In being vulnerable, we reach for our greatest need while risking our greatest pain.” -Danny Silk.
No one likes talking about pain. Especially their own pain.
And I am no exception.
We live in a world where pain is weakness and strength is ultimate.
While I worked in the fitness industry, everyone that came through my gym doors had every intention to become stronger, fitter, and, more often than not, to go through a complete transformation to become the strong conqueror they know they can be.
Unfortunately, though, a huge percentage of those that begin with all good intentions to get there never actually change, never reach their potential, never truly become strong.
Because they refused to face the pain.
At one point they decided the pain wasn’t worth the change. So what happened? They walk away from reality, that they are at risk of heart disease, that they are vastly overweight, that they will die years early because of bad nutrition and no exercise, and the really harsh reality that the pain they’re running from is minimal compared to the future pain that will destroy them in the end.
It’s only an example, but somehow it draws a good parallelism to other deeper, emotional pains that we face every day.
Certain pains hurt more than others. I’ve had my own fair share of pain in my life and recently I’ve been on my own journey through pain, not away from it.
And that is the pain of betrayal.
being betrayed, cheated, lied to, disgraced, used.
Of all pains in the world, it’s hard to imagine one much worse than the absolute agony of betrayal. Suddenly it changes your whole reality, realizing that you were living in a dream of lies and deceit and actually believed it. It goes deep down into your identity and challenges everything you thought you were and who you were affirmed to be.
I’m going to share my experience and journey not because I want to. I would gladly love to bury it and move on, only referring to it now and then when it becomes necessary to, and only when I have completely come out of the other end all strong and understanding.
As I’ve lived the nightmare of this pain, I’ve realized that, first of all, it’s a process and you can’t run from it and expect to be “OK” the rest of your life. I’ve found the process starts with accepting Reality, entering the Pain, searching for the Escape, and the decision of Living.
Accepting The Reality
I was in a relationship that was discovered in such a fun but authentic way. I got to express who I was outside of work (which at that point took over most of my life), develop a friendship that naturally turned into a deeper relationship. We connected on all levels and were oddly similar. It wasn’t fast-paced, but initially slow and methodical. I thought and prayed through it so much. I don’t take any relationships lightly and this wasn’t an exception.
He pursued me, I responded gladly, and the reality? I was so very happy. I had so much fun. I had learned so much about the choices and self-sacrifices of love and now got to live it out in a way I’ve never gotten to before. It felt good, real, satisfying, and honestly I couldn’t remembering being happier in my life with another person. He treated me special, called me his angel, affirmed who I was, made me laugh, made my days worth living.
But then I came to realize…that wasn’t reality. And that dream world all came crashing down on me when his ex-girlfriend texted me in the middle of the night from his phone telling me that, as she just also realized, there was 2 of us. And, as I came to find out in the next day, it had always been that way. From the first day we met until the day I found out, it had been 2 stories completely hid from each other.
It was all a lie.
Reality all of a sudden destroyed me. It punched me in the gut, stabbed my heart, sucked my breath away, and numbed my mind. That Friday I couldn’t even feel, much less actually cry. So paralyzing.
It’s at times like those that eventually you have to look in the mirror and realize that you indeed were that girl. The girl I never wanted to be and thought I could avoid. The girl that fell for the guy I had advised against to my friends and girls I had worked with. I was the used one, simply a tool in his game.
And reality was the last thing I wanted to face. I immediately wanted to run, hide, pretend. Pretend that it really wasn’t that bad.
Pretend that it I hadn’t really liked him and chosen to love him.
Pretend that I’m strong enough to get through this.
Pretend that what he did wasn’t really that bad and that he’s just a flawed person just as much as I am and that the good Christian thing to do is forgive and be friends again.
Reality was much harder to face. The reality that he had lied about everything, so much so that I still don’t know what was truth and what was real. The reality that I was deeply hurt and seriously wounded. The reality that when we first started seeing each other I had even written my dad and told him that I knew that this guy would never intentionally hurt me– and, ironically, that was exactly what he did.
The reality that this was not only intentional, but also flagrant and totally personal, that I wasn’t worth it. And also, to push the knife in a little further, I was the extra one. I really wasn’t the wanted one, the loved one. And the pain that it hurt so much.
The reality was that I had been cheated on, that I was betrayed.
And I had to accept it.
Entering The Pain
As if dealing with reality wasn’t hard enough, that was only the spring board for the pain to follow.
The pain that I lived under lies, believed them, and then realized none of it was true.
The pain of seeing text messages he sent to his ex while he was literally with me that was degrading not only me, but also my family. Of all the pain, this was the worst. The very things he said he loved about me he used to discredit me and used to claim that he really could care less about me.
All of a sudden my entire life changed and I began seeing everything in relation to my pain. “How are you?” people would ask. I wanted to reply, “Hm, on a scale of 1 to I-want-to-impale-myself-with-a-knife, I would say today has been a 5, so a pretty good day actually!”
There was pain that I wasn’t completely present, that I lost total connection with people, that I was suddenly fake. I’ve always chosen to be a confident person, but in a split second that Friday I lost all confidence. Completely. For the first time in my life I truly didn’t believe in myself anymore. I thought I had been so right about him, about my life during those months, but I’ve never been so wrong in my life before. How could I believe myself again?
Now everything was challenged. Every person, every situation. My filter used to be truth, but now it was all lies.
He said he never even talked to his ex. He called and texted her how much he loved her daily.
He said he wanted to be with me. He never had any intention of being with me.
He said he loved my confidence. He actually believed I was socially impaired and the most naive person he’s ever met.
He said I was beautiful. I must not be beautiful.
He said I am going to be great things. I must not be able to do great things.
Other people have affirmed talents and strengths about me. Those things must not be true either.
I believed goodness about so many people. People probably aren’t good and probably are hiding something.
Unfortunately lies make a human most unlike a human than any other sin. It totally destroys people, hope, love, belief, faith and trust.
I’ve always been a trusting, believing person. Now I was second-guessing everyone. “Do you really like me as a person, or do you just plan to use me to get what you want?” And I hate that. It hurt that those thoughts were (are) even crossing my mind frequently.
It hurt that love seemingly turned on me. That it was all in vain. Again. I had given so much and it was just used and easily discarded.
And I was so angry. I’ve never experienced anger like that before. What a benefit I worked at a kickboxing gym. Hashtag therapy.
Was I angry at God? No, not really. I mean, he was and has been the only faithful one. Truly. He received me back with open arms even after this huge mess-up, after making my own wrong choices and allowing my beliefs about truth and God to be challenged as “maybe not exactly true.” But what I couldn’t get past was “God, it seems like I keep giving and loving, and I never get anything back in return. All I ever get is heartache.”
Searching for an Escape
The problem with accepting reality and then choosing to deal with the pain that follows is that inevitably you want to escape. It’s just too much, too strong, too hard.
I wanted to escape the reality, the pain, and living in light of what had just happened. I considered not even telling details to my closest friends, the ones who have been there for me my whole life. I wanted to cover the most hurtful details, swear him off as totally meaningless to me now, and bear my own issues alone. Because the thought of being vulnerable seemed much more painful then dealing with it by myself. Many of you reading this will be shocked– “I had no idea you were going through this!” Exactly. Transparency is really hard and painful.
Unfortunately (but fortunately) my job itself was totally personal and I saw dozens of people every day who knew the ins and outs of my life. My members were my friends and naturally when I talked about a relationship I’m in they follow-up with questions. And because I’ve practiced transparency for years now, I couldn’t hide it. I couldn’t become the liar that I had just been abused by.
“Yeah, we’re not seeing each other anymore. Why? Um, well it didn’t end so well. Yeah, he was hiding stuff from me. Cheating? Yes, yes I was cheated on. Yeah…the whole time. I had no idea. I’m, um, honestly not doing well. I’m really really angry. I’d like to take a baseball bat through a glass factory. I’ve never gone through something like this, only with other friends’ issues. Never thought it would happen to me. Yeah, I’m sorry it happened too.”
It’s amazing how healing it is just taking a minute to be transparent with someone who actually cares about you, like aloe on a sunburn. Aloe doesn’t just soothe a wound; it actually reaches into the skin and pulls out damage.
So a lesson I learned: the moment I feel like I need to hide, that’s the very moment when I need to release and open up. It’s for my journey of healing as well as for someone else, because more often than not, I surprisingly found, each time I shared even just a small bit of my experience, I got the “Me too!” reaction.
And there’s nothing better than knowing that you’re not alone.
Often, though, talking about it wasn’t enough. I was overwhelmed over and over by my own mind, the memories, the choices, figuring out what really happened, wondering what was my own fault, feeling shame about my own choices, feeling guilty about allowing myself to be deceived.
I wanted to escape and often I couldn’t. Working long hours became a relief. Anything to keep my mind preoccupied. But it was those moments when I finally had to be still and lay in my bed and try to fall asleep, I was assailed. Some nights I slept, some nights I didn’t. I’ll never forget this one particular terrible week where the pain was relentless, unbelievably intense, and non-stopping. My mind felt like it was under siege. It was the first time I’ve experienced panic attacks. I couldn’t get him and the experiences out of my head. I would make me short of breath, nauseous, and sometimes shaky.
I would do anything to escape.
And that’s when I realized, “Oh, this is why people get addicted to alcohol, drugs and contemplate suicide. Gotcha.”
That’s when I realized that those with the most pain are the ones that are the most extreme in their escaping, i.e., addictions.
Do not ever judge someone and think that you would never succumb to an addiction like they have. Many are simply trying to silence the pain, though unsuccessfully. Drugs, pain killers, pills, alcohol, work, money, sex, fitness… you name it. What you think you have under control one day may actually become your addiction and escape tomorrow.
I learned a lot about habits. Because when you are suddenly cast into pain and hurt, you will naturally turn to what you’ve made a habit in the past. What did I do? Well, those evenings and free time when my mind was assaulting me, I reached for what I had access to in that moment: my Bible app. Earbuds in, I’d listen to one book after another from the Bible.
Now before you start thinking how epically spiritual this was, let me assure you that in the moment it was not really what I wanted to do, and it seemed each verse was punctuated with my own swear word. The Bible… it seemed too simple and cliche. But honestly, this is something I had made a habit doing since I was a teenager, reading the Bible, turning to the Bible in the good and bad. I’ve experienced healing in the past from it– I know it works. So because it had been a past habit, it was easily accessible, and it was free, I went to it.
And you know what? That was the only escape that worked for me. Work didn’t solve it. Friend and relationships didn’t solve it. But the truly healing power of God’s words did. It was the only thing that put me to sleep during those dark, depressing nights.
You know what I think people, especially women, also turn to for escape?
Hear me out.
Somehow in the name of “forgiveness” we look at someone’s choices, sins, and actions, and instead of dealing with it, accepting reality and the pain, we decide to simply forgive it and “forget.” And it feels righteous and good because now I’m such a good person to see someone’s mistakes and sins, and still forgive them without any action or boundary-setting despite that.
That is not love, and it would be unloving of me not to say that. Sometimes we believe we love someone so much that we can forgive anything, but in reality it’s a selfish way of dealing with our own insecurities.
For instance, I had a friend who, in the name of love, decided to “forgive” her boyfriend for repeated instances of terrible physical abuse, would not turn him into the police, and ended up going back to live with him. An extreme example, but do we not all do that in our own lives? Instead of facing the objective reality and loving ourselves and them enough to walk away, we decide to be the ultimate judge and be the one that releases them and changes them. If you’re going to be committed to love, then you must also be just as committed to justice and boundary-setting. You cannot have one without the other. I believe that in each circumstance you must be led by love, grace, and justice.
Speaking to those who are in some sort of abusive or manipulative relationship, don’t make forgiveness an escape, but rather a means of healing for yourself. True forgiveness is for your benefit. And don’t let someone you’re in a relationship with talk you into forgiving them and staying with them because that would be the righteous, good thing, and you’re a good person, aren’t you? You’re the most good person I know. So please forgive me and let’s stay together. I need you and you don’t want to live with the regret of not forgiving me. God wouldn’t do that. I mean, you’re not perfect either, so you walking away from this relationship would be saying that you’re better than me, which you know you’re not. Don’t be judgmental like all those fake Christians out there; you’re actually the most real, authentic person I know. I’m working on me and God has totally convicted me and I want to change. Let’s even go to church. Please don’t leave me? Wow, I don’t deserve someone like you. You’re so forgiving.
How manipulating and abusive. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen it and lived in it enough. Forgiveness is never a tool to cover up your faults and to escape from the reality and responsibility. You have to deal with it. Yes, anything can be forgiven, but someone else’s choices are never under your control. And whether or not you forgive someone should never be dependent on that person changing. If this is something you’re running in circles with, please email me if you need someone to talk with about it: firstname.lastname@example.org
I had to deal with my insecurities and decide how to “escape.” I could’ve turned to other escapes and I’m sure people may have said, “Well, that’s understandable.” But you know, in the end, I really didn’t want to simply escape.
I wanted to live.
The Decision of Living
It’s now been about 9 months since I began writing this post. I would try to sit down and write, but often would end up dissolving into tears, burying my face in my hands, feel like throwing up, then closing the laptop and walking away. It’s just so hard.
Especially this section. I’m supposed to write about “How To Live Life After Being Misused And Betrayed.”
I could fill up the rest of this space with cliche phrases and quotes from several OneRepublic songs. Actually a Carrie Underwood song comes to mind about someone’s suped-up 4-wheel drive, but come on, let’s be adults here.
Part of living forward is dealing with struggles daily, struggles that are compounded because they’ve never hit you so intensely before. This is what I and those that have been betrayed deal with:
Major insecurity– When you’re deeply invested in someone who you deeply trust and then they betray it and choose someone over you, it’s very personal. Insecurity is simply a daily battle you have to deal with. Don’t try to fix those of us who have gone through this, but walk with us into truth and freedom. Just listening is helpful.
Shame– Because when you have been in the direct line of fire with someone else’s shameful actions, you have at some point believed in them, thus deceived into their shameful decisions. So you start bearing their shame. And typically narcissistic people will blame you and dump all shame and guilt on you. It’s a terrible mental war.
Anger– This ranges from anger to the person, to yourself, to others who may reveal characteristics that reflect the person that hurt you.
Lying– How ironic that after you deal with the anger at all the lies, the very thing you want to do is lie about yourself, the situation, everything. Unknowingly you can become the person that hurt you the most.
Running Away– Not that this is you by nature, but because you’ve had to leave and run from this relationship, it becomes a knee-jerk reaction to relationships that give you flashbacks to your experience.
Self protection– Since he didn’t protect you, you have to be the one that protects yourself. You never want to be hurt like that again, so you imagine ways to set up walls and not ever be risky in relationships.
Loving and Accepting Love– It’s a double-edged sword. Not only are you afraid to open up your heart to love deeply, but accepting love again seems to be impossible, that it will probably be misused.
That’s a scary, rather intimidating list. But that’s the reality, when no one is around, when you only have your thoughts and memories accompanying you.
Those things that we feel, those are very real. It’s no use pretending that I’m somehow excused from it. We need to be transparent. Please, let’s be real.
But reality is also looking outside of yourself, to see truth. Truth that is greater than your pain, greater than your past, your pain, your shame, your misuse.
Your life is a story. And this chapter is now part of it. You cannot erase it. Yet it does not define you, but you choose how you define it.
So it’s not necessarily about becoming a good-doer and inspirational Pinterest pinner, but how you will allow this negative turn in your life to be redeemed.
We’re not talking about silver linings or being positive about the whole thing. What happened to me sucked and it was horrible. I’m still not over it and I will forever have a scar. The thought of dating is rather terrifying and so is loving people in general.
But I’m going to show my scar with defiant purpose and tell you what role it plays in my life, and NOT the other way around.
You see, for me to let what happened to continue to be “what happened to me”, then I will always be a victim to my past.
However, I get the opportunity in life to stop hiding my scars, expose them, and tell everyone what it was and how it’s being redeemed in my life.
For me, that looks like giving my life into sharing hope with street prostitutes, abused women, drug addicts, sex slaves, and the broken ones of Chicago, my city.
Though I may not have a total understanding of each circumstance they’re in, I “get” it. I get the feelings of rejection, the pain from deep emotional wounds, the craving for escape.
Something else I had to realize was that although I had lived under lies, I was honest and truthful the whole time and my choices and love were authentic. Just because someone else misused you doesn’t make you fake. What someone else does or says to you says everything about them, not about you. At the end of the day, though I may have made poor or misguided choices, I know that I was honest. I know that I repeatedly said, “My loving you has nothing to do with you, but it’s about me and my choice. Since when did my loving you have anything to do with how you treat me?”
Yet as I came to learn, love also looks like walking away and setting boundaries. But the love is still real, still authentic.
I’m not fixed up yet and I still have meltdowns. But I think that’s the beauty of redemption, that you can be a channel of hope when you’re seeking after it just as much as the one you’re offering it to.
I think we need more people that stop hiding their scars and start finding other people with similar scars and start walking through life together.
Remember: there is nothing to be ashamed of.
You are free from guilt.
Thank God for Jesus, because he bore than pain so that I could be set free to allow my story to be redeemed.
Things might not get better anytime soon. But in giving hope you receive that in return. It’s a step of faith, because you know the truth, and you choose to walk out in faith to share the truth.
And you know what? The truth will set you free.
You were made for more. Think about your story, your whole life, and imagine the line of your story continuing 20, 30, 50 years down the road. The pain you have today TOTALLY has purpose. It will affect and change not just your life, but also those involved in your story every single step of the way.
It’s your choice. It’s your perspective. You were made to take the heat, and to then transfer it into warmth for the broken around you. And then… get ready to receive. Good things ahead. Keep the vision.
Don’t forget your purpose.