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I was talking with a pastor who had been betrayed by someone in his church. He told him a secret in confidence and soon learned the friend had shared it with another, who, of course, shared it with another – who shared it with another – and you know the rest of this story.

I was empathetic, but thought to myself, “Welcome to the world of leadership”. And it can be true even in Christian leadership.

If you’ve been in leadership very long you know what it feels like to be betrayed. It can come at the hand of one you barely know or someone you trusted.

I love that God provides us real life examples from the Bible of men and women who faced the same struggles we face today. I once wrote 4 Ways to Process Betrayal about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.

Then consider these thoughts from the life of David.

Psalm 41:7, “All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.”

David, the man after God’s own heart, had men who talked behind his back. They spread rumors about him. They maligned his reputation and character. He was the subject of gossip. People said things about him that weren’t true; probably some that were partially true, but stretched out of proportion to reality.

Have you ever been there?

Then consider what David says in verse 9, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

David had been betrayed by someone he trusted completely.

Most likely you have also. Chances are good, if we are honest, we have been the the betrayer and the betrayed. It could have been in a business deal, with a family member, or even in a marriage. It might have been a misunderstanding or an intentional act of betrayal, but either way, it still hurt. You were tempted to get even, perhaps you held a grudge. Maybe you quit speaking to the person.

How should you respond in betrayal?

Here are 4 reminders for times of betrayal:

Be confident in who you are, and who you are not – You are not a super human. You are a man or woman. You have real feelings. You have emotions. You can be hurt. Don’t be surprised by your emotional response to betrayal. You will have to trust again, but you may be hurt again. That’s part of living among sinners like you and me.

Be confident who others are and who others are not – Don’t hold others to a standard they can’t live up to, but don’t allow them to control your reactions either. Others will let you down. Even the most well-meaning people will disappoint you at times. There may need to be consequences for other’s actions, but if you open yourself to betrayal by trusting others, which you will often have to do in leadership, life and love, you will be hurt at times. Just as you are not perfect, others are not either. Part of relationships is the vulnerability, which allows betrayal. They only way to avoid it completely is to avoid relationships.

Be confident in who God is and who He isn’t – God is able to protect you. He doesn’t always protect you from betrayal. Sometimes He even allows those closest to you to be the betrayer. He will, however, always use it for an ultimate good. We shouldn’t expect God to do as He hasn’t promised to do. We can expect God to never leave us nor forsake us and to be our strength when we are weak and to lift us up in due time when we humble ourselves before Him.

Be confident in what God has called you to do and what He hasn’t – God has not called you to please everyone. He has called you to be obedient to your call; regardless of the sacrifice. Even in the midst of betrayal, we are called to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) He has also called you to forgive. He has not called you to enable bad behavior.

You can’t control the world from betraying you, but you can control your reaction to betrayal. That begins by living out of the confidence God has given you through your relationship with Him.

Have you ever been betrayed? How did you handle it?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for this helpful post… your wisdom from experience is something I was greatly helped to hear and be reminded of today, so thank you for sharing it!
    Since we each occupy roles of “the leader” and “the lead” in different scenarios in life, I think it’s worth meditating on the additional weight of responsibility that comes with the leader role, even when it is the leader who feels betrayed. It’s not fairness necessarily that should be our first concern, but Christlikeness. How difficult that is! It takes us to the jagged edge of our own pride and asks us to suffer the cut, and let Jesus bind it up, even if “the whole truth” is never made known in this life. I find that so humbling, and truly, deeply challenging, especially having lived (and still living) in a situation where the stakes are personally high and ongoing.
    Also worth noting that when a leader speaks, whether in accusation of one under their leadership, or in his/her own defense, the implications of what is said have additional, often far-reaching and immediate consequences (reputation/relational, spiritual, even financial or professional) for the one who does not hold the position of authority. Again, this is true and sobering, whatever the leader feels (whether rightly or wrongly) about his/her perceived betrayal. The power differential matters, and this is the crux of servant leadership. Jesus’s reconciliation with and reinstatement of Peter comes to mind as a beautiful example of what is possible when we lead with love.

    Thanks again for your post.

  • Ron! I believe that the person who endured the betrayal the most in this world would be Jesus Christ. He was sinless. He did no mistake of his own, He was holy. Yet he endured the punishment for no mistake of his own. He did not indulge in tit for tat with Judas.

    I feel he sends a great lesson for all the believers through this act.
    Betrayal brings hurt and grief to all of us. But, I think we should able to respond in the way as Jesus responded.

  • Brian Kiley says:

    Thank you for this post, these are definitely important reminders. It seems that often in times of betrayal it is easy to either a) suppress feelings of hurt, or b) allow the wound of betrayal to affect us so deeply that we are unable to trust again for a very long time. Needless to say, both of these responses are unhealthy. I most appreciated your first and third points. In dealing with betrayal it is important to take stock of who we are and who we aren't, and it's also important to recognize God's presence in the midst of betrayal so that we can be mindful of ways that he might be working out a difficult situation for good. In the handful of times I have experienced betrayal I haven't always responded to it well, but I have found that when I am willing to humble myself before God and see how God might be using a situation to refine my character and/or leadership ability then the wound is able to be something that leads to new growth rather than simply being something for me to mope about. Thanks again for these important reminders.

  • Bryankr

    I am getting betterat dealing with it; I am finally learning to see others actions as if I had commited them. It tends to make me a little more understanding, a little more forgiving. I am, therefore in a better place to minister to them, rather than retaliate. I say I am getting better, I have not gotten to the place where this is a normal reaction, but it is happening more often than before. A work in progress.

  • Ron, your post brought to mind an old TV show in the 60's called branded. Chuck Conners starred as US Army Calvary captain who had been kicked out of the service following an unjust accusation of cowardice. The story was about his journey to redeem himself, because he was innocent. The show begins with a powerful picture of what is called "cashiering." In front of the soldiers his superior throws his hat to the ground, rips his stripes from his uniform, and then breaks his sword in half. The words to the song behind the intro ends with, "What can you do if you're branded and you know you're a man." Google it. it's powerful and mirrors what pastors sometimes face in ministry. I plan to write a blog on this one day.