I was reminded of my own story of betrayal coming across the American TV show ‘Revenge’.
The show chronicles the wronged life of Emily Thorne and the victims she ‘takes down’ (I told you, it’s an American show) one by one. Victims who had any part to play in framing Emily’s father for a crime he did not commit years before, and destroying her family in the process when she was just a little girl. A little girl who ADORED her father.
At the beginning of the first Season (Season 2 airs in the US this week, I believe) and through a series of then and now flashbacks, we catch up with Emily leaving prison and relocating to the upper class society town where her victims live. Where she once lived with her father.
Now an adult of course, the town do not recognise her or know who she is – aside from being a beautiful, Preppy girl who has rocked up to rent a lavish beach house – but she knows everything about them.
To mix metaphors, it’s a good little page-turner of a show.
A show that got me thinking about betrayal, revenge and just how far we would go to exact it.
Being a good, Roman Catholic girl (where one of those things may not be true), I know full well that revenge is a sin. Well, it may not be one of the deadlies, but I know it is frowned upon since ‘Revenge is mine,’ saith the Lord and all that. And that other clever bod, Confucious (504 B.C.), reminds us:
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves,”
which I have always taken to mean that when you destroy another you kill your own soul in the process.
Which is all well and good in the rational – where you haven’t been left winded and blinded by betrayal. Where the senses cannot quite comprehend that anyone could (would) perpetrate such a heinous act on friendship, love or loyalty.
Where ‘taking someone down’ becomes your raison d’être for breathing.
Bear in mind, I am talking about the biggies.
Not the foolishness of youth, or unthinking stupidity. But calculated, know-what-the-hell-they-were-destroying-and-did-it-anyway betrayal. Stabbing your past in the chest and twisting that serrated-edged knife before drop-kicking your future in the guts before they leave.
Because that’s the thing about certain betrayals; they rob you of everything you knew or thought you knew. It takes away the past – since you can no longer unravel what was true – and, of course, the future, since there is no going back (forward) with some forms of betrayal.
That kind of betrayal has happened to me six times in my 50 years on this earth.
The most recent of which was a business betrayal in the first year of Bronnie’s death.
I am a good judge of character, and still I didn’t see it coming.
As we say in the West Indies, I would have put my hand in fire for this person or upon a stack of bibles. Fire might be easier to find. Anyway, meaning someone’s integrity credentials are 100% solid.
The process one goes through after something like that is not unlike the 7 stages of grief.
1. Shock and denial (numbed disbelief).
2. Pain and guilt (excruciating pain we are advised not to numb with alcohol or drugs. Bugger.)
3. Anger and bargaining (God, if you undo this thing, I will go to Church on Sundays. Maybe.)
4. Depression, reflection and loneliness (yup).
5. The upward turn (might have to look hard to find it, but there are glimmers).
6. Reconstruction and working through (solution focussed).
7. Acceptance and hope (not to be mistaken with instant happiness).
Because something definitely dies and you will never NEVER be the person you once were. That was a person with a very different story to the one you have post-betrayal.
A few times I started to write a post about what happened…but each time I couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t do it. Even though I know I desperately needed some form of cathartic release.
That came one evening at a business dinner. A business dinner at which I was also due to make a presentation.
My betrayer was there doing the rounds.
Spotting me, and with a nano-second of hesitation (that could have been my imagination), he came over and Judas-like kissed my unproffered cheek.
The cutting and intelligent responses I had rehearsed for months on end for this very day wouldn’t come. I remember vaguely answering non-threatening questions about health and other doings dispassionately; deftly staying away from any business-related enquiries by answering questions I pretended had been asked.
So, ‘How did the meetings end up with XYZ company?’, was rejoined with a ‘Yes, the children are fine, thank you.’ I’m so good at this game the person does indeed believe they asked the question I answered.
The other thing that wouldn’t come was the white sheet anger I had barely kept below the surface in the preceding months.
I felt old.
Old and wise and…disinterested.
I no longer had any interest in the he-did-me-wrong song I had been singing for a while. And, when it came time, I got up made my presentation and actually forgot my betrayer was in the audience.
But I have told a little lie about not feeling anything profound.
I felt sorry for my betrayer.
And I am a little tearful as I write this, bearing witness to an emotion I have not allowed myself to really acknowledge, far less feel.
What happened was truly awful. No doubting. But the Lord and Confucious know a thing or two. Killing one’s soul (spirit, sense of integrity, decency – whatever is your core) for the sake of destroying another person can in no way be worth it.
And standing on this side of all my betrayals and betrayers, I understand clearly that as bad as those situations were, it could be much worse.
I could be them.