Jesus and Toxic People: Part 1 (Betrayal)
Hi, friends. I’m returning to my writing series, “Jesus and Toxic People”. This next four-part series will touch on the toxicity that lies within “Betrayal”.
If you’d like to check out the other posts written last year on responding to toxic people, you can check those out HERE.
“Et tu Brute?”
It’s nearly impossible to read over this line from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, without immediately thinking of “betrayal”. In fact, I imagine it was the first word to pop into your head as you read over the text. Taking a quick trip back to your high school English days, let’s revisit that infamous scene of Julius Caesar’s betrayal.
Right before Julius Caesar’s betrayal, he is flattered and baited by a group of senators who he assumed were his trusted allies and friends. Little did Caesar know, he had become a threat to those closest to him. His senator friends feared Caesar’s growing ambitions and believed he would soon declare himself Emperor of Rome. Their fears led to a sinister plot to get rid of Julius Caesar in the most appalling way.
Caesar’s wife pleaded for him to not meet with the senators alone. Julius Caesar even had his own doubts. But instead of trusting his gut, he pushed his feelings aside and decided to meet with his “friends” unaccompanied in the capital building. It is there where each senator began to brutally stab Julius Caesar. Brutus, who was considered to be Caesar’s closest friend, was the ringleader of his friend’s treacherous betrayal. He was the last to look his friend in the eye and stab him to his death.
Putting yourself in Julius Caesar’s shoes, it’s easy to recognize what was most painful in this hideous betrayal. The physical stabbing was a pale comparison to the pain of realizing your “friends” didn’t value you as a person and weren’t trustworthy people. I can’t imagine looking around at each of your supposed friends and being betrayed in such a horrific manner.
Most of you reading this have experienced some form of betrayal. And if you haven’t, you most likely will at some point in your life. In order for betrayal to happen, there has to be some level of trust within a relationship. According to Merriam-Webster, betrayal is a violation of a person’s trust or confidence, of a moral standard, etc. There are many forms and different severities of betrayal from talking behind a friend’s back, to sabotaging a co-worker’s assignment, to child abandonment or unfaithfulness in marriage.
While it may be fun to witness a shocking betrayal in a television show like “Survivor”, read about it in a book, or hear your favorite music artist sing about it, the reality is betrayals often cause severe damage. The victim of betrayal is often left questioning his or her sanity, value, and self-worth. Betrayal wounds often leave deep emotional and psychological wounds. These wounds don’t go away overnight, as they often take years to heal depending on the severity of the betrayal and the closeness of the relationship.
In the midst of betrayal, it can feel like your world is being shattered after experiencing such deception and dishonesty from a person(s) you’ve placed your trust in. There’s a grief that happens in the process of accepting a new reality of the person and relationship that you once had.
In the Psalms, David shares the pain of being betrayed by his close adviser and friend, Ahithophel,
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my closest friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.Psalm 55:12-14 (NIV)
David is exactly right. It’s one thing to be hurt by an enemy, as we expect that. But it’s excruciating to be hurt by someone close to us, someone we’ve placed our trust in.
A good friend of mine, whom I will anonymously identify as Sharon, shared with me her story of betrayal by a friend whom I will identify as Pam. Sharon explained how she was friends with Pam for over ten years. They had grown up together, attended the same schools on and off, and shared many family vacations and childhood experiences together.
In their late teens, Sharon developed major health issues that affected her mobility. Adjusting to her limited mobility, Sharon assumed she would have support from her friend Pam during this time, but she noticed Pam began distancing herself from the friendship. While Sharon continued to prioritize the relationship and considered Pam a close friend for many years, she was surprised to find out later that Pam clearly didn’t feel the same way.
Shortly after Sharon’s wedding in her early 20’s, Pam suddenly dropped the friendship. There was no communication to explain what had transpired between Sharon and Pam, so Sharon was left deeply hurt and confused. Her health issues persisted into her 20’s, and she was deeply grieved by the betrayal of her friend who didn’t stick by her in those difficult times. Pam was never honest with Sharon about the friendship, and she devalued Sharon as a person by never communicating why the friendship was coming to an end. Pam was only around when things were “easy”, and she didn’t stick by Sharon in difficult times.
Sharon shared with me how this affected her other relationships. She has since struggled with trusting people since her friendship with Pam ended. She has been critical of herself, over-thinking and worrying about how others view her. Through therapy, Sharon realized she’d been mentally stuck on her past friendship for many years. She idolized the idea of the friendship rather than seeing it for what it was- an unhealthy one where she was putting in more effort than her friend. Regardless of this realization, the pain and hurt were still there from the betrayal.
Like Sharon’s story of betrayal, it’s easy to look around the culture and notice more and more people living for themselves who don’t value others. Some of these individuals intentionally use and abuse people, while others may find themselves making poor choices in relationships that slowly lead to betrayal.
From God’s Word, we can see that in the end times, this type of behavior will be rampant, and we need to be looking out for it.
But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)
From reading this passage in 2 Timothy, we can deduce that if more people are selfish and out for themselves, there will be more deceivers and connivers who will willingly betray you and me. There will be more people ready to do whatever it takes to get “ahead” in this life at another’s expense. But Christians are warned to expect betrayal in this life.
You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.Luke 21:16 (NIV)
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV)
While we can learn to “expect” betrayal in this life, it doesn’t make it any easier to experience it. Does this mean you and I should just avoid relationships altogether? No, of course not. While we may need to take time for ourselves and be in isolation on occasion, we are not meant to stay alone. God created relationships with a purpose. He created relationships out of love. God places a high value on people and being in relationship with them, and we should do the same.
God sent His One and only Son into this world for us so that we could have a right relationship with Him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
While we may experience betrayal in this life, we are also rebellious betrayers. We have rebelled against our Heavenly Father, and we don’t deserve His love, grace, and forgiveness. Yet, Our God still freely gives it.
But what does all this mean for our relationships here on earth? If God loves each one of us in this way, how can you and I move forward from toxic betrayals that have caused so much damage? Does God have boundaries? Are we meant to stay in a relationship with people who have betrayed us? Are we meant to forgive those who have hurt us? How can we learn to move forward with healthier relationships?
**Stay tuned, as Part 2 of this series will look at Joseph’s experience with multiple betrayals and his response.**
Part 1 Reflection Questions:
- What hurts more, being betrayed by a friend or an enemy? Why?
- Why is betrayal rampant in the end times?
- Why are we to expect betrayal as Christians?
- How have Christians (past or present) experienced betrayal?
- How have I experienced betrayal?
- Why does betrayal create such a deep wound?
- If you have experienced a deep betrayal, how have you let God into your wound? Or, how can you?
Photo by Mateus Souza: https://www.pexels.com/photo/monochrome-photo-of-girl-crying-2345374/