C. S. Lakina novel life
home about the author news and events press kit books blog connect store
Back to C.S. Lakin Home

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Gift of Betrayal

Lately, I've been thinking about betrayal, as I have experienced its vicious hand in my life, perhaps more than others have. But who's to say? Nearly everyone with whom I've shared my story has one of their own--sometimes just as shockingly horrid. Something I heard on a tape many years ago stuck in my heart--that we are all meant to experience betrayal sometime in our lives in order to learn how to forgive. The speaker also warned : "Be careful, for if you pray to God to teach you forgiveness, what do you think He will do? Why, He'll send you fifty people you can't forgive." Believe me, I don't pray anymore to learn how to forgive. But I do pray constantly for a heart that truly understands how I've been forgiven.

Forgiveness is the toughest act on earth. It feels fantastic when we can look with compassion into the eyes of someone who not only hurt us but feels no remorse for their cruelty. I settle for pity. I think of my miserably unhappy, bitter mother, with whom I have not spoken for five years now, and remember a time I used to imagine punching her in the nose, longing for the opportunity to deck her flat. Okay, this is hard to admit, as I am not a violent person; rather, I feel I am quite loving and compassionate. But when someone has hurt your children terribly, ripped away their security, their home, told them horrible lies and tried to coerce them with bribery to turn on their parents, it is difficult to keep your hackles down and not ball your hands into fists. Never mind all the years of passive-aggressive behavior, the constant efforts to break apart my marriage, and the hurtful criticisms that turned me into an insecure, self-berating individual, and led my husband toward self-destruction.

So how did I arrive at pity? Of course, it was God, foremost, who worked in me. I don't know if, for some people, God just gives them a forgiving heart and takes away their pain. Perhaps. But, I'm more of the mind that forgiveness is a process and effort we have to go through, maybe for years, with His help. I feel it's a matter of altering perception. Instead of looking at myself as a victim, I look at the perpetrator of cruelty as a victim. Surely, they are suffering for their actions. God promises: "the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its water toss up mire and mud. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked" (Isaiah 58:20,21).

When I understand that those who inflict deliberate harm on others will never feel peace in their heart, it softens my anger. I do feel sorry for my mother and brothers, knowing they have to look in the mirror each day and face the damage they've done. Peace, according to the Bible, is a gift from God. Jesus said he would give his followers real peace--not like the world gives it. Peace is a fruit or by-product of God's spirit, which is only given to those with receptive hearts. So, try as they may, the wicked can only achieve peace in the worldly sense: fleeting, superficial, false. How can I not feel pity for someone whose trespasses weigh heavy on their hearts? Who know nothing of divine forgiveness?

Some have said the hardest command in the Bible is Jesus' warning at Matthew 6:14,15: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your father forgive your trespasses." We don't get a choice in this matter; we're under strict orders to forgive. Well, that doesn't mean you don't feel the hurt or anger or sadness--those things remain. But we are supposed to view people the way Jesus did: as sinful and needing mercy and compassion. And not holding their sin against them. We are to let it go, release its power over our hearts.

Whenever I feel unforgiving I recite Hebrews 12:3, which urges us to consider him (Jesus) who endured such hostility against himself from sinners so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. None of the horrid betrayal that I experienced can compare to Jesus' suffering at the hands of cruel humans. And yet, he begged for God to forgive those murderers because they really didn't know what they were doing. Well, didn't they? They sure seemed to know exactly what they were doing, so what did he mean? That's something I need to think deeply about. For when people do mean things to us, deliberately, they, too, seem like they know exactly what they are doing. But Jesus implies they don't. That maybe if they could see the big picture-- that God loves them and wants them to experience peace and healing through repentance--then they would not act the way they do.

And we are meant to ponder on how much God has forgiven us. We deserve to die--forever--but he has promised us endless life, abundant life in peace, just by accepting it freely--as a gift. Oh, but the only catch is this: we have to make an effort to conform our thinking and life to the image of Jesus. That's hard, but it's for our good. For in doing so, with the help of God's spirit working within us, the anger and hurt transforms into pity and compassion. It refreshes our souls.

More and more each day, I can think of my mother and brothers and note how the hurt and anger have faded. I don't feel like punching my mother any more, but I'm not yet ready to embrace her--although if she came to me and asked my forgiveness I would surely give it to her. Yet, we are to forgive without expecting the offender to apologize--ever. That takes divine work in our hearts and I thank God for giving me the gift of betrayal so that I can see that powerful work going on within me. The wicked and unrepentant will be destroyed one day. Do we truly want to wish that on anyone? Rather, how much better would it be for all those unhappy people to surrender to God and find peace? I still pray on occasion for God's wrath to vindicate me, to smite my enemies--and then I pray for forgiveness for such mean thoughts. Someday, thankfully, I won't think that way anymore, I will (as Paul says) "be blessing and not cursing." I'm not there yet, but I'm on my way, thanks to the merciful God we serve!


  1. Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Perfume, I hope you enjoy. The address is http://perfumes-brasil.blogspot.com. A hug.

  2. Ah...such a BIG word, forgiveness, it encompasses so many facets.
    I carried wounds that festered for over 30 years. The incidents made me sick, nearly destroyed my marriage.
    When one of your babies is hurt, physically, emotionally, spritually, well, there seems to be a mother or father bear rise up in all of us.
    Our daughter is better, but not totally healed, she still won't go to church although she loves God, she doesn't like his people.
    The thing I learned is that humanly speaking, I couldn't forgive, I had to ask God for help. Immediately, He did! He took me up in the spirit and showed me his hurt and love for this person and how disappointed he was that His son died for this family. He asked me to pray for them. I can now after all these years. The effect of unforgiveness on us as a family was devasting, we could not have done it without God's help. We are Free!!!!

    Hope this helps someone.

    Paulette Harris