Here's your knife back
It recently happened to me that someone betrayed me.
Perhaps it was a big betrayal, perhaps it was a small one. The circumstances don't really matter. That's the thing about betrayal—it always feels big at the time.
This betrayal felt so much worse than it actually was because it came from someone close.
Without trust, there can be no betrayal. I had trusted this person.
For the first few hours after I learnt of this betrayal, I sat uncomfortably in my chair. It felt like a dagger was lodged in my back. It produced a sharp and searing pain. The dagger seemed to be pressing on some nerve.
"Why does it hurt so much?" I asked myself. "Why does betrayal make such a sharp, shooting pain?"
At first, I was tempted to run and abandon the betrayer. But if I did that I would really be running from the only person who could provide my solution: myself.
From the inside
That's when it occurred to me that the pain was not coming from the other person; it was coming from inside me.
It dawned on me that the sting of the betrayal was the message it brought. The message it seemed to bring was this: I was not worthy, not acceptable enough, that I was somehow inferior, lesser, that the betrayal was somehow justified; that somehow I was not worthy of respect.
The message was the dagger.
That was the haunting thing about this betrayal: what if that message were true?
I place a lot of value upon this person's messages. There is a reason this person is close. I trusted the person's judgment and opinion—especially of me.
The more I thought about it the more I realised that I had a choice to make. Either I was lesser, inferior and worthy of disrespect and betrayal; or I was not.
Who was really doing the betraying?
I was really the one sitting on the chance to betray myself. I could agree—if I chose—with the message of the betrayal. Or I could repudiate the message and respect myself.
So I chose to trust myself; and mistrust the message that I was somehow not worthy of respect.
The antidote to betrayal is not to trust less; but to trust more. Starting with myself. I could only love this person back as much as I was able to love myself and shun the message.
If I could accept myself it would provide a way back. I could even invite the person to be trustworthy again.
So after sitting uncomfortably for a few hours in my chair with the tip of a blade pressing into my back, I made a decision.
I gripped the dagger handle. Gave it a counter-twist. And pulled the dagger out.
I did not bother to wipe the blood off. It was my blood after all. And then, I returned to the person whose dagger it was in the first place.
"This is your dagger," I said, holding out the dagger with a bloody hand.
"You left it behind. I do not want it any more. It hurts too much. I'd like you to have it back. It does not belong with me."
And then it came out of my mouth without any planning: "I trust you to use it properly next time. Next time please use it to protect me; not to harm me. I give it back to you as a sign of forgiveness."
With that I turned and walked, my back exposed. There might still have been a bit of blood.
A wise man once said that it is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. Perhaps that is true.
What I have learnt is that real love is tested most when it is betrayed.
I have learnt that trust is one of the most precious things in the world and that it is worth fighting for.
I’ve learnt that it's okay that people make mistakes, and to forgive sets everybody free.
And if our own wounds get healing, we can love better.