It's no secret I have had my share of betrayals from friends, family, and fellow church members over the past number of years. So when I saw Dr. Laura Schlessinger's book, Surviving a Shark Attack (on Land): Overcoming Betrayal and Dealing with Revenge, I knew I had to read it.
It was encouraging to read a professional therapist's stories of her own struggles with betrayal -- but also to have her validate many points (especially on forgiveness and trust) that I'd already made in previous blog posts. This post, then, is a summary of her book and what I have learned/experienced in my own life.
Betrayals are a "breach of trust to a code or a person, including acts of dishonesty, lying, cheating, or stealing, double-crossing, deception, gossiping, duplicity, unfaithfulness, treason, leading astray, undermining, selling out..." They leave you stunned, sad, scared, and very very angry.
Sometimes you become so cynical that it changes the ways you think and react to people.
Now, just for the record, let's clarify the difference between feeling hurt and being hurt by someone's intent to hurt. Sometimes we feel hurt and betrayed when someone tells it like it is, or offers us a painful reality check to help us grow. In truth, we just aren't ready to accept it. Also, feeling betrayed and wanting revenge for a situation that is your own fault is ridiculous--another party is not responsible for something that you were too blind or stupid to avoid. This goes for gossip as well.
Gossip is never harmless. If people do it with you, they'll do it to you.
Also, you must learn to see the difference between an "event" and a "pattern." An event occurs when a person is truly sorry and there is a room for forgiveness and a continuation of intimacy. "Where there is a pattern, the other person is simply dangerous and destructive, and apologies are manipulations to keep you around to hurt some more....Betrayals are not necessarily 'events,' they are often repetitive or continuous insults, hurts, and destruction...Getting vengeance, or even justice, sometimes takes more from your life than it gives...These are times when you must physically and emotionally walk away."
When people are betrayed, they learn they are capable of some very negative emotions: hate, rage, and the need to get revenge. However, "the thing about most 'bad' people, betrayers, is that they are like roaches: no matter how much you spray them or try to squash them, they live to scurry another day."
Therein lies the rub--"good people are helpless to some degree in the face of evil and mean because 'good' has rules of engagement, while evil and mean are free to do or say whatever they wish without any...guilt." The Bible says that "consequences for a wrong act cannot be greater than the original insult or assault; in fact, they must be less if there are mitigating circumstances...Justice is supposed to be devoid of emotion so it will be respected by all....Vengeance is justice smothered in passion... Passion often leads us to respond out of proportion to the hurt...Vengeance is difficult to attain without tarnishing the self."
"While we can't control the world, we do have control over our actions and decisions...The type of vengeance we choose to administer is a window into our character and a building block for our souls....It is easier to hate than to move on...hate requires nothing but re-hashing the story and stoking the fire to keep the flame of rage alive."
To quote Dick Armey, "You can not get ahead while you are getting even."However, you don't do hardworking, sweet, and nice to change the evildoer's heart. You do it to "salvage your own life and inner being." If you can transfer your hatred and rage into something positive or benevolent, it's like "using poop for fertilizer instead of an assault."
People who do bad things, range from "sociopathic personalities" [ie. narcissists], to the "everyday individual who justifies his or her bad behaviour in the most extraordinary ways." When someone tries to call them out on their behaviour, they will not hear it. To back down by admitting wrongdoing would "be such an assault on their inner well-being that it is to be avoided at all costs." They will justify their behaviour, distort the truth, make up facts, and rationalize, rationalize, rationalize. While betrayers may have different motivations, they all believe "life should be all about 'me'; what makes me happy, what makes me look good, what gets me what I want..."
So, what kinds of people are betrayers? According to Dr. Laura, they are:
1. Possessive. Possessiveness comes from insecurity and is one of the first warning signs that someone is "potentially dangerous." Their focus is not on relationship; it is only on their fears and needs. "If you haven't sufficiently pleased or satisfied them, they will betray you."
8. Lacking Identity. Hurting others gives them a sense of importance and power.
9. Evil. People for whom doing evil deeds is the norm. They are "entertained and pleased by their acts."
10. Expedient. Some people will turn on you simply because "they want to get in the right place, with the right people, at the right time, to take care of themselves. You are but a small inconvenience."
Dr. Laura goes on to conclude that trusting everybody is foolish. "The people you trust, rely on, and count on completely (who have proven themselves over time) should be at the center of your circle. These are very few...but you will receive more from them than those people in the outer rings of your circle... They are the ones you turn to when tragedy strikes or when you are in need of profound support," while the people in the outer rings are those you just hang around or joke around with.