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What You Should Do If A Friend Betrays You

Betrayal, of any kind, sucks. Here's how to get through it.

What About Your Friends?

I don't think there is one person reading this who hasn't been betrayed by a friend before. I will also go so far as to say that there are very few situations that can be as painful—and sometimes also as blindsiding—as this kind of experience either. But as you get older—and hopefully wiser—you come to accept that no one is perfect, folks mess up and not everything should come with an immediate "Bye. I'm done."

Some friendships are far too valuable to be that…immediately reactionary.

So, how can you know what to do when you find yourself in a set of circumstances where you're hurt, maybe even mad as hell, and you really don't have a clue what you should do? I'm hoping that this article can help to provide you with some of the clarity that you seek, sis. Ask yourself these six questions and see if the answers can't point you into the direction of what you need to do—next.

Betrayal Has Layers. What Kind Was It?

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If you spend enough time on this planet and you make it a personal point to actually learn as you go, something that life will teach you is most things have layers to them; betrayal is certainly no exception. And, if you're someone who accepts that you are human and flawed, just as much as the next guy or gal, you'll also humble yourself enough to admit that you've probably betrayed someone before too; maybe even the person who just betrayed you.

Why do I say that? Because betrayal has several different definitions:

  • to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty
  • to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling
  • to disappoint the hopes or expectations of
  • to reveal or disclose in violation of confidence
  • to reveal unconsciously (something one would preferably conceal)

Back when I wrote the article about why I prefer my friends to not be friends with each other, some of y'all went on and on about how insecure that kind of boundary is. First, it's always a good idea to read more than the title of something; the entire piece oftentimes offers up a broader perspective. Second, I'll tell you this—having that boundary has eliminated A LOT of the betrayals that I used to experience before I had put the boundary in place (especially when it comes to things like disclosing a violation in confidence, even if it was unconsciously). Sometimes, a betrayal isn't calculated or intentional. Sometimes, folks just mess up.

So yeah, before deciding if you should immediately cut someone out of your life (by the way, check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), think about the level of betrayal it was. Did your friend do something that was calculated and/or malicious? Or was it simply a mistake? It's important to really take this step into account because, when emotions are running high, we can oftentimes make a rash decision without taking everything into account before we do so—including processing the facts, not just how we feel at the time.

This brings me to the next important point.

What's Their Previous Track Record Been Like?

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I remember when one of my closest friends betrayed my confidence. Whew. One of their friends was going through something and so my friend shared one of my deepest secrets, hoping that it would give their friend some perspective. Problem was, even though they didn't say my name, my friend gave enough "clues" that their friend was able to figure it out and ended up talking about it on some podcast, believing that it would help others as well. All of this happened without my permission. I. Was. Pissed. Still, while some people might see this as an automatic deal-breaker, I didn't. I didn't because the friend who did this to me had been a really good friend before this major snafu. They were committed. They were supportive. They were loyal. They were honest. They are just human and they messed up. Big time. But not big enough for me to, as grandma used to say, "Throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Betrayal hurts, no matter what "layer" or form that it comes in. But when you've got a good friend in your life, getting rid of them because of one mistake can end up hurting you a lot more than forgiving them and moving on. Try your best to not only think about the one way that they royally f'ed up. Factor that in, along with the kind of friend that they've been to you since they've become a part of your life.

Are They Truly Remorseful?

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A while back, I wrote an article for the site entitled, "Why Regret Might Not Always Be A Bad Thing". If you don't have time to check it out right now, the gist is that, I'm not big on people who don't believe in having regrets in life. Regret means remorse and we all do things from time to time that result in us (hopefully) regretting wrongdoing (unless you're something along the lines of being a raging narcissist or something). In fact, regret is oftentimes what we need to feel in order to make some real and lasting changes in our lives.

Same thing goes for a friend who betrays you. If when you confront them about what happened, they are on some, "I don't regret anything in life" or the phrase that irritates me like no other, "It is what it is", that doesn't sound like someone who feels badly about what they did to you. And if they don't really care, there is a huge chance that they could do it again (or that they've been doing some shady stuff that you just haven't found out about…yet).

So, how can you know if someone is truly remorseful? It's hard to give an across-the-board answer because people express remorse in different ways. But if they happen to bring the betrayal to you before you find out another way, if they apologize without offering up a lot of excuses or justifications and/or they ask you how they can make it up to you—those are some indicators that they probably get the magnitude of what they did; that you should at least consider hearing them out and giving the friendship another shot.

Do You Absolutely Suck at Forgiving?

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People who aren't good at forgiving others either don't have many friends or they are constantly getting into and out of friendships. That's not a random happenstance either. It's usually because they want to receive the kind of grace and mercy that they absolutely have no intention of extending to others. I know this because I used to be a lot like that. Because I grew up surrounded by people who basically weaponized forgiveness (in my family, at my church, in my so-called friendships and in my private Christian schools), I saw it as a manipulative tool rather than a peace offering. So, I used to think that forgiving someone meant I was giving them carte blanche to keep hurting me over and over…and over again. So, I struggled with fully doing it.

It took getting some space from people who abused forgiveness in my world to understand that 1) from a spiritual standpoint, forgiveness makes things right between me and God (Matthew 6:14-15); 2) forgiving someone doesn't automatically mean that things go back to the way they were. The person in need of the forgiveness needs to be remorseful, be open to things taking time to heal, and we both need to assess if we should be the same kind of friends again, and 3) if I don't forgive, it's just gonna make me bitter; bitterness ultimately stagnates my growth and typically infects the other relationships around me too.

I know a lot of people think that some things don't deserve forgiveness. I disagree. If you want to keep life's situations from harming your mind, body and spirit, forgive it all. Just don't think that means you have to still engage the person, place, thing or idea that you needed to forgive. Anyway, whether you agree with me or not on this, if you're contemplating not forgiving your friend because, in your mind, they don't "deserve" it, ask yourself if this is how you feel every time someone disappoints you. If the answer is "yes", I'd venture to say that the internal struggle you're having has less to do with the betrayal and more to do with you needing to learn how to forgive better. And more. For your own sake.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Friendship?

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Here's something else that you might want to ponder, just a bit. Chances are, if this is the first time that your friend betrayed you and it wasn't something huge like stealing your money or sleeping with your man, you wouldn't be contemplating ending the relationship unless things have been on the verge of destruction for a while now anyway. That's why, if you're not 100 percent sure what you should do, it can also be helpful to take out a piece of paper and jot down the pros and cons of the relationship overall. While there are certain hacks that can help you to make split-second decisions (check out "Need To Make A Big Decision Quickly? Do This."), deciding whether or not to end a friendship deserves some real pondering. The benefit of coming up with a pros and cons list is it can help you to process your situation from a logical and obsessive point of view. For instance, if the pros far outweigh the cons, it's probably worth working through the betrayal rather than ending things altogether. On the other hand, if the cons outweigh the pros then…maybe this latest "shake up" is nothing more than the straw that has broken the camel's back. A list can help you come to this kind of conclusion.

Can You Let the Ish Go?

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This last point? In all actuality, it has very little to do with your friend and what they did, and all to do with you and if you can truly heal and move on from it. I know from very personal experience (both on the giving and receiving end of forgiveness) that you haven't truly forgiven someone if you're constantly going to bring up what they did or if you're going to try and use their offense against them in order to "trump" some of your own BS in the future. Some foundational truths about a healthy friendship is both people are able to accept one another's humanness, forgive each other's faults and then move forward—together. If this betrayal runs so deep that you know you can't do this, don't waste each other's time or further cause harm by trying to stick it out, knowing that you can't let it go—if not immediately, eventually. If the betrayal is going to keep you both stagnant, discuss, forgive and then bring things to an end with the hopes and prayers that you both learned from this betrayal—so that you know how to handle things…differently with others. In the future.

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