When a friend betrays you–takes something or someone precious to you, lies to you or about you, or rejects you without cause–you can become completely disoriented. Someone you loved and trusted has become your worst enemy. What should you do?
Stop asking why. Why would she do this? That’s what you want to know. It makes no sense. So you try to think about her past, her insecurities, and stress she may be under. But the answers you try to cobble together do not comfort you. She was jealous. She was duped. She didn’t realize how much it would hurt you. But it still hurts. The why question will just prolong your pain.
Stop blaming yourself. If you know you did something to provoke the betrayal, you’re not likely to be devastated. If you don’t know what you did to provoke it, you may wonder if you didn’t pay her enough attention, didn’t encourage her enough, or if you talked too much. Believing you are responsible can give you a false feeling of control. You think you can prevent this from happening again. The truth is, if you had done something unknowingly to offend your friend, it was her responsibility to tell you and not to take revenge. Blaming yourself just adds insult to injury.
Stop imagining your revenge. If only you had said just the right words when you discovered the betrayal. You could tell everyone she knows about it. Then she’d be sorry. You could do something–anything!– to make her regret what she has done. But like asking why and blaming yourself, imagining your revenge just makes you feel worse. You’re not a mean-spirited person. Don’t let your friend’s sin cause you to stumble.
Start praying. You have other friends who will react to the news of your friend’s betrayal the same way you did — with disbelief. But Proverbs 18:24 reassures us:
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Jesus will understand and will comfort you when nothing and no one else will. Cry out to the Lord with your heartache and ask Him to heal you.
Start meditating on Scripture. The Bible is not a dictionary–just a book of information. It is medicine for the soul. In the pages of Scripture we learn that Jesus knows the heartbreak of betrayal, too:
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John 13:21
Start loving. It’s natural to want to protect yourself from being hurt again. But refusing to give and receive love is the most hurtful. You can become bitter and depressed, leading people who would normally love you to keep their distance. The love that is lavished on us by our Savior can and should provoke us to love others:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
Don’t deprive yourself and others of the joy of friendship because of one person.
These steps will lead you to peace, healing, and even forgiveness in time.
Do you have other suggestions for those coping with betrayal?
You’ve always been a good girl. Mostly. In fact, you often go out of your way to be nice, helpful, and accommodating to others. Isn’t that what Christian women are supposed to do? You’ve gotten your ‘atta girl’s, but lately you’re resentful. You’re starting to feel like a giver in a world full of takers.
The Problem With Being a Good Girl
I’ve been a good girl my whole life–not that I’ve never done anything wrong. If you’ve read So You’re Not Wonder Woman, you know that’s not the case! But my identity has been tied up with being nice, even when others are nasty. Maybe even, especially when others are nasty.
After all, the first rule many of us learned whether we attended church or not is:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The Golden Rule is a wonderful life philosophy as long as you don’t add to it. Only recently did I realize that I have extended the rule to be:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and they will do likewise.
When people in my life have failed to do likewise, I have treated them like they’re hard of hearing. I turned up the volume of my niceness. I have gone to great lengths to be generous, encouraging, and thoughtful. When I still didn’t get reciprocation, I would either amp up my kindness to ludicrous levels or I would try to get their attention with my irritation.
You guessed it. They still didn’t live by the Golden Rule.
The result at various times has been anger, depression, and a sense of hopelessness about relationships.
You’d Think a Psychologist Could Figure This Out
In my professional relationship with clients, I had no problems. I was being paid to be the giver. I didn’t expect the people I saw in my clinical practice to encourage me or do nice things for me. But in my personal relationships, I was very disappointed. And I mean very disappointed.
As with many breakups, the end of my relationship with my first girlfriend came in fits and starts rather than as an abrupt but mercifully irreversible amputation. Yet even after we both recognized the relationship was finally over, she continued to ask me for favors – to pick her up from the airport, to take notes for her in class, to help her change the oil in her car – and I, inexplicably, continued to grant them.
Then while chanting one morning I found myself ruminating about how she continued to expect me to perform these favors, my indignation only rising after I’d finished chanting and began showering. And as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair and the last of the soapy water went swirling down the drain, I made a sudden and angry determination to refuse her the next time she asked for one.
At that moment, the phone rang. After I’d finished drying off, one of my roommates told me that it had been her calling and that she’d asked if I would call her back before I left for school. As I walked toward the phone I told myself that when she asked me for the favor for which I knew she’d called, I’d say no. I called her up, and sure enough, she asked me if I would record a television show for her on my VCR. Yet even as I went to speak the word, “No,” I heard my mouth say, “Yes.”
I hung up – and laughed out loud. I was as powerless to refuse her as I was to lift my car with my bare hands. And yet learning this failed to discourage me. On the contrary, it excited me – because if I could recognize this fact, I thought, I could find a way to change it.
Immediately, I decided I would begin chanting with the determination to free myself from my inability to say no. And months later, while chanting, I had an insight: the reason I remained unable to refuse her favors was that, in my mind, I’d signed a Good Guy Contract with her (a term, ironically, I learned later from her). Until that moment of insight, I had no idea what a Good Guy Contract was, much less that it was the standard contract I consistently established with almost everyone I knew. But in that startling moment of clarity I understood not only what it was but why I kept signing it. My self-esteem, which I’d previously believed had been built on things solely internal, was in fact entirely dependent on something external: the goodwill of others. The Good Guy Contract was simple: I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you, to care about you, and in return you would agree to believe that I was wise, compassionate, excellent in every way, and finally and most importantly, you would like me.
With my girlfriend, however, I hadn’t only expected to be liked; I’d expected to be loved. And once I’d had a taste of that love, I became addicted to it, which was why, when she took it away from me, I became profoundly depressed. Not because, as I’d originally thought, I’d been left by someone I thought was the love of my life, but because I genuinely believed that without that love I couldn’t be happy. Why, then, did I keep doing favors for her after we’d ended our relationship? Because I couldn’t shake the Good Guy habit. Some part of me believed if I continued to fulfill my contractual obligations to her, she’d start fulfilling hers again to me.
I didn’t know at the time, but at the moment I awoke to my propensity to sign Good Guy Contracts, I stopped doing it. I recognized this only in retrospect three months later, however, when my best friend came to me asking why I seemed to have stopped paying attention to many of our mutual friends. My first reaction was to become defensive and deny it. But then I stopped myself, realizing that he was absolutely right. I wondered why I had in fact become so dismissive of many of my friends until I realized that I’d somehow stopped needing their approval to sustain my self-esteem. Freed from the need for them to like me, I was able to recognize that these were people with whom I had little in common, so I’d subsequently – and unconsciously – lost interest in them. My insight, in other words, had done more than show me what I’d been: it had changed me into someone I wanted to be, someone who could love and value himself without needing to be loved by anyone else.
Why I Needed to Cancel My Contract and You Do, Too
Certainly, expecting people people to abide by the terms of a contract is understandable. But what I realized is that I was the only one who had signed the Good Girl Contract. The people I was bending over backwards to please had no idea what my expectations were, or if they did, they didn’t care. Some of them quickly figured out that if they said no thanks to my goodness behind Door #1, there was more niceness to come.
My first reaction to Alex’s account was that I needed to do what it took to stop being taken advantage of. The best way to do that, I was sure, was to only spend time with people who would abide by the terms of the contract. But I could distinctly recall making that decision before. It didn’t work. Invariably, someone who fulfilled their contractual obligations to my goodness for a while, would fail.
And while I was encouraged by Alex’s words, I felt uncomfortable, too. First, I’ve long disliked the term self-esteem. I can’t esteem myself highly because I know every rotten thing I’ve ever thought, said, or done. And second, I really do need to be loved by someone else. It’s true that I don’t need everyone to love me, but I certainly need to be loved. And there’s a direct correlation between being loved and feeling good about self.
I was able to put the final two pieces of the Good Girl Contract puzzle into place when this Scripture leaped off the page at a retreat I recently attended:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
Like Jesus, you and I are called–not to sign a contract with others where they promise to be nice in return–but to simply serve them. No expectations. Just giving because you want to give.
If you’re like me, that makes sense to you, but you’re still wondering:
“What about me?” I can’t just give, give, give all the time.
That’s when something else my friend shared with me rang true:
You have to come from a place of abundance to be able to give freely.
In order to cancel our Good Girl Contracts, we need another way to get love–and a lot of it. We need to be bathed in encouragement, affirmation, kindness, forgiveness, peace, and hope. There’s only one source for that kind of abundance: Jesus. Only in spending a lavish amount of time with the Savior will we overflow with goodness we can share with others.
The extraordinary thing is that He has signed a Good God Contract with us. No matter how we fail to follow the Golden Rule, He will still be a Good God.
Life Without a Contract
Adjusting to life after canceling my contract has been challenging for me. While I seem to be willing to cancel my contract with certain people, I still keep hoping that they’ll notice and decide to play nice. That means the contract is still in effect. The goal is to give with a cheerful heart and not a needy one or to release myself from giving completely because it isn’t in either of our best interests.
I’m learning to recognize the blessing in people not abiding by the terms of my contract.
My husband sells library books to schools. Some school districts have contracts with one vendor. The librarians in those districts cannot meet with him and take advantage of what he has to offer, which in many cases is much better than what they have. Only if the district becomes unhappy with their contractual vendor will they begin to explore their options. Being released from our contract, whether that’s our doing or because someone else won’t play by the rules, means we are free to experience new relationships. My husband’s sales won’t grow if he doesn’t look for new customers and God’s kingdom won’t grow if we’re satisfied with the relationships we have under contract.
I’m committed to seeing failed contracts as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with someone new. And my prayer is that with the Lord’s help, I won’t be a Good Girl, but the beloved servant of a Great God.
Have you signed a Good Girl Contract? Are you willing to cancel it?
I’ve created one stream for new homeschoolers and those who love them.
If you’re brand new to homeschooling, you will love my How to Homeschool stream as it makes the process very simple, with the best resources to get you started. But if you’re a veteran, you’ll love my stream, too. It’s the perfect thing to recommend to people who ask you how to get started homeschooling. Have I mentioned that it’s free? You’ll find it in the education category.
I’ve also created two streams for motivating you in fitness and relationships.
The first is 15 Days of Fitness Inspiration. I’ve collected 15 videos, articles, and blog posts that will help you finally get fit. It’s like 5-hour Energy for fitness, without the shakes and insomnia. You’ll find it in the Health & Fitness Category.
The second stream I authored that may be of interest is a series on dealing with difficult people. I combined a number of blog posts I’ve written on the topic into a series of advice. Unfortunately, this has been a really popular topic for me! You’ll find it in the Relationships Category.
I will have more streams available in the future, but for now:
If you like my streams, please rate them. (If you don’t like them, I don’t mind if you’re too busy to rate.)
When you share this on your favorite social media, you will help people find my streams (and other helpful streams) on TaskCurrent and God willing, help change people’s lives. Thanks in advance for helping me help others!
Have you noticed that people are really rude these days? I have. Some of these behaviors would have been unheard of in my grandmother's day and even in my mother's:
Road rage – honking, cursing, using a crude gesture, or becoming violent, usually because someone commits the crime of being too slow.
Criticism – name calling, fault finding, and character assassination aren't just for politics anymore. Judgement in the true sense of the word. Being condescending and presenting oneself as perfect.
No respect – cursing in any public place, whether children are present or not. Making fun of the elderly and talking over a speaker. Pushing past someone to get ahead in line, to get the sale item, or the last seat. Wearing casual or sexy clothing to formal events or in sacred spaces. Making a mess and expecting someone else to clean it up. Children hitting parents.
No manners – taking calls and texting any time, with anyone, and in any place. Failing to RSVP, or feeling no obligation to attend an event one has said 'yes' to. Demanding an explanation for an invitation not received. Feeling entitled to others' possessions and not sending thank you notes (or even saying 'thank you.'). Not responding to a phone call or email for days. Not leaving a tip. Being late or failing to keep a promise.
Why are people so rude? The easiest way for me to answer that question is to think about my own problem with rude behavior. I won't tell you which of these rude 'tudes I've been guilty of, but there is more than one. I don't know for sure, but I think people are willing to be rude today because:
Rude is cool. Bart Simpson is the poster child for rude behavior. He made rude funny, especially between children and parents. Our most popular media forms are rude and while the media reflects the culture, the culture also reflects its media.
We're stressed. Never before have we had so many opportunities and the choices to go along with them. So you RSVP for a party and then you get a better opportunity or you choose the option that makes you feel less guilty. Or you don't RSVP at all, because you frankly forgot. You're in a hurry, so you honk at the elderly driver in front of you going 15 in a 25. If you don't multitask by talking or texting while doing other things, you'll never get caught up.
We're anonymous. In the busyness of today's world, we can feel like a low-priority item. Criticizing someone, cursing, and wearing something revealing may get us negative attention, but at least it's attention. Some of us need attention because we're hurting. We're depressed, feeling rejected, and lost and the pain comes out in rude behavior. The internet makes it possible to say and do things we would never feel comfortable saying face-to-face.
Lack of training. Boys and girls don't get etiquette training anymore. They're too busy participating in sports and extra-curriculars and playing video games and doing more homework and… Mom and Dad are so busy that teaching manners or even obedience is hard to find time for.
People have been rude to us. The number one trigger to anger is someone being angry with us. The more often we are the victims of rude behavior, the more tempted we will be to be rude in response.
Just because rude is all the rage, we don't have to join in. The Bible is very clear that we are not to return rude for rude, but kindness. Robert Chapman's biography relates the story of this great and humble evangelist being spat upon by a grocer as Robert preached in the public square. When a visiting family member insisted on buying Robert some groceries, he agreed, but asked that his family member buy the items from the spitting grocer. When this rude man learned that Robert Chapman had specifically requested that his purchase be made from him, he cried and asked Robert's forgiveness, later confessing faith in Christ.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (1 Cor. 13: 4-6)
Maybe, like me, you have so many reasons to be joyful, but it seems that someone or something seems to run off with this spiritual treasure. What can we do to stop 'em from stealing our joy?
Quit doing business with them. In our local news lately have been reports of home invasions that strike fear in the hearts of neighbors. The fact that the criminals were doing business with the victim makes everyone feel a little bit more at ease. We can feel safer emotionally by choosing not to do business with people who attack us verbally or physically or who only make emotional withdrawals, never deposits.
Claim your right to the joy. Some theft victims are reluctant to press charges because they feel guilty for having so much. We are never to feel guilt for having joy, even if others are depressed. We may not be able to share our joy, but we can share its Source.
Stop stealing from yourself. I've had my share of things stolen, but I've robbed myself of more than any thief has. I haven't taken care of my belongings and they've been misplaced or destroyed. In the same way, we can steal our own joy by not taking care of ourselves. Joy is harder to come by when we don't have optimal sleep, nutrition, or exercise.
Use a security system. Most of the times I've been robbed have been when I've left a car door unlocked or left my valuables in plain sight. We don't have to hide from others to keep our joy, but we do need a security system. God's Word is not only an inexhaustible source of joy, but it's a weapon we can use to ward off the lies the con men use to get access to our treasure. The Bible is the best security system there is, but even it won't be effective if we keep letting the thieves in the door through the media we take in.
Have you found any other ways of keeping your joy, short of gun ownership? 😉
You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:34)
Most of us realize that continually giving handouts to the financially insecure will not help them long-term. This is not to say that we should not help an otherwise financially secure individual who has had a setback. We should. But the truth is, the more we give to the truly financially insecure, the more insecure they will become. Rather than believing that they can provide for themselves (or that God can provide for them), they will come to expect you to save them. Not only will the helpee feel more insecure, but her resentment toward you as her benefactor will grow, too.
While I have understood this principle in the realm of finances, I have failed to recognize its validity in the social realm. If an individual is chronically insecure (and isn’t just having a temporary setback), there is no amount of emotional handouts that will satisfy. Compliments, encouragement, and even vulnerability on our parts will not create social security for those who have not discovered the means for claiming security for themselves. Further, as your insecure other continues to be dissatisfied with all you do to lift her up, she will often decide to tear you down.
If you’re writing social insecurity checks your spirit can’t cash, consider:
Asking your insecure other questions to provoke insight. If she is a believer, you might ask her what keeps her from experiencing God’s perfect love and approval. If she is not, share with her how God has given you a deep and lasting security.
Relinquishing guilt for your insecure other‘s suffering. No one feels insecure because of someone else’s happiness. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Chronically insecure people choose to feel insecure.
Focusing your attention on those who are willing to take responsibility for their own self-image. There are women whose identity is solid, but could use a little encouragement. They don’t get it from us when we’re busy trying to help the chronically insecure.
Praying for your chronically insecure person. Only God can fill the hole that you keep trying to fill up. Trust Him to create the circumstances most likely to create change. You may have suggested therapy, books, and Bible studies to your insecure person to no avail. If you’re working harder to help than the insecure person, it’s time to transfer the case to Jesus. He’s the best therapist I know!
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. (Psalm 16:5)