There is nothing worse than betrayal. I think this is the most difficult emotion to resolve.
Everyone experiences betrayal, some experiences are worse than others. A common reaction is the desire to hurt the betrayer like they hurt us.
When I was in Israel on a trip with a bunch of clergy, we were sitting on some steps outside Jerusalem reading the scripture where Peter betrays Jesus. Just as we finished reading we heard a cock crow. It was just like it was written in the scripture.
I always feel sympathy for Peter. Who wouldn’t be tempted to deny Jesus when acknowledging him would cost you your life? I can’t imagine how Jesus must have felt when he heard that his closest friend denied knowing him. How disappointed and sad.
It takes a long time to process betrayal especially if the person is close to us. Betrayal changes us. We may find it hard to trust anyone. Trust is so delicate and easily broken.
Dealing with betrayal is hard work. But necessary work. Holding on to betrayal is like allowing acid to eat away at a metal pail. The acid has to be scooped out and put in a safe container with warning labels. When we work at getting out our betrayal we need to do it in a safe place with a person who is familiar with this type of work. Stories need to be told and processed. It takes the time it takes. But it can be done.
A few days later during that same trip, we were up around the Sea of Galilee and there was a church that had three hearts leading up to it with the words “Peter, do you love me?” on each heart. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. One for each denial. Peter said yes three times and then Jesus told him to “Feed my Sheep!”
They worked it out. Jesus gave Peter the chance to reassure him. If Jesus were anybody else I could picture him saying “Well if you loved me, why did you deny me?” Jesus doesn’t go there, he makes Peter say yes, I love you, Lord three times. There is a lot here to unpack.
Betrayal is complicated. Sometimes people who have betrayed us don’t deserve our trust. I worked as a chaplain for abused women and abusers used God to trap women in relationships. We made vows before God they would say. I would tell them that physical abuse broke those vows and that God does not want anyone to be abused. We can forgive our betrayers but that doesn’t mean we have to submit to more abuse. And it doesn’t mean we have to trust people we know don’t deserve our trust.
Living with the residual feelings of betrayal saps all of our energy. It’s like inhaling carbon monoxide. There is no room left for life-giving oxygen.
Jesus did the work. He figured out what he needed from Peter to move forward and Peter did not disappoint. When it was over, Peter went on to feed the sheep. Intentionally doing the emotional work we need to do is life-giving and it’s what gives us the energy to go out and do what we are called to do.