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?


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?


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?


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?


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?


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?


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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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