"I don't think I really know what it means to 'face the pain.' How do you even begin to face pain like this?"
It was a fair question. I had been talking with my friend about the death of her marriage, after all. The death of her marriage. How do you "face the pain" of something like that?
There is a bigger question that begs to be asked, though: What is the reason we even need to have a conversation about facing pain and emerging from betrayal as a whole, healed person? Wouldn't that be a given?
But it's not. The longing for healing and wholeness? Absolutely, we all have that longing. No one likes to be broken, to hurt. But to trudge through the pain and suffering, to face betrayal in all its ugliness? Well, we naturally shy away from that. Actually, we flee from that process. It's called self-preservation, and it is often a healthy safeguard to protect the person. Some experiences would consume and ruin us if we did not have a system in place to preserve the self.
For instance, almost 5 years ago my brother-in-law died instantly in a freak car accident. He was 34, leaving behind his young bride and 2 small children. Our family circled together, supporting one another in a place of grief we never thought we'd be. My sister-in-law, who now found herself a widow and a single mom, had a choice. She could be consumed by her loss and her misfortune, or she could choose to pick up the pieces by making sense of life in the face of this reality.
Self-preservation. Thankfully, my sister-in-law chose the way of healthy grief. Her spiritual beliefs and practices allowed her to come to grips with her pain and loss. Her support system helped her to eventually find a "new normal" with her small family.
But sometimes self-preservation works against us. This is often the case with betrayal. For whatever reason - be it fear of others finding out, an unwillingness to accept reality, or shame over what has happened - we choose to push the pain down and tuck it away in a place where others cannot reach it. We think this is the best way to preserve and protect the self, but in actuality, we are only hurting ourselves further. We conceal the hurt, mask our true feelings, and try to move on as best we can.
We are deceived, though, if we think the pain will eventually just go away. It will not. Even worse, we cannot ever be "whole" when we are fractured by our stories.
So what is the first step toward healing?
The days of suppressing your feelings must come to an end. The days of deceiving yourself and others are over. Secrecy is not your friend. Bring your story to the surface, and let it be what it is...even if it is the ugliest of ugly. And the first person you need to be honest with, oddly enough, is yourself.
King David was honest with his feelings. In Psalm 55, which we looked at in the previous post, he says,
"My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, 'Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.' "
Even David longed to escape in the face of his friend's betrayal. But longing to escape and escaping are two different things. David chose a different path, a path toward healing. He was honest with himself about his pain, and he was honest before God. He did not conceal his story, but he brought it before the Lord. In verse 16 he proclaims, "But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice."
Honesty does not mean sharing your story with everyone. But it does mean sharing it with those appropriate people who can help you heal. We will explore more in future posts about the process of healing. But today, examine your heart with these questions:
Have I been honest with myself?
Have I been honest before the Lord?
Have I dealt with the pain, or have I concealed it?
Whether it is from a betrayal 5, 10, or 20 years ago, or it is from a betrayal you are walking through right now, choose to be honest about the loss. Let it be what it is, for this is the first step toward choosing genuine healing.