Betrayal, Forgiveness, Authenticity
Reading time: 6 min
A man makes inferiors his superiors by heat;
Self-control is the rule. Emerson
I’ve been betrayed… by a good friend… flagrantly. And he does not want to admit it nor discuss it. I hate him. I want him to rot in hell. By both talking to my partner and with deep self-reflection ,I am able to soothe my passion for revenge. They heal my initial shock and pain and allow me to focus on something other than anger, hatred and revenge.
I find myself conflicted between my desire to forgive and my inability to find a way to trust Karl again. I keep up a dialogue between these two conflicting desires within me. My noble intent wants to not push his wrongdoing in his face and thereby add to his difficulty in admitting his error. Rather I want to emphasize my friendship for him and champion our embracing this crisis honestly and openly as an opportunity to grow both individually and in our friendship. I know I cannot accept clinging to my anger and hurt and not expressing “love” and forgiveness.
I think of my teachers; Jesus’ admonition that we forgive our enemies 70 times 7 times. Buddha: One who harms you does you a great service for he teaches you to develop a peace that cannot be shaken by the actions of others; he teaches you how to master your anger and fear… for your own sake, not for his. Byron Katie asks “If your own freedom (from anger, fear, resentment) depended upon it, could you accept, even be grateful for this situation?” I see the opportunity for me to grow here and I am committed to it.
On the other hand my anger, hatred and resentment refuse to back down. Initially I judge these emotions as “wrong”… weak, lowly and unworthy of me. “Any fool could give into these base, unintelligent, undignified impulses.” I tell myself. “I could not live with myself if I allowed myself to be dominated by these base impulses. I feel this is the essence of the problem with the world. We lack the power to forgive.” However… my emotions refuse to collapse before such self-righteous attempts at invalidation. I am torn. I cannot see a response that is authentic, that honors all parts of me.
I decide to examine more closely my “undignified” emotions. I discover that they are a protective response alerting me to avoid a person who has just dealt me a significant financial injury. And who is making zero promises to not do it again. I marvel at how the mind, like the body innately knows how to heal and protect itself.
I still remain torn between my “good” desire to forgive and my practical concern that I could get hammered again. Not to be denied is my recurrent hatred and desire for revenge over having been betrayed. I cannot bear the hypocrisy of denying my hatred and feigning friendship and yet I equally cannot bear denying my genuine caring for Karl regardless of what he has done.
I turn again to a friend who tells me, “I view many adults as still being children mentally and emotionally. Their growth or education has been blocked. Karl has not been properly trained to understand the value of his word and the value of being trustworthy. To that degree he injures himself exactly as he would if he drank or spent money excessively. It is important that you be able to see him for what he is. The fact that you recognize that he has not yet learned to be more trustworthy does not mean that you do not love him. Just as you would be foolish to “trust” him to drive a car if you knew he could not drive, so you would be foolish to trust him at certain levels of challenge to his integrity. Your love and forgiveness can coexist side by side with a clear recognition of Karl’s faults, but not until you understand and obey the laws governing human relationships.”
Just as there are laws governing human nutrition, sleep etc. there are laws governing our relationships. Integrity, honesty and trust are as essential to our friendships as are air, water and food to our bodies. If we attempt to use relationships or food for our selfish pleasure they become seriously injurious to us. Karl has never learned this. He is behaving like a child and needs correction and instruction. If you are elder to him you must assume that role. Your playing small serves no one.
If Karl refuses your offer to engage in an honest dialogue he refuses the means by which he could see and correct his harmful behaviors. He thereby sentences himself to repeat the same mistakes which will continue to bring him more suffering, until at last he becomes willing to look to himself as the source of his problems.
This is but one of many lessons this crisis has and is teaching me; invaluable lessons I did not even consciously know I wanted or needed. “Before you ask it is given.” This crisis reconfirms my faith in the most fundamental premise of Naturopathic Medicine. Illness (crisis) is purposeful, wise and benevolent in its nature. It is a miraculous expression of kindness and wisdom if we are willing to look for it.
This insight is precious. It shows me the path out of my suffering. It carries the promise that I can one day face “betrayals” and consciously respond to them without having to suffer. Somehow I have been blessed with this opportunity to free myself from future episodes of such misery. Karl is not able to see the gift hidden in this crisis.
To seize this precious gift will require that I practice again and again finding my way back to authentic forgiveness rather than indulging my habitual reactions of hatred, resentment and being a victim. This now becomes my work. The question of whether I will actually engage in the study and practice of the skill of forgiveness depends on whether I have had enough of this suffering. We shall see.