Last week, I participated in Kellie Walker’s twitter chat. She holds one every Wednesday, and she covers some pretty weighty topics like fear, acceptance, forgiveness.  Last week’s chat was on betrayal. I arrived about 20 minutes late and had to scroll through what had been said. I was surprised at how out of sync I felt with the comments. So out of sync, I couldn’t quite figure out how to contribute to the conversation.

Eventually I looked up the word “betrayal” so that maybe I could find a place of entry. It didn’t help. According to, betrayal means “to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to.” There are other definitions as well, but they’re more severe, involving “enemies” and “treachery.” I think most of the people involved in Kellie’s chat were talking about being disappointed or deliberately misled.

By that definition, I have definitely been betrayed. I doubt many people can say they haven’t; it’s pretty broad. I have been disappointed and I have been the disappointer more times than I care to think about. And yet…

If you’d asked me before that chat if I’d ever been betrayed, I’d have said no because to me, “betrayal” is a really strong word. It implies a great deal (that apparently is not part of its official definition); cruelty, for instance, the demeaning, willful disregard of another person’s feelings. And even if you disagree with that, I think it’s safe to say that labeling something as “betrayal” definitely  indicates judgement and condemnation. A perpetrator and a victim have been established, and blame has been assigned

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because I was so clearly out of the mainstream in that chat. I’ve been wondering about my reluctance to assign that term to the hurts and disappointments and heartbreaks I’ve suffered. To say they are the results of betrayal feels inaccurate to me, a pronouncement that takes me off the hook, when, in reality, I had my part to play in every incident. Even more than that, the label – betrayal – is easy, like all labels are. It denies the humanness of our relationships, the degree to which we are broken and flawed and ill prepared for much of what life throws at us.

I’m certain that I will get comments on this post that explain to me what constitutes a betrayal – affairs, spying, backstabbing, etc – that accuse me of living in my little bubble of happy without a clue about how true, wrenching heartbreak works. I can tell you that I do know, I can tell you my stories and we can all nod our heads and say, “Yes, you were betrayed, j,” or (worse) “Yes, you have betrayed.” But to what end?

And maybe that’s the point of my post. I think words like “betrayal” are dangerous. The people I know who feel they’ve been betrayed have a hard time moving on from that. When it comes up, they roil in all the emotion of the event almost as if it’s happening to them again; they carry their betrayals with them, from relationship to relationship, like stones in their pockets, weighing them down.

It makes it hard to do things like dance. Like leap. Like fly.

I remember once, sitting across from my closest friend, crying, telling her how alone, guilty, hurt and, yes, betrayed, I felt. She said, “You had a lock and key relationship. In a terrible way, you and the person who hurt you, fit together like a lock and a key, bringing out the worst in each other instead of the best.”

I like that, not because it’s an explanation that fits every bad relationship (or even most), but because it isn’t black and white. It’s about humans being human, sometimes making each other better and sometimes fitting together in destructive ways that are nobody’s fault. In the moment she said it, blame seemed beside the point. I felt myself getting lighter, setting down the stones I’d been carrying around with me.

Well, some of them, anyway. It’s a process. I get lighter all the time.

…. Okay, your turn. Tell me why I’ve got this all wrong.


  1. Sandie on August 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    You didn’t get this post wrong. You got it right. Amen.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:20 am

      Thank you. (And I love your blog!)

  2. Miguel on August 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Sorry, you won’t get any argument from me. Oftentimes by labeling another’s behavior as betraying you, you make yourself the center of that act, which might not be the case. Like other terms that get incorrectly overused, it will lose its meaning and therefore any deterrence to be a betrayer.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:23 am

      Good point, Miguel. I agree. In thinking about this, I kept wanting to get at “intent” and that is part of it, but I think what you’re saying may be more to the point. Calling something betrayal does put you in the center of the act, and that, in my case, anyway, would be a gross oversimplification.

  3. Joanne Marie Firth on August 23, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I don’t think you have it wrong at all. I read that chat. I logged on at the tail end of it. Betrayal is a strong word, like any other strong word. No matter what you call it. I think we’ve all been screwed over at one time or another. Call it what you will, the bottom line is that it’s damage. Circumstances, responsibility can all vary and still add up to what we may think of as betrayal. It sounds so dramatic and a little soap opraish to me.

    This is a very complex post and I’m trying to wrap my head around what you are saying. I’m thinking that part of what you are saying is if we call something betrayal, then we might have a harder time letting go of it than if we thought of it as something else, a disagreement perhaps or a falling out. Disagreement and falling out are nowhere near as strong as betrayal.

    What ever happens to us in life leaves an imprint. If we label that imprint with a dangerous word like betrayal then we may get stuck in the imprint’s rut. These are my thoughts first time around. I’ll come back and read again and see what other people have to say about it. I do think it is important that we do not get too hung up on labels in general. As you pointed out, there are so many details, along with the fact that we are all human, prone to many errors that can lead to a relationship failing. Excellent post.

    • Miguel on August 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm

      Excelllent comment, Joanne!

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:29 am

      Yes, I think you have it, certainly what lies at the heart of this post. Much more than we realize, I think our language serves to heal or harm us. Call it spin (which has a negative connotation) or reframing (which sounds healthier), but the stories we tell ourselves matter, and the words we use do too. And generally speaking, a label like betrayal, doesn’t begin to recognize the nuance of human relationships… or, in my opinion, facilitate healing.

  4. C. Fassett on August 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I was just about to sign off and go to bed when this post came up in my email…I’m tired, so I just want to say, briefly, how interesting I find it that you write this post after your previous subject. I believe your answer lies somewhere in between.

    I’ll come back tomorrow when my brain is functioning more clearly…but yeah, using betrayal as the reason we refuse to love, to dance, to live, is never good for anyone…getting over it however is a journey in itself.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:29 am

      I’ll wait for your expansion!

  5. Carey on August 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Brilliant — I needed this although I’m not sure I would say I’ve ever been betrayed . . . but I do struggle with stones of anger, confusion and such weighing me down. Also, a great number of people I work with and care deeply for have just discovered/revealed that they have been what I would certainly label as betrayal (deliberate, careless thievery and disregard for hard earned money by someone who was given power). Just today I was wondering how they (the people I work with) can keep their cool. I believe I saw the answer in your post and also a documentary I saw this very night called ‘The Human Experience’. It showed people letting go and finding happiness despite devastating unfairness and suffering. Then I happend to see your post — perfect timing! Judy, you nourish my mind!!

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Yay! I did think of that, as I was writing this. Embezzlement and thievery certainly fall under the heading of betrayal – in fact, much more squarely than most relationship interactions because there is so obviously an innocent victim and a guilty douche bag. (Oops, there I go labeling.)

      Of course, it’s not that I don’t think betrayal exists, just that I think we have to be careful how we label the stuff in our lives, the stories we tell ourselves. In the case you’re talking about, I can’t imagine how they’re framing it to enable happiness and moving on, but of course they must. We could probably learn a lot from them.

      Thank you, Carey. You nourish my mind too. xo

  6. Travis B. Hartwell on August 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    That particular TweetChat was quite difficult for me and I have yet been able to fully identify why. I know the things that are triggering these feelings; and I imagine of what you know of my story j, you could guess of recent events that would come to mind.

    I agree with your premise as I understand it. But, in the overall picture in this, I tend to often forget what Kellie reminds us of time and again — feelings just are. They aren’t good or bad. It is within the response that the barometer of your emotional health resides.

    I would first emphasize that it is completely natural to feel betrayed. To quote a song that has resonated very clearly with me recently:

    I know the pieces fit cause I watched them tumble down
    No fault, none to blame it doesn’t mean I don’t desire to
    Point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over
    To bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication

    (Schism by Tool)

    I’ve come to believe that we are often in situations much the way your friend described your relationship as “lock and key”, or in the song’s vernacular, “the pieces fit”. And even though there really is not just one to ascribe fault (which I believe is one of the points that lead you on the path of this discussion), it is a natural human emotion and reaction to point the finger to the other. Even in situations where we truly desire to “bring the pieces back together”.

    Applying what has been taught to me over and over recently, it is not possible from the outside tell someone if what happened to them is deserving of the feelings of betrayal. As you say, you haven’t had great instances of such in your life. But to say you haven’t felt betrayal would be denying a fundamental part of your sensitivity and emotions.

    I have struggled even as you have, especially in the situation I allude to. How am I allowed to feel betrayal when I myself am also to blame? It’s something quite deep seated, and as trusted people have told me I’m allowed to feel hurt and angry, it hits me like a ton of bricks and there seems to be some part of my psyche that fights it with all my being.

    It was all re-learned this past weekend as I was re-watching some episodes of my favorite TV show, Charmed. At the end of the previous season, Prue, the oldest sister had been killed. During these first few episodes I watched, Piper the formerly middle child who was now the eldest, was struggling with being very overwhelmed. She wasn’t allowing herself to grieve or deal with it. At the end of this particular episode, it came to a head as the youngest sister was able to teach her it was okay to feel angry, hurt, and abandoned. It was okay to feel hate towards her sister, though she by no means died on purpose. When Piper finally allowed herself to feel those feelings, and to express them, the grieving and healing process finally began for her. A weight was lifted and it literally transformed her.

    I think you are right. The perspective you have is a healthy and mature one. But, at the same time, we should not deny ourselves the feelings we have because they are our heart’s reaction to the hurt.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:48 am

      I agree. We all have to pass through our fires to get to the other side, and we have to do it on our own time. My point here is less about denying our feelings as it is about the language we use when we tell ourselves our stories, and we all do tell ourselves stories. I’m definitely not advocating that anyone circumvent their own emotional path, just that there are words that heal and words that wound (or reopen) wounds. Betrayal feels like one we should use sparingly.

      Also, it isn’t clear to me that everyone who allows themselves to feel their emotions does so in the act of evolution. That said, to your point, maybe they are just moving so slowly through the wreckage I can’t see their progress. That is possible.

      Thank you, Travis. You always add much to my thought process.

    • Travis B. Hartwell on August 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks for the further clarification. I agree that the language you
      use has a profound effect on your perception of the world. It’s
      something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, too. In this, jumping
      to “betrayal” to describe a situation can be one of victimhood and
      then we allow ourselves to give up power and responsibility for our
      own reactions.

  7. terrepruitt on August 24, 2011 at 12:38 am

    Wow. I guess I didn’t know the meaning of betrayal. I have been disappointed in people and I am sure they have been disloyal, but I would not have called it betrayal.

    As I was typing this though a thought struck me, the definition said, “to disappoint the hopes or expectations of’ and one of your commentors said to use the word “you make yourself the center of that act’ which could be entirely true. If I am the one that set out the hopes and the expectations, maybe I would be the one that betrayed myself because I HOPED someone would do/act/be as I expected when people are just human after all, as stated. Hmmm? Maybe we are the ones responsible for betrayal when we put something like that on someone? Don’t know about that, it just popped into my head.

    For me, I think of betrayal as more than just what the first definition is. Apparently I didn’t know the meaning. But I am not going to start using it, because to me, it is a bit strong.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:53 am

      The first definition, I think, was about treachery, and turning people over to their enemies. I’m sure that is more in line with how you thought of betrayal; it’s how I thought of it. The definition that I quoted is the one that seemed to be in play with the chat and, like you, it didn’t fit my perception of betrayal at all.

      I think you make an excellent point. We are responsible for our hopes and expectations, and so we play a primary role when we are disappointed, especially in cases where those expectations are unfair or uncommunicated.

    • terrepruitt on August 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      That just popped into my head because of someone’s comment. And again, even if I were to commit to actually thinking that were true I would have a difficult time assigning that word to it.

      Great post (as always!)!

  8. Mike H on August 24, 2011 at 1:02 am


    I’ve cultivated a couple of friendships where I thought betrayal was likely and did in fact happen. I cultivated them so that I could get over it and the fear of it. After the betrayals I closed down the friendships.

    To love freely is to be open to the risk of hurt. But conditional love doesn’t work. So now if I meet someone I will be less worried about what they might do. I’ll be more open to letting them be themselves. I’ll be mre confident that I can cope, don’t need to protect myself excessively.

    When I choose a more serious relationship I hope I’ll be in a place to enjoy it fully and without unreasonable expectations or fears.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 7:56 am

      Wow, that’s pretty bad ass; I definitely couldn’t enter into a relationship in which I expected to be betrayed. Is it possible that in doing that, you paved the way for betrayal? I don’t know the details, of course, but I’m thinking that when you go into a relationship expecting a foregone conclusion, you may, in fact, facilitate its occurrence. I know I have felt trapped before by someone’s unwavering (and to me, incorrect) assumptions about me.

  9. Prudence MacLeod on August 24, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Hi Judy, this is one of your better posts so far, or should I say, one of the more daring. Here you pull back the curtain that so many of us hide behind and show us the mirror of our reality. We are the creators of our own lives, and often, of our own heartbreak.
    Yes indeed, betrayal is a dangerous word, dangerous because of it’s strength, and because it automatically absolves us of all blame in a given situation. It also makes it so much harder to forgive. We can forgive someone easily for disapointing us, but betrayal? That is so much harder to forgive, and forgiveness is vital to healing, and for growth.
    There may be folk who chastize you for getting this all wrong, but I, for one, think you have it right.
    Thanks for a thought provoking post.


    • j on August 24, 2011 at 8:01 am

      Oh, Prudence, how I adore you! I wasn’t sure whether to post this, but decided that if it’s swirling around inside me, unsettled, maybe it’s worth all of us talking about. So, thank you for encouraging me.

      And, here’s what I love about you guys. As I’ve been thinking about this (since last Wednesday), I’ve felt close to, but not zeroed in on, what my problems are with the term, why I think it’s so dangerous. Miguel hit upon one aspect I hadn’t articulated to myself, and so did Terre. And now you are too. You’re absolutely right. Forgiving “betrayal” is much, much harder than forgiving disappointment or misjudgement. The words we use matter – facilitate healing or inhibit it.

      Thank you for giving me that piece of my puzzle.

  10. Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on August 24, 2011 at 5:39 am


    I’m so glad you continued the conversation from last week. And, that you’re sharing it with the amazing people who read your blog regularly.

    I have to head out to a meeting here shortly, so I will only be able to share my initial thoughts on your post. I’ll have to come back later to respond to the comments themselves.

    One thing that stood out for me in your post is the focus on the word ‘betrayed’. The stimulant for the chat was ‘Betrayal (being betrayed) teaches you to doubt yourself.’ I’m not sure what to make of it yet, if anything, but it stands out to me that the ‘doubt yourself’ part seems to have been lost somewhere. For me, that’s the key to the problem with feeling betrayed (note, I’m saying *feeling* betrayed vs. *being* betrayed).

    You noted that labeling something as betrayal is ‘a pronouncement that takes me off the hook’ and that it ‘denies the humanness of our relationships’. For me, this is not the case. In fact, for me, the opposite is true. I have been betrayed in some of the worst possible ways. Labeling those betrayals as betrayals doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility in the relationship or the situation. But, NOT labeling them as betrayals WOULD absolve the other person of their responsibility. That’s how it feels for me anyway.

    In some ways, I agree that labels are dangerous. But, we also need them. If I can’t label a feeling as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ or ‘betrayed’, I can’t acknowledge them, process them or heal from them.

    I totally agree with your statement, ‘The people I know who feel they’ve been betrayed have a hard time moving on from that.’ In fact, that’s the primary reason I chose betrayal as the topic for last week’s chat. I believe people have a hard time moving on from betrayal because they don’t realize that the person they no longer trust is themselves. The mistrust is not external. It’s internal. They have to recognize, process and heal from that self-mistrust before they can move on.

    Focusing on what so-and-so did doesn’t help (much). What does help is admitting how they feel (with no judgment) and figuring out how to regain trust in their ability to make choices so they can ‘set down the stones they’ve been carrying’.

    Going back to the fear of the label ‘betrayal’ for a moment… I find it interesting that we have no issue with ‘labeling’ happiness, or love, or excitement, or the ‘positive’ emotions. But, putting a label that has negative connotations, like the word ‘betrayal’, seems to hit people the wrong way.

    Oh, drat. Now I’ve made myself late. I’ll be back for more later.

    Thanks again for continuing this dialog. It really is far too bug for a 140 character at a time discussion!

    Hugs & sparkles!

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 8:30 am

      You’re response is exactly why I felt a need to get straight the definition of “betrayal,” at least for the sake of the chat. It clearly doesn’t quite mean the same thing to you that it does to me, or carry with it the same thorny problems with forgiveness and healing.

      And, admittedly, given the problems I was having with the word betrayal (I don’t quite understand your distinction between the noun and verb, so I’m sorry if I’m missing something), I never quite got to the question of self-doubt.

      I do want to address your thought about negative versus positive labels. I think all labels are easy – they simplify some really complex issues, and I agree with you that we need them. They’re a type of shorthand that, in the best of circumstances, helps us get at our emotions and sort through the chaos. That’s good.

      For me, there are labels which are helpful (or harmless) and labels that discourage exploration and growth. The ones that carry with them deeply held judgements and condemnations run the risk of being shorthand for good guy/bad guy, perpetrator/victim. Betrayal isn’t like that for you, but it definitely is for me. It’s good to have you here making a case for the term! (And, there is a definition that backs you up.) 😉

    • Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on August 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      I love that this dialog is going on!

      It’s been a long day of meetings for me. So, I apologize in advance if I’m a bit rambley in my response….

      Maybe the trouble we’re having with reconciling our respective definitions of the word ‘betrayal’ is that, in this context, I’m using it as an emotion. Not a verb or noun. Meaning, I’m not concerned with whether or not a specific act – cheating on a spouse, lying to a friend, doing something I thought you wouldn’t do, etc. – is technically, officially a ‘betrayal’.

      I’m focusing on the fact that someone feels betrayed. Someone did something unexpected. It hurt. The other person *feels* betrayed.

      In this sense, for me, it’s not up for debate. If someone feels betrayed, they feel betrayed. Again, I’m not making any judgment about what the other person did or didn’t do, who the ‘bad guy’ is, or who the ‘good guy’ is. The key point is that someone feels betrayed.

      The distinction (feeling betrayed as an emotional state) is important to me because I don’t think we can or should attach value judgments to our emotions. We feel what we feel. We’re not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to feel what we feel. Feelings aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They just are. I focus on the emotion and what that does to you, rather than whether or not you “should” be feeling what you’re feeling.

      The original point (for me) behind the statement that kicked off the tweetchat last week is this: When someone hurts you – either repeatedly or in a significant way – if you’re left with what we like to call ‘trust issues’, very often the person you no longer trust is you.

      Trying to figure out how to trust others again often won’t work unless and until you recognize that you no longer trust your instincts. You may meet someone and feel very safe with them. But, you felt safe with the last person. So, how do you know that this time is different?

      I’m not sure if I helped clarify my stance or just threw some more mud in the water. 🙂 Either way, I’ll say it again, I’m grateful we’re having this discussion!

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      You’re right. In your chat, your purpose was to explore the impact of feeling betrayed and what that does to you. My purpose here is to explore why I felt so unable to join in the conversation. You’re hitting the nail on the head here because if I don’t think of myself as having been betrayed, of course I would have little to offer in a discussion about the impact of that feeling.

      Makes sense. One mystery solved! *wink*

      Now, I’m interested in the impact of language on the stories we tell ourselves and how those stories facilitate or inhibit our personal evolutions. Your point about “betrayal” being a way of framing your experience that actually allowed you to move on is excellent. Language matters and in a story we tell ourselves, our vocabulary is an intensely personal choice.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      p.s. I love your point about the trust issue being one of trusting yourself. THAT I can relate to, having misjudged people and situations and having felt that tug to withhold trust to others afterward.

    • Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on August 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Wait! What? We solved one of the mysteries? Woo hoo!!!

      Seriously. Isn’t it interesting how much easier discussions are when you figure out that we’re each talking about a different thing? Or, the same thing from a different perspective?

      ‘Language matters and in a story we tell ourselves, our vocabulary is an intensely personal choice.’ LOVE this. In fact, I think it’s at the core of healing and helping people heal. If we accept/respect their personal vocabulary instead of ‘correcting’ it, we help them get to the underlying issues that much faster. Trying to ‘correct’ their vocabulary, I think, just makes people feel like they are ‘doing it wrong’ which makes them shut down (more often than not).

      I was going to say that I was glad you could relate to the self-trust issue. But, I realized that that would sound odd – as if I’m glad you’ve been given a reason to hesitate w/trusting folks. Which, I hope you know, is not the case.

      As for your exploration of the “impact of language on the stories we tell ourselves and how those stories facilitate or inhibit our personal evolutions”, I’ll have to get back to you on that. My brain is all mushy again.

      I know I’ve said this multiple times, but THANK YOU for continuing this dialog. It’s been so helpful, enlightening & informative.

      Hugs & sparkles!

  11. kaleighsomers on August 24, 2011 at 5:39 am

    So what you’re telling me is the fact that I’m naive to all the supposed betrayal in my life is a good thing? I can live with that. And I think it’s hard knowing so many so-called negative lock-and-key relationships, where I really like both people but not together. Not the way they fit and break not only themselves apart but other people. But isn’t it almost harder to admit that when you fit for all the wrong reasons?

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

      Ha! Long live our betrayal naivete! And yes, I agree. It’s painful to watch people trapped in these really bad lock-key relationships. Couples, business partners, my two dogs. 😉

  12. Casoly on August 24, 2011 at 5:44 am

    I wish I had something to offer to this already great thread of conversation, but I’m not sure I do. On the one hand I agree with an earlier comment that feelings just are, you can’t judge them, but what you label them and how you express them and how you do or do not get over them, well is that also value free? I think not, but my head isn’t quite caffeinated enough to comment further, so I’ll leave this comment incomplete. (xox J! Thanks for getting us thinking, again. :o) )

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 10:47 am

      I agree that feelings just are too, and I do see the benefit of labels – a little bit of shorthand in our busy, emotional, full-to-busting lives. And I think you’re right about where the value assessment comes in, though it’s hard to face that. Only you (and by you, I mean all of us) know if you’re actually moving forward through your feelings, or nursing your hurt and anger because that’s the devil you know. It can be scary to be honest with yourself. That’s why we have journals (that sometimes get shredded). 😉

  13. lunaJune on August 24, 2011 at 6:32 am

    From where I stand now… there is no betrayal…. once you accept that you create and draw to you everything.. and I mean everything you can look at every situation and see where you allowed, where you accepted, where you didn’t stand up for yourself. And from there it is easy to say… OK won’t let that happen again. then let it go…. so many of us.. and believe me I held on to something that shattered my heart mind and soul for 25 years…I pushed it down , I’d let it spill into everything…let it create this sorrowful state… and seriously once I took back my power of the situation all things changed…. no more… he did… I should of… I wish I’d… WHY WHY WHY
    you can ask yourself a million whys… but it just leads to more and more questions… better to say… I forgive you…and not hold that kind of emotion.
    Instead I hold the love that was there….and say thanks for helping me see myself in a whole new life. grateful for a lesson
    how we vibrate… the frequency we resonate with … that, is all we control, no one besides us can affect it… without us allowing.


    it’s all up to….
    singing to the day
    thanks for the importunity to share

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

      A lovely response. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there is no betrayal, though I love that there isn’t any for you. Apparently, there (so far) isn’t any for me, but I’m not ruling it out. I like to keep my emotional options open. (grin)

      I think your experience is a model for how people can move through their hurt and despondency. I am rarely that graceful, but I have had times where, after coming through the fire, I’ve looked back and been – maybe not grateful for the devastation – but able to see the amazing growth and good that resulted.

  14. Tricia on August 24, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I wasn’t going to comment, but doggonit you bring it out of me every time. Today especially since I think we have some connectedness that makes me feel your posts before I read them. Just last night I revisited my past, past hurts I thought were buried.

    Occasionally (about every 28 days) I allow myself get upset about something. But last night was hard. It was a lifetime of betrayal that, like you said, was like stones being added to the pile. I couldn’t sleep. It was awful, the old feelings that used to cause me such grief. It came back so raw. I haven’t gone to that place in a while. In fact, most of my inner turmoils now stem from my kids getting betrayed. It occurred to me that I never buried it. I transferred it. I’ve been so busy protecting my kids from “it” that I forgot “it” ever happened to me.

    Then this morning I read your post. Kind of freaky.

    I’ll have to ponder now. Because now I don’t know what to think.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

      I’m so sorry, Tricia. I don’t have an incident that I’d call betrayal, but I do have one, specific person – a lifetime person – who challenges me, specifically in regards to the love project. More than anyone else, this person makes me examine my belief system – about when to stay in, when to let go, when to be close and when to be okay with distance…

      I guess I’m trying to say that there isn’t one set of rules. Fearless love is about figuring it out as we go, being brave enough to flounder, reset, rechart our course. I suspect that making sure your children don’t suffer the way you did has required you to hold the stones (even unconsciously). Letting them go is definitely a process. I’m learning to be patient with myself. I think it’s worth the time.

      Hugs. (And, I’m quite honored to be so connected to you.)

  15. Lance on August 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Okay, I was going to respond to this immediately when you started the thread but I wanted to see what others said.

    When Judas and the Senators moved against Caesar, what made that the texbook definition of betrayal is Caesar trusted and loved Judas (and some of the others). What his perpetrators did what use Caesar’s love, trust, and good will (yes I know he was a dictator) and turn it against him.

    Betrayal is about turning away from your heart, your judgement, and your goodness to intentionally hurt someone.

    I need a nap.

    To me if I read on another blog that you, J, were badmouthing me and your other readers that would be similar. We trust our thought and at times our hearts to you. You and I cut ourselves open for the world to see on our blogs. People taking that for granted would be what betrayal shows.

    Last fall, so almost a year ago, one of the cloest friends I have ever had treated me and my wife so poorly you’d be shocked at the depth she sank. I considered her lack of friendship a betrayal because I had told her so much, allowed her to insert herself into my marriage and child raising, and trusted her with my family. Ending the toxic relationship was the only thing I could do. Like Caesar, I died that day. My ides of March came on a warm October day.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      That’s very sad, and, like Kellie, I suspect calling that what it was for you – a blatant betrayal – helped you move on. I am all for ending toxic relationships wherever and whenever possible. It certainly does not sound as though you are carrying around stones.

      I hope I didn’t make it sound as though I don’t think betrayals exist. I know they do. I know they’re painful; devastating. For me, personally, thinking in those terms doesn’t allow me to get at the me part of the equation and – in my case – there was a “me” factor every time. I’m such a mess… er, I mean work in progress. 😉

  16. Estrella Azul on August 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of what you’ve said.

    It’s interesting, but I tend to avoid heavy words like betrayal.
    Not because I haven’t been betrayed, or inadvertently ended up betraying. But exactly because of that ‘inadvertently’ term.
    There are only a few situations and people I can say I’ve been betrayed in/by because I know how people can hear what they want to hear without looking for the truth. How they can find malice where there actually isn’t any trace of. How they refuse to let themselves be proven wrong and accept that we’re all different.
    So I do my best to keep an open mind as much as I can. And it’s not easy. No at all. But it’s the right thing to do.
    And I get a better sense and definition of what real betrayal is.

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      I feel the same way about the word, Estrella, the black and white of it is hard for me to wrap my brain around. Obviously, that’s not the only way to view it though, as evidenced by several of the comments. That’s what I love about hashing things out here. You all remind me in no uncertain terms that I do NOT have all the answers. *heads dreamily back to drawing board*

  17. Michael on August 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

    It’s a complex issue. I completely understand the concept you;re espousing, j, but Kellie explains her perspective well too, and you’re each explaining a different aspect of the possible discussion. Betrayal is, after all, just a word. It’s the meaning we assign to it that makes all the difference – the connotations and subtext.

    If we could look at an instance, coldly examine it and conclude that there was betrayal involved, that would be one thing. It might allow a proper assignment of culpability, a way to understand all of the dynamics involved. But we’re rarely capable of that cold assessment, especially when we’re one of the actors in the dynamic. And if we turn an assessment of ‘betrayal’ into the labeling of a ‘betrayer’, then the potential of denying any personal culpability grows and grows.

    As for embezzlement and thievery being clear betrayals, I wonder how embezzlers feel about it. I wonder if we could play the thought game through and think of situations in which thieves, looters, embezzlers thought they were personally justified because of perceived betrayals to them by their employers or overseers, or because they were following ‘higher ideals’. Our culture is full of myths regarding ‘good thieves’ after all: the Robin Hoods, American revolutionaries, activists who participate in civil disobedience. I’m sure, for instance, that the British, had they won the war of independence, would have gleefully hung the ungrateful sods that tried to kick them out of their own colonies. I mean, the nerve! After everything they’d done for them!

    Perspective, especially taking the perspective of our enemies, is excruciatingly inconvenient sometimes, and the foundation of empathy.

    From what I’ve seen, much of the problem comes down to the concept of guilt. It’s a semantic thing for me, but I make a point to differentiate between guilt and remorse. I accept, even invite remorse. Remorse tells me I’ve done something wrong and motivates me to change. Guilt tells me I’ve done something bad and encourages me to flog myself repeatedly with no end to said flogging in sight. I believe that we project blame onto others when we feels that burden of guilt because, really, who wants to feel guilty? And yet we heap guilt on ourselves all the time in our culture. All. The. Time.

    Feeling betrayed results in guilt too. We’re conditioned to it. Our culture has taught us that ‘god is testing us’, or ‘it’s karma’, or we immediately ask ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ We’re brainwashed to blame, ourselves and others, from the earliest moments.

    But beyond blame and guilt there’s simply ‘the truth’. Sometimes (often?) it’s not pretty, and it usually involves a sharing of culpability that requires us to look as much in the mirror as point out to anyone else, but it’s also enormously freeing to simply be able to take responsibility and move the fuck on. So I ignore guilt, abjure it with everything I’ve got, and just focus on the remorse and learning when I screw up. And the moving on.

    j, I agree, the labeling thing is hugely dangerous. In most (emphasis on most) day to day living, the instances of any individual being blameless are rare, and any attempt to make one person wholly responsible – whether it’s ‘them’ or ‘us’ – is just counterproductive in the long run. But I also can see how the label can make it easier for some to learn to not blame only themselves. It’s a tricky, dangerous, double-edged sword. If we could just unhook the guilt circuit from the calculations, it would be so much easier.

    And… sorry for going on so long. 😉

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      I love when you go on so long.

      I’m going to leave relative morality for another time. It’s a fascinating topic and I, being a big fan of the gray, am not opposed to drifting from one ambiguous example to the next; of course, doing it over a bottle of wine is much more fun.

      However, right now, in the absence of wine, let me pounce on your remorse versus guilt discussion. Yes! I would not have thought to make the distinction you’ve made between guilt and remorse, but I agree. And I confess: I’m super good at guilt. I’m so good at guilt, that I can sometimes get mad at someone like you, who is healthy about it, who learns and moves on. I have been known to stand here in my guilty place, calling out, “But wait! You haven’t felt bad long enough! Look how long I’m willing to feel bad!” I blame Catholicism. I’m working on this.

      In a way though, even as you attempt to convince me that embezzlement may not amount to betrayal, your distinction between “remorse” and “guilt” is a testament to the importance of language. The language you use is in the service of your own personal evolution (or inversion as the case may be) matters. How we frame our experience matters. For many people, feeling betrayed, and therefore feeling very much the victim, isn’t conducive to healing. In the same way that you resist guilt, I resist victimhood, and the language that – in me – encourages it.

      That said, holy cow you all have made me think. I am unabashedly grateful for your willingness to debate with me the finer points of our humanity.

    • Michael on August 24, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      First, this conversation, especially the ping pong with Kellie but all of it too, is just AWESOME.

      Second, please don’t ever mistake me for healthy again. If I have any advantage, it’s that I attended catholic kindergarten, and then was exposed to only low-level post-denominational protestant guilt radiation thereafter. 🙂

      And you’re point about the language we use led me to think this: We’re all creating our own narratives, so yes, the lexicon we draw from as we write that internal memoir is crucial. It’ll never be the same for each of us though, and that’s just fine – semantics conversations are often the most unintentionally and profoundly illuminating.

  18. Pam on August 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Excellent discussion.

    For me, the idea of betrayal is part of a story I don’t want to be living. I thought for a long time that I had been betrayed in a certain situation, and that was one of the things that got in the way of putting it behind me. Telling myself that I’d been betrayed brought along concepts like justice and (for a little while) revenge. They turned out not to be particularly apt, and they were too effective at keeping me from recognizing how I was ignoring/giving away my power.

    Most of the time I’m with Michael on guilt and remorse, but sometimes I get mired in feeling guilty. I do think of it as uncharacteristic. :p

    • j on August 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      I like your comment about ignoring/giving away your power. That’s exactly how it felt for me, and the moment my friend gave me another way to frame the relationship (lock-key versus betrayer-victim), I felt myself moving to a new place. (As Michael pointed out, we were getting away from the language of guilt… I think that allowed me more room to move, emotionally and psychologically.)

      Before that, I definitely entertained a few revenge scenarios. 😉

  19. Becky on August 25, 2011 at 6:11 am

    I routinely participate in Kellie’s chats and am grateful for that connection to her and the others who fly in and out. I was in that conversation and bowed out early… for all the wrong reasons.
    Here’s a cycle of personal evolution I’ve been in:
    1) I’ve been “betrayed”, I’ve been humiliated, I’ve been ridiculed, I’ve been crushed, I’ve been thrown away, I’ve been…, I’ve been…, I’ve been… the victim.
    2) I see myself differently, I surround myself by others who see ALL of me and shut me up when I need it and hug me when I need it, I pause, I control my “need” to be seen as a victim.
    3) (this is where I’m hopefully headed and visit once in a while) I let it go, I am my own hero, I am saving myself, I am worthy of the attention of the people who give it to me, I am… not a victim.

    I know this comment is vague, again… maybe a little personal evolution. Better retrieve my journal from its covert hiding place and work through some shit this morning.

    • Kellie J. Walker (@Yourlifeingear) on August 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

      I’m so glad for your participation in the #pitstopchats, Becky. And, I, too, am grateful for the connections created with you and the rest of the crew.

      Just a quick reminder that it was ok to bow out of the chat. Being kind to yourself when things get too intense is never a bad thing. And, as you know, the transcripts are always there along with the summary posts I publish after. As if that wasn’t enough, we are fortunate enough to be able to continue the conversation in other places – like here. 🙂

      One thing that keeps popping out at me re: this entire discussion (which is absolutely fabulous) is the ‘either/or’ mentality many of us (including myself) bring to it. In your step 1, you’re a victim. In your step 3, you’re your own hero. My first thought is, ‘Can’t it be both? Can’t you be both a victim and a hero?’ And, to the point j and many others are making, ‘Can’t you be both a victim and a perpetrator?”‘ For me, the answer is a loud, definitive, ‘Yes!’

      I can be a victim of some betrayal or broken trust AND be an active participant in the situation that victimized me.

      I think that’s why focusing on the *feeling* of betrayal works better for me. If I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, without judgment, I don’t spend any energy defending how I feel. I can experience it, process it and heal from it. Along the way, I gain a different perspective. At some point (or several points) along that journey, I become better able to say, “OK. What role did *I* play in this? What red flags did I ignore? What unreasonable/unfair expectations (if any) did I put out there? What can I do differently next time?” Personally, I’ve learned over the years that I can’t get to those questions if I’m stuck on whether or not I should feel what I feel.

      I hope you were able to find your journal and put it to some good use.

      Thank you for popping back into this conversation!


    • Becky on August 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      I’m highly intimidated when I come here and on the pitstopchats and pushing publish on my blog and pushing send on emails and putting stamps on cards… hmmm, what were we talking about? 🙂 Anyway, feeling safe and protected when sharing is essential… so, I appreciate the response.

  20. j on August 25, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Personal evolution in 3 steps (though I somehow think there were a million in between leaps). Make sure you get that journal back to its secure place. 😉

  21. Prudence MacLeod on August 25, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Hi there, it’s me again. I just want to add a few thoughts here about betrayal. Assigning that powerful word to an event will hold you in the past event, forced to re-live it over and over. It will hold you back more than you know.
    You must give up all hope of a better past. If you truly want to gain mastery over your life, and to have that happy abundant everafter we all dream of, then you must do this.
    Remember, if you focus your thoughts on the past, and the bad or unhappy things that happened there, you will be doomed to re-live them forever. Release them and let them go. Here is an exercise that I began many years ago, and still practice from time to time.
    The Oath of Release:
    “I (your name), do hereby give up all hope of a better past. The things that have happened there shall remain there; I take the lessons learned from those experiences, and turn my focus forward to the present and future. I forgive anyone and everyone who has ever harmed me in any way, (no matter how deep or painful the hurt), and I ask forgiveness for any and all harm I may have caused (deliberately or otherwise). I will now seek ways to lead a more loving and fulfilling life.”
    Try it folks, it feels good; it will set you free.
    Bless, Prudence

    • j on August 25, 2011 at 10:19 am

      I love that! I’m going to put it on and spin about for a bit!

      I do want to reiterate one of my key learnings from this discussion, amplified beautifully by Kellie, that the language of our personal evolutions and narratives is intensely personal. Though I agree with you completely about the word “betrayal,” not everyone does. Kellie was able to move on, in part, because she used the term, which let her stop blaming herself in a destructive way.

      That said, I’m in love with this: “You must give up all hope of a better past.” Yes, we must, and what a powerful release!

    • Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on August 25, 2011 at 10:29 am

      I amplified beautifully?


    • j on August 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Haha! Yes, you did. You have the superpower of beautiful amplification. 😉 xo

    • Kellie J. Walker (@Yourlifeingear) on August 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Oh, goody! A new super power.

    • Kellie J. Walker (@Yourlifeingear) on August 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

      (runs over to update CV and About page) 🙂

    • Kellie J. Walker (@Yourlifeingear) on August 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

      I’m also in love with this:

      You must give up all hope of a better past.”

  22. Becky on September 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    The “lock and key” friendship you talked about with your friend… did it ever evolve? Did it ever become “good” or do you think it could have… if there was a wave of self-evolution?

    • j on September 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      It wasn’t a friendship in any conventional sense of that word and the relationship wasn’t salvageable.

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