I was rejected many times during my childhood and that created great insecurity in me. My coping mechanism was to become detached from people and to build walls to protect myself. I walked around like a normal person, had friends and relationships, but as soon as something happened to trigger even a hint of rejection I would just move on. I took pride in being able to cut ties and not become derailed from my goals based on circumstances (mostly people) around me. Fast-forward into adulthood and the redemptive work of the cross: I became a person capable of making deep connections and truly caring about others. Committed enough to work through challenging situations and get to the other side with relationships intact. Now insert betrayal: dealing with people who are only concerned about themselves and have no awareness of others or the damage their actions cause; people who justify or excuse their actions, people who constantly play the victim. Betrayal hit me like a ton of bricks; completely unhinged me in depth of my soul; so much harder for me to work through than rejection. I berated myself for not being careful enough with who I let in, for not seeing the signs, for being weak. It triggered those old tired thoughts that whisper, “you are not good enough, you are not worthy of honesty, you aren’t as special as you think.” But I thank God for His grace and healing power to restore and strengthen me. What a comfort I found in scripture to renew my mind! There was also a process I had to go through and I’ve laid out a snippet of my journey in the ABCs that follow.
Anger and Acceptance
My go-to emotion in these situations had been anger: * anger at the person(s) for carelessness displayed * anger at myself for losing control * anger at myself for loving, for being open and for being in the position to even be disappointed in the first place. You see a big part of my personality is bent toward order, finding solutions, self-control, and taking specific actions to produce desired outcomes. In my healthy place these attributes have served me well in my career and managing my household, but not so much in relationships. Relationship are messy and not subject to any particular recipe for success. I learned that the unhealthy part of my personality was really bent toward perfection. I used to say it was all about integrity and that’s a good thing, right? But alas, I discovered perfection was at the root of my unhealthy anger. It is something I’ve had to fight against, especially in establishing deep relational connections and healthy boundaries with people. The depth of anger beneath the surface made me come face to face with myself in a way that magnified the ugly and debilitating impact that perfection had on my life. The perfection fed the anger and anger fed the perfection in a sick and endless loop of internal destruction. Anger is an emotion that did not compute in my mind. It is not rational. It seemed useless, unable to yield anything so I tended to push it away, push it down, and focus it into something else. It was just so…. imperfect. But I had to face it. Deal with it. Unpack it. And it made me better. I found that it is okay to be angry as long as I don’t stay angry. Addressing my anger in a healthy way also let me off the hook from being concerned about the “why and how” of others: Why did they do that? Why are they so selfish? Why don’t they care? How can I help them understand? How did they get that way? It let me off the hook from trying to figure out how to make it all better. I realized that I am not capable nor am I responsible for making anything ALL better (I slayed that demon of perfection!) Embracing my anger and working through it allowed me to space to reflect inward and investigate the wounds that the pain was tapping on; the places I still needed God heal. The journey led me to discover more of who I am and what I need. It allowed to me love myself in a new and powerful way. It allowed me to walk in a deeper level of freedom.
I also learned to:
Accept people for who they are and where they are
Accept that there is nothing I can do or could have done to change another person’s actions
Accept that they may never understand my pain
Accept that their actions do not diminish me in any way
Accept that God made me fearfully and wonderfully. PERIOD.
Accept that people will fail but God's love never fails
Broken and Built
Have you ever dropped a glass dish and watched it shatter into a hundred pieces? You stop in your tracks because you don't want to get cut. You begin to carefully clean it up. Once you clear the larger pieces you get down on all fours to gather up the tiny little specks of glass. You make sure to wear shoes for a while until you're sure you've gotten it all.
I once found something I had lost many months prior while cleaning up broken glass. The item had fallen in the sliver of space between the refrigerator and counter. I had looked and looked when I first misplaced the item but it was lodged in such a way that I did not see it. Not until I was down on all fours, carefully searching for every last little piece of glass and at just the right angle I see the item that had been lost. I never would have found it without that glass breaking. And inevitably no matter how carefully you clean up those pieces of glass weeks later you're bound to be walking along and….one more piece. By then you're probably barefoot and it catches you off guard. Ouch.
That broken glass is the only way I can describe my process of navigating the brokenness created by betrayal. I was broken into so many little pieces and I needed to take the time to gently pick up my pieces without further damaging myself. I had to get down to the nitty gritty with God and inspect every crevice of my soul until I was sure I could walk around without cutting myself or anyone else. I had to cloak myself in a protective layer and create a little distance from the people who hurt me. Even when I forgave and let them back in there were triggers that let me know I needed more time and that was okay. I didn’t need to explain or apologize for handling myself with care; that is what the perfection-plagued me would have done. But there will be no more of that.
I was also built up in the healing process. I gained clarity on things in my past that were complete mysteries to me and I unearthed some treasure within; some valuable of the things I had lost along the way. My spiritual gifts were developed and honed in a way that literally blew my mind. It also built a hunger in me to more fully understand how the enemy operates, how to target my prayers, and how to stand on my God-given authority. It built up the warrior in me!
Callous and Compassion
Wounds leave scars. I’ve learned that things happen and I can’t function as if they never happened. The truth is that once something (like glass) is broken you typically have to replace rather than repair the item. The replacement will be something similar but not the same. Even if you are fortunate enough to find an exact replacement item, you tend to handle it differently; you’re a little more careful, watchful. So while I am walking in forgiveness, I handle myself a little differently. I am not quite the same. If you look closely you will see the scars. But I don’t allow the scars to make me a callous, unfeeling person. I love the medical differentiation that I found: a callous is the hardening and raising of skin where there has been friction, irritation or pressure; a scar is fibrous tissue that forms a new type of “skin” after a trauma or wound. Nails it all the way around! My restoration and healing after betrayal was not simply pressure it was flat out surgery: scar-producing, life-saving surgery. My scars are like an altar: a place where I remember who God is and how He brought me over. I won’t build any more walls and won’t be like I was before the betrayal because to me that would be denying all of the good that I’ve gained. I am better for the wear and tear and I have the wisdom of the experience to share with someone else.
Finally, this process has given me a greater compassion for others; specifically people whose actions have hurt me. It has grown me up big time. I used to gloss over the scripture that says pray for your enemies. Like for real, Lord? But I have come to understand that everybody has a story, a hurt, a something that makes them do the things they do. They’re not walking around looking for ways to destroy another person, but they are broken and messed up and may not even know it. They’re the figurative bulls in a world of china shops. That makes me sad and has driven me to pray for the people who have hurt me the most. It grieves me to think of the hardness of their hearts, their inability to be honest with themselves, and the completely defeated lives they live. I am not condoning bad behavior, however I am accepting that people are complex and many are extremely broken just like I once was. So I choose compassion. I choose freedom. I choose growth. I choose to become better a me and I am grateful for every painful lesson.