Betrayal is a knife wound in the back. But who holds the knife?
In this magical journey back to your own wonderment and power, the wound of betrayal (as the betrayed or the betrayer) is one of the most celebrated archetypes of spiritual literature. The Jesus story is based on both the betrayal of Judas and that Jesus’ own people turned him over to the Romans.
The treachery of betrayal plays a part in modern story-making and fairytale: The poison apple, the sleep-inducing spinning wheel, and the disguised big bad wolf. Or in films, Cypher as traitor in the Matrix, Lando Calrissian in Star Wars and Benny in Total Recall. The point is, the collective unconscious has a prime spot for the art of betrayal.
At the surface, betrayal seems to be a black and white issue—it is an action that is the opposite of loyalty, and involves purposefully misleading or deceiving another.(The snake in the garden of Eden was not only a temptor but a traitor to God). The word itself, from the oldest latin root, tradere, means to “to hand over.”
But what is being handed over? In any betrayal, what both the betrayer and the betrayed hand over is the one truth that would keep them from despair: Loyalty to inherent innocence. One of my favourite Pope quotes of all time:
In our obsession of original sin, we too often forget original innocence. ~ Pope Innocent III
The drama that unfolds in a betrayal narrative is truly an agreement disguised as treachery. Your traitor is your teacher. The lesson is a return to innocence. When you can see the innocence in self, you will see the innocence in other. And vice versa.
Ten years ago, I was in the middle of a divorce from a man with whom I’d spent 20 years and birthed two children. The choice to leave the union was mine (not for another man, but for myself) and in that space of feeling guilty for ending things, I avoided any form of conflict with my soon-to-be ex husband, which even included not following my lawyer’s advice about the financial part of the break up (in essence, not pushing for my legal fair share of assets).
During this time, we still shared a home that we called in legal documents the children’s residence. It was a house that I moved into for a week to be with the kids, then out to my apartment for a week–and my husband did the same. This was to keep stability for the children and managed to do this for five years after the divorce was final.
But back in the throes of lawyers crafting agreements, there was a basement suite in this residence that I had rented out to a 28 year old university graduate student at a huge discount in exchange for regular babysitting. She was friendly, fresh faced and my daughter loved her. Apparently so did my not-quite-ex husband.
For months they had a secret love affair under the same roof I shared with my children. Increasingly, my babysitter was missing in action with the explanation/lie that she was spending more time with her boyfriend (the fellow she had dated before my husband). I asked her point blank one day: Are you sleeping with my husband? (Yes, he was on the way out, but legally we were married still).
The evening of the very day I signed the final papers—the documents that would seal my fate financially—my then five year old said to me: “Mom, i saw daddy kissing her.”
That one innocent statement felt like a punch to the gut. I had bent over backwards to be “nice’ in the divorce, feeling guilty for abandoning the matrimony, and he had not only moved on, but hid it from me — all the while, fast tracking the divorce dealings so that things would finalize before I found out the truth. That this truth was revealed to me on the divorce signing day itself I would later see was a part of a bigger plan for my own awakening.
Yet, this betrayal was the first big one in my life. If I had been cheated on in my 20 year marriage, I did not discover it. So this was like getting stabbed in the back at age 43 by two people. A young woman I trusted and liked and my husband of 20 years. The impact was staggering. I was ragingly angry at both of them and even more furious at myself for my naivety.
My pain story: I had erred on the side of kindness and been rewarded with deceit and manipulation.
The next month was hell. I barely slept. I lashed out by trying to evict her from the home. I drank far too much wine. I sobbed myself to sleep. Finally, after about five weeks of emotional self torture, I lay on a beach and prayed: Dear Universe, Help!
I need to see a way out of my pain. I fell asleep on the beach and dreamed of innocence. I saw that the lies could not hurt me, they could only harm the liar. The pain I felt was my misperception I was harmed. But I was truly unharmed.
I woke up on that beach that day filled with compassion for two humans who were too afraid to tell the truth. Who were now in a state of shame and embarrassment. Who had not harmed me. But only themselves.
Years later, I am friends with my ex-husband and the same woman, who is now his wife. With those who follow my story, I was by her side during a 7 week coma ordeal that her husband, my ex, went through in early 2015. We have had years of Christmas dinners together. We are a bigger family now because I was able to let go of a story of betrayal and harm. The recognition of the truth that NO HARM WAS POSSIBLE, freed me from a vortex of self-induced suffering.
Which leads back to the question posed at the start of this article. If betrayal is a knife wound in the back, who holds the knife? The answer is: You do. You are the cause of your suffering. There is no other.
Assignment: Loyalty is the natural remedy for betrayal. But being loyal to another is not what is needed. You need only be loyal to the desire to know what is true and to experience innocence in self and other. Whether you have betrayed or been betrayed, the only way out of the suffering story is through divine intervention. You need to desire relief. It took me five weeks of spiralling downward before I surrendered to the divine intelligence and asked for relief.
WARNING: If you don’t mean it, don’t ask. Because relief looks like washing the slate clean in a way that you can never really dirty it again. It’s not about being the better person, the moral high ground or a practice of “loving kindness” It’s about the wholesale overthrow of your perception that you caused harm or were harmed.
NOTE: Once this is seen as truth, the magic in your life will expand ten fold. Expansion of joy, peace and magic all go hand-in hand. Remember, it’s not your will and cleverness that will take you back to innocence. It’s grace that does the work. You simply have to earnestly want that return.