Sage Advice for the Young When Friends Betray: Let it Run off your Back

forgiveness blog meme

I was skimming the posts in my news feed this morning to see what my Facebook friends were up to, when I came across this post:

“Some people are REAL. Some people are GOOD. Some people are FAKE. And some people are REAL GOOD at being FAKE.”

Shortly after, a follow-up post alerted me that the person posting was really upset about something that had been said by one of her friends.

She wrote: “The same person that speaks highly of you will be the same person that downs you. Be careful who you call friends. I still love u fake a** (letters omitted) friends u teach me well, I guess u weren’t here for a blessing but a lesson.”

By nature, I find it difficult to pass by any distress cry that people make publicly on Facebook. Each day, I scroll through my newsfeed and find a few of my Facebook friends sharing statuses, memes or posters with familiar themes: denunciation of hypocrisy and betrayal by friends and loved ones and positive self-affirmations.

To show support for the sender, I sometimes click the Like or Share button for those affirmative memes that resonate with me. Many times I offer a comment of encouragement.

But this morning, for some reason my young friend’s statements evoked memories of a dark time in my life when I encountered a series of back to back betrayals. The hurt and anger in her post brought about a deja vu. As I reflected, I felt grateful for how much I’ve grown since that difficult time. Back then, I didn’t know I could have surfaced alive from the vortex of hatred and pain that my bitterness had sucked me  into. While the situation she describes is nowhere as volatile as those betrayals, I still identify with the hurt she shares.

To bring some cheer to her day, and impart some sage advice, these are the two comments that I posted to her status. I thought that maybe some other young reader could use this sage advice, hence my decision to post it on my blog.

Don’t react . . . Let it run off your back. You give people, especially those people you describe, power over you when you let them get under your skin like that. You play right into their hands. Jesus’ best friend sold him for 30 cents.

Like most persons who have had their trust betrayed, the most painful betrayals I’ve experienced in my life have been by people that I have loved, been kind to, done tons of good things for, never broken their confidence and made sacrifices for. These were particularly painful because the acts of betrayal were often so brutal and cruel that my mind was not immediately able to fathom and connect these acts with how I’d treated that person. In all instances, I found myself asking the person ‘why’.

I never got an answer that made any sense, and for long months, sometimes years afterwards, I would bawl my eyes out, beating myself and God up, wondering what I did to ever deserve that; where had I treated this person in the way that I was treated. And the more my mind replayed all the things that I had done in love for this person, the more I saw the red flags that I had missed that these individuals had not really cared in the same way about me. It left me sad and confused, and wondering “why” they couldn’t have loved me back. Why I had been picked out to be persecuted. Why. Why. Why.

Today I still find myself loving people who don’t love me back. But I have learnt how to read the signs. I’ve also developed a tougher skin. Try as I might I still can’t get a tough skin over my heart. I’m still a softie, but I thank God for that. My heart, with all the trauma, heartache and betrayals it has suffered could have easily become cold and hard, but the hard knocks have taught me to do what I told my friend this morning, “Let it run off your back.”

I know it’s not advice that is easy to adopt. Her heart will be broken many times by friends and lovers before she gets that shell to protect herself. But it can happen sooner if she changes her perspective about the so-called fakes she refers to in her post and the blows life will throw at her in the coming years.

I had to learn that it’s not always about me. Note that I said it’s not always about me. Some people hurt others because they can, and it’s what they know and choose to do. If you received unwarranted and destructive criticism from someone purporting to be a friend for something others are commending you for, then you should feel validated that that person has a problem, and not you.

And I want to emphasize this, make sure the problem really is not about you, because the hard truth many of us cannot face about ourselves is that we naively feel that everyone will like us or like what we do. People are not obligated to us. Also, sometimes many of us cannot distinguish between constructive and destructive feedback, and we call every unflattering thing said about us destructive criticism, when had we evaluated the comments objectively, we may have realized that the opinion-giver not only stated a view but gave suggestions for improvement and it was not so much you the person that was being criticized, but the actions. Mind you, some people could take a class in tact and ways communication skills, but you don’t have control over people’s ignorance, even if those people are your friends and should know what may hurt your feelings. So let it run off your back.

Those who take the view that our significant others are nasty to us because of some defect in us argue that we must take some responsibility for everything that happens to us. They argue that we have control over the choices we make, and we choose to attract negative or positive people in our lives and keep them around (the choice argument makes sense to me here only) although they abuse or do not reciprocate our affection. Not a totally unreasonable philosophy in part. But it’s not the entire argument.

And I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing all that psychobabble (I’ll leave that to the counselors and psychologists). I believe most loving people reach out to others whose intentions appear pure. One can’t always recognize a fake at first glance; so how do you blame someone with a good heart reaching out to someone who doesn’t immediately show any signs they intend to deceive you down the road?  Most of us do not apply the ‘Take time to know him/her” wisdom with people we are not romantically interested in. You have to be a seasoned skeptic to take that attitude with people you meet.

And in the meantime, life happens. We love and we get disappointed. And in due season, life also heals the pain. And sometimes it doesn’t. And in due time, you may choose to become a bitter, hardened cynic and inflict pain on others, which is what many persons who randomly hurt and betray others do, or with help, you learn to forgive and find that person or that friends who can love you back the way you should be loved.

It is said that unloving people need more love and appreciation than anyone else. The true test of emotional and spiritual maturity is whether you can love them like Jesus says we should. When someone I love breaks my heart for the umpteenth time, I cry, but I keep myself centred by remembering and acting on Jesus’ advice in Matthew 5: 43-48 to those who are persecuted by their enemies and possibly “frenemies” (friends who become enemies)?

  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (sic).

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Are you a really good person struggling to love and forgive someone who has hurt or betrayed you?

When you’re a good person and loyal friend, it’s hard to understand why someone called friend can treat you so callously. You can learn to forgive them if you keep the following in mind. Hence my last comment to my friend, listed here as separate takeaway lessons.

People do what they do because that’s what they know. It’s not your fault that they have treated you like this. Count it a privilege if you can love and feel for others. It’s a blessing from God. Unfortunately, some people are so damaged by life that they don’t know how to reciprocate love of any kind.

God sends unloving people across your path to test you. If you can still love them after they abuse you, you’ll become refined gold. If they don’t become better persons by associating with a truly loving person, they remain dross. Understand that God has more work to do in their lives. They still have a little way to catch up on the Christian journey. Spiritually you may be ahead of them. Keep them in your prayers so they’ll catch up with you. See it like this, and you’ll find that you can love them in spite of.

Remember, also, your “terrible friend” is God’s creation who Satan has just put a dart in, but you can help him/her fight the battle if you just keep praying for and continuing to love her. Satan has no power when faced when a love like this.

Lack of forgiveness makes you a prisoner to the one who angers or hurts you. Unwrap their tentacles from around your neck by forgiving them. Move forward to embrace the destiny and the future God has in store for you. (Tweet this)

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? What advice would you give to someone to help them get past the hurt? Please leave a comment by clicking on the Comment button at the top right of this page.

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