The unkindest cut. The one we never expect because only those we trust can betray us. It happens to all of us.
I hadn’t thought about her for years until I ran across an annoucement about an award she had recently received. I was surprised at how quickly the old painful memories replayed themselves in my mind. The initial shock and disbelief, stabs of disappointment, rushes of anger, and eventually, more in my interest than hers, forgiveness and acceptance.
She was my student, my star student at the time. The one for whom I had such high hopes. The one I rescued from the slums and nurtured. Supported, financially and emotionally. Provided a network. Advocated for. Defended.
It was wonderful to watch her grow and flourish. She was like a kid in a candy store. Everything was magic for her; the university, her classes and research, the malls, the internet, even the night-time sky. She glowed with happiness. We were a team.
Until she found a brighter star and moved on to follow it, leaving behind a trail of lies and broken promises.
Painful as it was, and uncomfortable as the memories still are, I am grateful for the experience. It taught me that my expectations for her were a heavy and unjust burden. No one has the right to require loyalty from another person. In spite of and maybe because of, my good intentions, I caused her harm. And probably more importantly, it brought me face to face with my own past betrayals and the lies I told myself to justify my cowardly behavior.
She must have carried a heavy burden of guilt. It’s the only logical explanation I can think of to explain the smear campaign she launched among the faculty and students. I never knew the specifics or the extent of it, but the averted glances and hushed whispers told me all I needed to know.
Make no mistake; the release that comes with betrayal exacts a heavy price. A plausible justification for cowardly behavior must be fabricated and a web of lies concocted. The guilt of my betrayals will always follow me, nipping at my heels, threatening to expose my lies, until I finally face them and the people I harmed.
Each of us has the right and the responsibility to be true to our own convictions, even though acting on them may take all the courage we can muster. And if this means severing ties with another human being, we harm ourselves most of all if we hack them apart in the dark corridors of betrayal.
It’s been said that in order to know love, we must first know pain. It follows that in order to trust, we must travel through betrayal, be crushed by it, burn in its crucible, and be released.
There will be another friend, lover, child, to love in the light of day, free from the dark spectre of betrayal.