Healing After Betrayal: How to Rebuild Your Life and Move Forward

My friend had been betrayed. “It was a sucker punch in my gut.” I’m not sure there’s anything humans can experience that creates a deeper wound in the soul than betrayal. Your whole world is shaken. Trust is broken. You can’t even imagine trusting anyone again. What kind of healing after betrayal is possible? How do you even begin to move forward?

Betrayal can look many different ways:

  • The wife who discovers her husband gambled their HELOC away and forged her name on a second mortgage without her knowledge
  • The husband who discovers his wife has been sleeping with a coworker for months
  • The friend you told your deepest struggle to in confidence later tells your whole church group
  • The church youth leader you trusted who grooms you and then sexually exploits and abuses you
  • Your coworker in ministry sabotages your generous efforts for their own personal gain

The details of your story matter, though the sense of betrayal can come through several different avenues. Betrayal is the sense that someone you believed was for you, that you could count on in some way, has turned against you. They violated your trust, confidence, and/or loyalty.

Feeling betrayed often makes you question everything, including your own ability to think clearly and make decisions. Your emotions are all over the place. Your energy evaporates. And you naturally pull away from others, and often from God.

Healing after betrayal is usually a long and uncomfortable process. Here are some important parts of that journey.

Jesus Understands

One of the most painful aspects of betrayal is feeling alone. It makes a difference when you can sense another person with you who truly understands, and who truly gets you.

Jesus does.

Jesus knows exactly what it feels like to be betrayed by someone close to you, who should be for you, who you trusted. You let your guard down with them, and they stabbed you in the back. “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Jesus applied that scripture to Himself.

Jesus experienced in His own body and soul the trauma of betrayal. In your own betrayal, even if no other human being who understands is with you, you can be assured that Jesus is. Allow Him to minister His presence deeply to your heart. There will be many things you don’t understand right now, many questions you legitimately have for Jesus. But most of all, just let Him be with you.

You will likely have to choose to be aware of His presence. When the pain of betrayal is screaming so loudly along with all the other feelings such as anger, the noise in your head can quickly drown out your sense of Jesus’ presence. So make the conscious decision to express your deep hurts to Him, and then stay there a little longer. Quiet yourself in His presence, and let Him be with you.

Trusting Yourself Again

The pain of betrayal usually includes self-contempt. You hate yourself for trusting the person who hurt you, for missing red flags along the way, for decisions that left you vulnerable, for letting it go on so long, for not paying attention to things you “should” have.

Remember that Jesus knew Judas would betray Him (John 13:18-26) – and washed his feet anyway. I don’t believe God asks us to trust someone who we “know” will betray us. But the point is, Jesus did know. He understands that part of it as well.

One of your significant tasks in healing after betrayal is coming to trust yourself again. You will never be 100% “trustworthy” in the sense of knowing everything and making absolutely perfect decisions. But you will need to embrace becoming aware of and listening to your “gut,” the sense God gave you in your nervous system of when things are OK or not OK.

Yes, that internal “knowing” you have has been disturbed by living in this sinful world. It may never have developed in a healthy way. It’s been traumatized. And you’ve also learned to ignore it.

Your “gut” will never be all-knowing. But you can learn to pay attention to your internal sense of things and of people and be curious when you feel unsettled. You can grow in your ability to consciously decide what risks to take – and not take.

Trusting Others Again

Trusting others seems like the very thing that got you into this fix. How can you ever trust anyone again?

A dysfunctional growing up leaves many people with an all-or-nothing perspective of trust. This person is either black or white. You trust them in everything or in nothing. That’s very understandable from a neurobiological perspective, but it’s immature. You will need to grow beyond that.

Every human being – including you – has positive and negative characteristics, places where Jesus has accomplished good things in you and places still deeply undone. There are no perfect people.

But there are people who have matured enough and experienced enough transformation from Jesus that they will not knowingly harm you. They will honor your confidences, not use you for their own gain, and connect with you in generous, honest, and mutually uplifting ways. It may be hard, but you can find your people.

You can also learn to “test” the people you see and connect with. You absolutely must have a deep connection with a few other people in order to grow and thrive. And you can learn to extend a small amount of trust, observe how they handle it, and gradually increase your level of trust as the person demonstrates their trustworthiness.

You will not fully heal from betrayal without choosing, slowly and over time, to trust a few others again.

Trusting God Again

Part of you probably believes God is trustworthy, but part of you likely feels He let you down in the very experience of your betrayal. Why didn’t He show you more clearly? Why did He let this horrible painful experience happen?

Make sure to take your questions to Him. That’s what God’s best friends in the Bible did; they took their stuff to Him. The Psalms are some of the best expressions of this. “Why” questions abound, and God is big enough to handle them all. He won’t be mat at you.

I remember a time quite early in my walk with God when I was deeply hurt by a Christian organization. As I wrestled deeply with all that I realized I could choose to walk away – from the church, or even from God. That was a choice open to me.

And like Peter, I came to the conclusion, “to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68). I realized I loved God too much, and I also loved His people too much, to walk away. I cried a lot. And then, wiser than before but also more whole-hearted than before, I moved forward. My future connections looked different. There have certainly been other times I’ve felt hurt, but I’ve learned when to hold back and how to be vulnerable where it’s appropriate.

And I’ve learned what trusting God is all about. God is the only One who is truly always 100% for me. That does not mean problems won’t come; they will! And I can rest fully assured that He will be with me regardless of the circumstances that come.

Do the work to learn to trust God again.

May your healing after betrayal continue.

Your turn: Where have you experienced betrayal? What is your biggest roadblock to moving forward right now?   Leave a comment below.

Want more? On the podcast this week I talk with Shawna Meek about her experience of pursuing wholeness while in a marriage harmed by betrayal, emotional deprivation, and autism. Listen or watch.

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