What to do when you’re faced with broken trust and betrayal

November 5, 2021

betrayalBetrayal. It’s a pretty big sin. And a few years ago, someone I was close to betrayed me in a pretty big way.

I don’t find that many things inexcusable, but this was. So inexcusable that I saw no way of breaching the chasm that they created. I was done.

For years I’d been the trusted holder of some of their deepest confidences, secrets so personal and so off-norm that most people would’ve judged.

I did not judge. I quietly held their secrets as sacred.

And then: betrayal.

There are always signs along the way that someone has some serious issues, if we choose to pay attention. I did not pay attention. I have a huge tolerance for off-norm behavior and people. To me, they can often be seductively interesting. But my acceptance of people like that in my life has not always been in my best interests and it wasn’t in this case.

Years passed after the betrayal. Actually, I didn’t miss them at all. Sure, it was painful at first. But, turns out, they weren’t all that additive to my life.

And then, not that long ago, that person reached out. It wasn’t an apology. The incident wasn’t even mentioned. Instead, it was a best wish in a not-very-personal situation and a sentence wishing me well.

It was…surprising. What was I to make of it? Was it an indirect olive branch? Should I respond? What did it mean?

It took me about five seconds to process it: no matter its underlying intent, I wasn’t buying. Or interested.

I ignored it.

I thought about that situation today in terms of how many times we try to guess at what someone means when their words differ from their actions. Haven’t we all been in situations where we were forced to interpret what someone meant because it wasn’t at all clear?

Well, here’s what’s always 100% clear. BEHAVIOR.

That old adage, “Actions speak louder than words” is one of those truisms that always applies.  People tell you exactly who they are by how they behave. Oh, here’s another one: “Talk is cheap.”

My bottom line is this: If you want to right a situation in which you have wronged someone, address the situation directly. Come with a true apology. Then, and only then, can the other truly be open to a different outcome. Forgiveness is absolutely possible.

But re-engaging with that person? No guarantee that will happen even after apologies, of course. Because once trust is betrayed, it’s hard (if not impossible) to get back.

Has there been a time in your life when someone betrayed you? What did you do?
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7 comments on “What to do when you’re faced with broken trust and betrayal
  1. Diane says:

    Ohmyword, yes. Lies and betrayal so deep and profound an innocent loved one was sent to prison. It’s been 35 years and still I cannot forget. Or forgive.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    Betrayal is very hard to live with. The tough part is knowing what to do. Sounds like you’re better off without this person. Some people are best kept at a distance.

  3. Rena says:

    There are so many types of betrayal. We’ve all been in situations where people have let us down, but betrayal is gut-wrenching. I’ve been betrayed by some of the best. It hurts no matter who or what.

  4. Laurie Stone says:

    Carol, thanks for sharing this. I do believe some people are simply defective in their ability to relate to people. Maybe it is how they were raised. Maybe they have a personality disorder. But I know you handled it well, because you know how to care for yourself. And these painful events do become less painful over time. Lies and betrayal? You have the right to never speak to that person again.

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