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 Dictionary.com, 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 Dictionary.com 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.