Betrayal and shame

As we grow older, we expose ourselves to the possibility of even more rejection as the bonds of intimate, close relationships form in us. If we are rejected in one of these relationships, especially by a marriage partner, the pain is compounded because it involves broken trust, and thus it becomes betrayal.

Like most other ministers, numerous times I have counseled wives who felt that they had lost everything. They trusted their husbands and gave themselves unreservedly. Then their husbands left them. The wives felt betrayed. I have also talked to husbands who have been betrayed by their wives. I have also seen many other varieties of betrayal.

Have you been betrayed? How have you responded?

When someone betrays you, you may say, “I’ll never open myself up again. No one will ever get another chance to hurt me like that.” That is a natural reaction, but it is also dangerous. It will open you up to a second problem, defensiveness, which is the reaction of somebody who has been hurt once too often. Defensiveness says, “All right, I’ll go through life, but I will never let anybody come near enough to hurt me like that again. I’ll always keep a wall between me and other people.”

Do you know who suffers? You do. Your personality shrivels, becoming incomplete. You grow as a tree does when its main trunk is lopped off—in a distorted manner. In Isaiah we find a vivid picture of what betrayal is like. The Lord was comforting His people Israel through Isaiah.

God painted for them a picture of their condition as He saw it. He compared them to a wife who has been rejected by her husband.
This same situation is distressingly all too familiar for millions of women today, yet the Lord still offers these same comforting words:

“Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. (Isa. 54:4-6 NIV)

The illustration reaches its zenith in the last verse with the image of a “wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected.” Many of you may know how that feels.

Sometimes it is the other way around;sometimes the wife rejects her husband. Although we regard men as somehow being stronger than women, I know from the many cases with which I have dealt that a man who feels rejected by his wife can suffer inexpressible agony. He may feel he has failed as a man. In some ways, perhaps, it is harder for a man to experience that kind of hurt because he feels ashamed of it. Our society expects men to be impervious to emotional pain.

This vivid picture in Isaiah highlights two things that are commonly associated with betrayal in marriage. Through Isaiah, the Lord says, “You will not suffer shame….You will not be humiliated.” To have given yourself without reservation to another person, to have poured out your love upon him, to have made yourself available to him, and then to discover that he has rejected you— the sum of all that can bring with it shame and humiliation.

You are suffering from shame if somehow you feel that you are not fit to meet other people or that you cannot look anyone straight in the face. People who are suffering from shame will often avert or lower their eyes when approached by another person. Shame is debilitating, and it keeps us from functioning as healthy human beings.

In addition to betrayal through divorce, two other common ways in which shame affects a person’s spirit are through public humiliation and child abuse.

By Derek Prince.

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