January 4, 2021 John R. Hatfield 1 Comments

“Only those you trust can betray you.”

Terry Goodkind

If you trust someone, you believe that they are honest and sincere and will not deliberately do anything to harm you. So, when trust is broken your shattered.

He asked me to come to his room after an all chapter presentation I had just given at a Big Ten university. We had known each other for three years working together on different chapter offices he held. I sensed it must be something personal he wanted to talk about as he asked if we could go to the privacy of his room. As the story unfolded, he began to weep, and I was keenly aware he would never be the same in regard to trust. He had dated her for a year and had fallen in love. It was his first true love and he had decided to pin her bringing all his best friends from his fraternity for the ceremony. It was a big deal. Before they walked out the door, he contacted her to let her know his surprise, sadly the surprise took a different turn. She told him that wouldn’t be good to do because she had been sleeping with another man over the past year. He was completely shell shocked. She had a secret sexual life with another man in the midst of their commitment to each other. He sobbed as he expressed how betrayed he felt. The trauma was overwhelming, and I knew its acute pain would last for months and it might take a few years depending on the quality of help he received. His vulnerability only with her, that he chose to unwrap, had suddenly been cheapened because of her behavior. Trust had been abused. He was dumbfounded that this was actually taking place for a year unbeknownst to him. She had betrayed his trust, the sacred promise they had, all the words and expressions of love she had said to him now meant nothing. He was in SHOCK, the beginning stage of betrayal.

I believe there are 7 stages that one goes through when betrayed:

  1. Shock (What the hell just happened)
  2. Pain (Hurt like you never felt before)
  3. Bewilderment (How could I be so deceived, so naïve, I feel so stupid?)
  4. Anger (I’m devastated; I want to hurt back)
  5. Depression (I am so discouraged that I feel hopeless to ever be able to recover)
  6. Acceptance (I learned valuable lessons; I will move on with my life, I will be resilient)
  7. Reclaim (I will reclaim that which was lost…Trust, forgiveness, and self-respect)

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from an enemy that’s why it is so devastating.”


Courage is the foundational virtue of choosing to be honest and vulnerable with another. Our deepest desire is to be fully known and accepted by those who are trustworthy and that this would be protected and set apart as sacred with confidentiality. We are selective with who we share our deepest realities because we know once done, this person will have power they never held before. The power to crush us. That’s why when trust is compromised it is so painful and damaging and if it has happened repeatedly then it’s devastating. Additionally, when betrayal happens, we feel violated, but we also can feel rejected, abandoned, and devalued. The trusted one did not honor what we had between us.

A friend shared some insights he learned from being betrayed. He said it came in stages over time, a half-truth disguised in a truth, apologies involving crying and begging, promises it would never happen again. In the goodness of his heart, he forgave him and chose to trust again, but in hindsight, the goodness of his heart was being manipulated. He eventually left the guy. He was a deceiver and was untrustworthy.

“Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s what unites us. The trick is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens. Don’t let them take that from you.”

Sherrilyn Kenyon, Invincible

I have found I constantly have to work at letting it go and forgiving after being betrayed. That does not mean I will trust that person again. In some instances, I have chosen to forgive and restore trust and in others I have forgiven and will never trust again. Forgiveness allows me to move on, it frees me from my foolishness of wanting to hurt back, to make the other person pay. I realized when I do that, I’m the one imprisoned not the person who betrayed me. My grudge holding and plotting revenge, choosing to hate controlling my thoughts is extremely unhealthy and takes up a lot of energy and time. I just need to let it go. I need to forgive, sometimes daily, hell even hourly. If not, then I become the one imprisoned, and that I’ve found has become an ugly place. Karma does make me smile though.

There are Two Sides of Betrayal

If we are honest many of us have been on both sides of the betrayal coin, heads, we have been betrayed and tails, we have been the betrayer.

Over a decade ago I committed adultery, betraying my marriage vows. Violating trust. But, in reality and being perfectly honest betrayal of the vows started long before this event. My marriage started with betrayal when my wife kept a dark secret that had devastating consequences in our marriage and with our children. Trauma not only affects those directly exposed but those around them. When we were close to getting engaged, I chose to be vulnerable with my past for the purpose of being honest with the woman I was about to ask to marry me.  Sadly, respect, trust, and vulnerability were not reciprocated. Her issue needed expert counseling, but she refused to seek it. She put on a mask to live the masquerade. ” And, after all, what is a lie? Tis but the truth in masquerade.” Lord Byron. It was a devastating mess for my wife that would influence me and my children. Looking back, I’m keenly aware I emotionally detached. I detached because transparency demands both to be vulnerable in a marriage vow for intimacy. This is another picture of betrayal. I couldn’t be intimate with a persona, a mask. It doesn’t work, I tried.  Intimacy vows are rooted in love, forgiveness, respect, and honesty. I sought what I did not have in my marriage, respect, honesty, love, and vulnerability that are the foundation of a marriage. She betrayed our marriage vow and so did I. We both betrayed ourselves, our values and beliefs. When we betray ourselves, it has deep repercussions because it divides us, we give up the integrated self. The deceptive poser, imposter then has power. Our marriage never recovered. My children have pain scares because of me and because of my wife. When cheated on, there is trauma. When the infidelity is exposed, the one cheated on is emotionally tortured and humiliated. I believe this applies to both the spouse and splashes over onto the children. Lots of friends left me, and I lost the Christian community I was involved with. Of course, I dealt with personal guilt and shame. Shame was dispensed lavishly on me by others, sadly justified in the name of God. I dealt with both being the betrayer and because of my shit storm being betrayed, a very odd dilemma to be in. It was a one, two punch in the gut and then a left hook to the head. The betrayal of friends through leaving me, never checking in on me to see how I was doing, slandering me, and shaming me was painful to work through. Thankfully I have had an incredible therapist the last eight years. An aspect of love is that it simply shows up. Love does not judge, reject, or abandon. Love does not insist you change, follow the rules, to be loved, to belong. A true friend never leaves’ you in your darkest hour, joins your fight, willing to share your fate. I had a few who did this, the majority didn’t.“Friends love at all times, through all kinds of weather.” Proverbs 17:17

Renowned shame researcher Brene Brown (2007) defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging-something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection”.

When we are shamed the shamer is saying, you are flawed, Shame causes us to hate ourselves and hating ourselves ultimately leads to death of the soul, our very being.  Self- hate pain, as well as being the hate object by others, that you are fundamentally flawed and treated as unworthy of acceptance (unless you followed their rules) can lead to destructive behaviors.

I was rejected, abandoned, and shamed. Recovery has been painful but healthy. Resilience has forged deep life lessons of character. As Benjamin Franklin says, “The things that hurt, instruct.”


When suffering, pain, shattering, and the hardships of life happen, some are defeated and discouraged but the resilient become strong in the face of adversity.

The following seven steps I took to recover when I was the betrayer

  1. Taking ownership for what I did.
  2. Asking for forgiveness and apologizing.
  3. Demonstrating change
  4. Building trust again with others and myself.
  5. Forgiving myself.
  6. Working through the shame dispensed on me
  7. Reclaiming what I had given away.

Mettle is a person’s ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way. It has become my catalyst virtue because of what I have had to walk through in my journey of being betrayed and being the betrayer. I am evolving into a better man, father, leader, coach, and counselor. It’s definitely a life work, not an event.

Like many of you, I have had to carry lots of emotional pain. I make choices to become intimate with the pain instead of hiding from it, pretending it is not there, running from it, medicating inappropriately, or letting it conquer me. There becomes a John I didn’t know when I’m intimate with the pain that emerges. To be intimate I become close and connected with the pain and loss. It is a practice that leads to healing and healthiness. I weep, I mourn, I grieve, I get angry, I pray, I reflect, journal, scream at God, I accept, I feel. Closeness emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually in the crucible of resilience shapes a stronger, wiser, more understanding person. I rise up and I reclaim and reinvent and move forward. It doesn’t mean the pain is completely gone, it means I call out courage and stay in the fight bruised but standing. I become resilient.

Poet Lord Bryon stated, “Adversity is the first path to truth.”

Betrayal is ugly. It elicits deep pain because trust was violated. The more vulnerable the more hurtful. Healing takes time, there is no microwave fix, you must walk through the devastation. Its ok, to not be ok. Then comes the reality of what did you learn and what will you take into the next relationship. If you don’t get well then you will not bring good things with you. The biggest issue will be, can I trust again? Of course, you will be more cautious and that is wise, but you can’t be controlling or allow fear to reign. There is hope, you can trust again, you can love again.

“Resilient people turn fear into courage, suffering into strength, and pain into wisdom.”

Eric Greitens


  1. What spoke to you as you read this article and why?
  1. Is there something you need to change in how you relate with others?
  1. Who do you know who needs to read this article?

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Betrayal was last modified: August 3rd, 2021 by John R. Hatfield