The word betray has all the following meanings according to the Dictionary and a few more as well but the following will suffice for my purposes in this post:
- to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty: Benedict Arnold betrayed his country.
- to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling: to betray a trust.
- to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to: to betray one’s friends.
- to reveal or disclose in violation of confidence: to betray a secret.
- to show or exhibit; reveal; disclose: an unfeeling remark that betrays his lack of concern.
- to deceive, misguide, or corrupt: a young lawyer betrayed by political ambitions into irreparable folly.
- to seduce and desert.
I was thinking lately about the act of betrayal and perhaps a bit on the very pinnacle of betrayal; the betrayal of Christ by the kiss of Judas. Now none of us likes to think that we would commit such a treasonous act against our friends, families, spouses, children and relatives much less against the Lord our God. Perhaps it is for this reason that I know of nobody who has not experienced betrayal in this life by others or who, sometimes unconscious of the fact or perhaps protected by excuses has in turn betrayed others their very self. It happens in marriages, among friends and is almost commonplace in corporate America where trust is repaid with betrayal to further one’s career or to create a new, more influential ‘friend’ that might aid ones climb up the old corporate ladder of success.
As we experience and re-experience such betrayals it seems one is prone to react in two different ways. First, one becomes reluctant to offer their trust to anyone for fear of being hurt and disappointed and second, one might become untrustworthy themselves thinking that it is far better to be the betrayer than the betrayed. The first response leads to depression and loneliness and almost predisposes people to be wary of anyone who approaches in friendship. The second leads one to despise others and see in them only a means to use them for their own gain; narcissism where only one’s own good is desired and there is no real love between persons though they may feign such affection for their own gain and groom them for other dastardly deeds in the future.
Betrayal is something that one never forgets but something that is possible to forgive and stop dwelling upon; though the possibility and remembrance is always lurking in the background and puts us in a defensive posture. Unless one has dementia, the memories mount up through life and one learns to be wary of becomings anyone’s fool.
It is that ordinary human reaction that makes both of these most obvious reactions stated seem unavoidable. But if not for Christ who has shown us another way; a third way. Though we can only imagine the hurt that Christ must have felt at the betrayal of Judas whom He loved, He was fully capable of not only forgiving Judas but in also forgetting his betrayal had Judas only acted as St. Peter did after betraying Christ 3 times. His sorrow, contrition, shame and tears would have been enough to have won Him the crown of saints had it not been for his pride. For pride is tied to betrayal and one is unlikely to admit their betrayal and ask forgiveness even taking one’s own life before admitting this deceit and act of betrayal. And therefore his self-hate destroyed his soul.
I do wonder about the rest of us who go through the normal life experience of betraying and being betrayed. How do we react and how do we find the grace to overcome the bitterness of heart or the loneliness that might take a firm grip on our lives. Or for those who become evil in our natures and never extend our trust to anyone and view all others as prey for us to ensnare and take advantage.
I have no answer outside of contemplating these experiences in our life and asking for forgiveness and for the grace to forgive those who have breached our trust. It seems an impossible human virtue depending on the depth of the deception but surely Christ knows all about what we have experienced and has the means to overcome them. Prayers are always in order but then again perhaps it is for our own good that we learn that we must find our own salvific grace before we go and try to save the world which has always placed lies before truth, hatred before love, and treachery above loyalty.
For perhaps in our solitude we might just realize Who it is that it is proper to give our trust, love and loyalty to; and it isn’t ourselves.