We looked at trust last week and how to build trust, so this week we examine how to heal when trust is broken, or when betrayal happens. There are examples throughout history and in every religious script of serious betrayals, and many great pieces of literature contain betrayal as the main story. This occurs between individuals, e.g. Jesus and Judas; between countries, too many to mention and between religions e.g. Hindu and Muslim. So we all have a clear picture of what happens when betrayal occurs but how do we recover or heal from betrayal. For most of us this is not so easy to do, especially if it has happened in our lives more than once, or if the same situation or person keeps hurting us.
Everyone is different, so any guidelines for how to heal or forgive when betrayal has happened must fit for you, there is no one size fits all. Research in restorative justice, which means what justice helps the person wronged heal, and the person who has done wrong learn and accept the consequences in the most constructive way, has shown that some key steps or issues must be addressed. These steps are quite helpful to think of in terms of healing in relationships as well.
- The person who has betrayed or broken trust must acknowledge her behaviour has caused hurt or pain directly to the hurt person
- The hurt or wronged person must face this person that hurt him and say what the effect of those actions has had on him
- Sorry is a good start, but not enough, the person has to actively say what he is going to work on to do things differently in the future, and where or what help she will seek to ensure that this does not keep happening
- The person who betrayed or hurt has to ask the person what will help to make it better as well, and accept whatever the wronged person asks for, within reason of course.
Now all of this sounds quite ideal, if not a bit confusing, but these are steps to start not end with. Good communication is the key, and a hurtful situation can be the opportunity to change a pattern. Often the person who caused the hurt is no longer in our life, and then a way to begin the healing process is to imagine or actually write that person a letter, telling him or her all the pain it caused, then imagine or actually write a letter to yourself from that person asking for forgiveness. By forgiving others we start to heal ourselves.
“To err is human, to forgive divine”
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