yet another person close to you does something to put you back in that negative mindset? When you feel like you’re starting all over again.
This past Sunday, the visiting priest gave a particularly relevant (in many ways) sermon about healing. I found one of his points particularly salient – that it’s God’s prerogative how he chooses to heal. We may expect him to act in a certain way – some formula we’ve seen in others’ lives. But it’s not up to us! We can ask for healing or we can ask for his intervention but how that plays out is up to Him. (As it should be! I certainly don’t know how things should play out nor do I want to make that decision because I’m sure to mess it up.)
So far, I’m seeing God act in a different way this time around. I find myself letting this incident go much sooner than I anticipated and instead, focusing on my reactions. I’m not sure how everything will work out but I believe the lessons of the past are serving me well. I believe that God will heal my heart, help me forgive, and take me somewhere unexpected the way he did before.
**A good article that touches on this topic in a different way – A Wonderful Absurdity