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How to Respond to Betrayal – Lessons from a Pro

August 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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Life of Christ (Week 18 of 27)

Only one who has suffered such betrayal from within the household can even faintly grasp the sadness of the Savior’s soul that night. All the good example, counsel, companionship, and inspiration are fruitless with those who will do evil or “sell out” to those who are bent on destruction. – Life of Christ, Chapter 38, Paragraph 11

Christ understands the heart of the wounded, for He has been there too. He has given His all, and yet still suffered betrayal at the hands of one whom He deeply loved. He knows. He knows what it is like to lay one’s heart wide open and then have someone pounce on it and walk away.

In your life, perhaps betrayal has taken the form of a child that speaks disrespectfully, callously disobeys your direction, refuses your advice or – the ultimate – turns his back on you (or your Faith) altogether. Or maybe the betrayal stems from a spouse who has shut down in marriage or worse, walked out on what was meant to be a lifelong commitment. Perhaps there are unresolved issues with a parent or other loved one.

Regardless, whatever the betrayal, Our Lord is with you. Judas’ betrayal of Christ was so horrific that his actions led to Christ’s arrest and ultimately to His death on the cross. Granted, Christ’s death was not technically the result of a betrayal;  but in this discussion, we are not talking about the fact that our Lord laid down His life for us, but rather, that the means by which He gave His life was the sin of one of His closest friends.

When we encounter a betrayal at any level, our response tends to consist of some varying degree of shock accompanied by a physical, heart wrenching pain. In order to lessen that pain, we react in various ways, some of which may leave us feeling worse than we did upon the initial offense.

Consider turning to Christ to learn how best to respond to betrayal. If you put your trust in Him, you might find that He has some gentle lessons to offer as you endeavor to approach your situation in the future. In fact, there is much we can learn from Christ’s example:

1. Discretion

While certainly disappointed in Judas, Christ did not take the opportunity to chastise or embarrass him in front of the other apostles. In fact, they did not even know who betrayed Him.

He suffered so patiently that not one of the other Apostles knew who it was.”

“Our Lord…must have treated Judas with the same loving gentleness as the others, to have kept his sin hidden. Nothing could have disturbed their peace of soul more than to know that one of them failed the Prince of Peace.

This is something worth considering when we feel offended by someone we love. Do we call our friends and give them an earful about how we have been wronged or mistreated? When we feel betrayed in our own home, do we let the axe fall no matter who’s in the room? Do we chastise one of our children in front of his siblings? Do we make scenes in public places, embarrassing ourselves and our loved ones because we feel slighted by their behavior?

Or do we respond with Christ’s loving gentleness, protecting all from scandal and gossip in the wake of even the worst betrayal?

2.  Kindness in the Face of Cruelty

“Humanly speaking, it would seem that Our Lord should have thundered out His denunciation of Judas, but rather in a last attempt to save him He used the bread of fellowship.”

Even upon being inflicted with the deepest of wounds, Our Lord did not turn inward to focus on Himself and the injustice waged against Him. Rather, He continued to serve in love. So different from the culture we live in today, which seems to subscribe to the old “eye for an eye…” philosophy, Christ was a living embodiment of the beatitudes. Commit them to memory and hold them in your heart, calling upon Christ’s living example whenever you feel wronged:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 

Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven
(CCC #1716)

3. Resignation

Our Lord was not shocked or incensed by Judas’ behavior. Nor did He argue against Judas’ choice. He could have tried to talk him out of it. He could have disparaged him for it. But He did not. Neither did He take it as a personal offense against which to defend himself, or to express indignation.

“Here Judas saw his treachery described in all its deformity, and practically said in the language of Nietzsche, “Evil, be thou my good.” Our Lord gave a sign to Judas…Judas was free to do evil as is proved from the remorse he showed later on…”

But though Our Lord held open the door, Judas would not enter. Rather Satan would enter in.

When you feel wronged, are you beside yourself with disbelief that your loved one would do this to you? Intellectually, you may know it’s not about you. But emotionally do you think, how could you, after all I’ve done for you? All that time I’ve spent teaching you? All those hugs we’ve shared? All the fun we’ve had? How could you do this to me?

Or do you take Christ’s approach, knowing that another person’s behavior is not about you, but about them? And that yours is not to control another person, but to control yourself?

In Christ’s case,

He would bear the ignominy alone. In many instances, He acted as though the effects of the deeds of others were unknown to Him.

He resigned Himself to Judas’ betrayal, keeping in mind the prophetic words of Joseph,

As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.”  – Genesis 50:20

Which brings us to the next lesson we can learn from Christ’s response to Judas:

4. Perseverance

On of my favorite lines in the reading is this:

“He knew who believed Him not and who would betray Him, yet this did not harden His Sacred Heart.

Have you allowed betrayal to harden your heart? Whether bit by bit through deceit and disrespect or in one fell swoop through a single act of treachery by a loved one? Or maybe somewhere in between? If so, Please, please, please  allow Christ’s example to soften your heart.

It may help to know how Our Lord was able to keep His heart from hardening. And keep in mind that, not only did He patiently endure the betrayal of Judas, but His Sacred Heat has remained soft through the countless betrayals committed by each and every one of us throughout the ages as we have turned our backs on Him in sin. How?

He trusted.

By uniting His Will completely with the Father, He was not dependent upon the devotion of the apostles. Neither is He dependent upon our actions in any given moment. He keeps His eyes on the Father. And He knows that, in His Divine Providence, things will work out in the end.

As Archbishop Sheen explains,

Evil men seem to run counter to the economy of God and to be an errant threat in the tapestry of life, but they all fit some way into the Divine Plan. The wild wind roars from the black heavens, and somewhere there is a sail to catch it and yoke it to the useful service of man.

Would that we could look beyond our pain and place ourselves willingly into the hands of our Father in heaven. That we could all trust that Divine Providence is working in the lives of our loved ones and in our own. For through our patient trust in God’s plan – which is far greater than any that we could devise for ourselves – we can have the courage to stand tall and continue to love, regardless of the number or gravity of sins committed against us.

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 40-41

Discussion Questions:

1. Prayerfully consider how you’ve responded to a betrayal in the past. Ask yourself whether there were things you could have said or done differently. Pray for the grace to practice Christ’s example in thought, word and deed if the occasion continues, or should it ever arise again. Please share any lessons you’ve learned over time that might help other readers in this situation.

2.Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. You can also find her at

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  • Sue

    Uh … Of course the disciples KNEW that Judas Iscariot was the one who betrayed Jesus! They were there, with Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas arrived … with the Pharisees & their soldiers … to arrest Him! Although Jesus knew beforehand, the disciples discovered Judas’ betrayal WHEN IT OCCURRED. They were there!
    I hope this tidbit does not make it into the book; for it is just, ‘wrong’.

    • LizEst

      They did not know beforehand, as you wrote, and they did not know the extent of the betrayal. Jesus always knew … for He is God.

    • Vicki

      Sue, this passage and discussion are from a chapter about The Last Supper and Christ’s loving interaction with Judas, knowing that he would betray Him. I’m sorry I did not make that clear. Christ, of course, knew all along. And yet, He never shared that information with anyone. The apostles witnessed it when Judas, himself, exposed his betrayal.

  • LizEst

    Psalm 55 is the penultimate psalm on betrayal. It speaks eloquently.

  • Jeanette

    Talking to Jesus about any harsh treatment from those close to us, instead of telling others what was said is important, because we shouldn’t want others to think less of that person. We need to safeguard their reputations, like Jesus did. Many are in situations where they are responsible for caring for others who may be disagreeable for one reason or another. If the ‘betrayal’ happens often and is unavoidable in your state of life, I think it is also important to have someone you trust to talk to, like a spiritual director or a Christian counselor to help sort out your feelings, to help heal the wounds of your heart. God made us to need one another, to help one another.

    • LizEst

      And, if the betrayal concerns abuse of someone, it is not to be tolerated but must be dealt with properly.

      • Vicki

        Very true. I would have placed abuse in a different category from betrayal; thank you for making this point.

        • LizEst

          Abuse betrays many at once: it’s a betrayal of the victim’s trust, betrayal of the family of the abused’s trust, betrayal of trust in the environment in which the abuser operated. So, besides the crime of abuse perpetrated, it damages others as well.

          Great post, by the way!

          • Vicki

            I misspoke. I should have said I wasn’t thinking about abuse when I wrote the post. But you are absolutely right. Thank you so much for commenting.

          • LizEst

            ; )

    • Vicki

      Jeanette, absolutely a spiritual director would be an important confidant. And, yes, perhaps a friend. But we must be careful here. There is a great tendency in today’s culture to bear our souls about every wrong, which stirs the flames of anger and discontent, and – as you mentioned – disparages reputations, rather than helping our hearts to mend. I often think about Elisabeth Leseur in this situation. According to her husband, she was wronged repeatedly throughout their marriage. But she never said a word to anyone – except perhaps a spiritual director (on this she is not clear).

      • Jeanette

        Thanks Vicki, I would not recommend a friend to unburden our souls for the reasons you stated. “The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur” is definitely a help for us to read.

        But, for example, people who deal with the mentally ill or depressed/anxious and often angry person…this happens more than we realize in day to day life. Their illnesses cause a ripple effect which can feel like a betrayal and causes us emotional pain and sometimes the caregiver or spouse needs to get help to deal with it. As I stated above, I would recommend a spiritual director or a Christian counselor to talk to, someone who does not know the one involved. Thanks for this posting Vicki and the reminder about Elizabeth Leseur.

  • Jo Flemings

    Betrayal can be devastating in degrees difficult to articulate. It can also be very isolating. I want to echo here Vicki and Jeanette’s counsel- when something of a serious nature like this occurs in our lives it is very important to seek help from a Christian counsellor or a spiritual director or sometimes both. In the garden of Gethsemane, where we see Jesus dealing with the psychological suffering of His Passion and so much of that suffering caused by various aspects of rejection and betrayal- we find Him sweating blood from the stress. There are some kinds of psycho-emotional pain that are more than one soul can or should bear alone, even in Christ. We find Him there comforted by angels- I am sure God has ‘angels’, both actual and figurative, for us, too, in our hours of need.

    • Jeanette

      Beautifully said Jo! I think that some spiritual directors would not feel qualified to deal with certain types of deep-seated psycho-emotional suffering and could very well discern to refer their directees on to a Christian counselor. This pain can be acute or chronic, and if chronic, it tends to come forth later in life and needs to be dealt with when one can no longer cope. God bless!

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  • Nosidam

    Just saw this. I needed this. Is there more?
    I am in midst of deep betrayal. I am learning how to forgive and deal. Very very painful and I need more direction. I love what you said and it touched me to the core. I need to copy Jesus, I need the love deep down to give to offenders. Thank you.
    Is this book the one by Sheen?
    Is there a book with your reflections? I need them too!
    Thank you. God bless you.

  • DLink

    Just a side note: Dante placed the betrayers at the innermost ring of hell. Possibly the first thought that comes to mind should be that our judgement of such matters be left to a higher authority. That might relieve a lot of personal stress when we find ourselves in these highly unpleasant situations.

    • LizEst

      Good idea DLink. Only God truly knows the human heart and mind.

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