Betrayal cuts to the core of the human existence. It’s great artistic food for fodder and oft the keynote topic for blues and country singers alike, not to mention poets. BB King wails “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” with extra emphasis on the shame due to help from his trusty guitar Lucille in his smash hit by the same title.

It’s a catchy little tune with an even catchier riff. It cuts to the core and resonates with us all. Because fact is—baby, we’ve all been there. And some of us more than twice.

No one likes betrayal. No one likes to be on the receiving end of it and unless you are a sociopath no one likes to receive the accusation that you betrayed another.  Anyone who has been stung by the pain of betrayal (especially by trusted loved ones) knows that betrayal cuts deep into one’s identity and soul. It makes you question not only the one you perceived as betraying you, but oneself.

How could we have been so stupid?—or as BB King wails “fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me.”

So what to do? How do we not only survive but move on from betrayal—be it a business one, a personal one a political one or all of the above. And more importantly, why should we?

I’ve pondered this often and the best answer I can surmise is based upon not only life experiences, but sage advice given to me by trusted mentors and guides.

Five Reasons We Must Always Forgive and Why

1. Without forgiveness there is no future—Desmond Tutu.

A simple yet most brilliant sentiment. One that makes sense in our hearts but one that is much easier to provide lip service to than to actually walk the walk. I know as I’ve tried both approaches during my lifetime and for me the latter is the only one that ever works.  Because the fact is if we are unable to forgive, then we will spend too much precious time dwelling in the past and before we know it life will have passed us by.

2. Don’t Dwell and Despair…Dance! 

Years ago now when I was complaining to one of my great mentors, Yale-educated theologian Dr. Karl Johnson about a series of personal and professional betrayals I had just experience rife with all the steps I was enacting to prevent future contact with aforementioned betrayer, he stopped me midsentence and pulled out one of his favorite quotes.

Which later became a staple in my fave quote reference guide.

He said—Buddy Hackett said it best when he said “I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.” Then he added, so go dance and if nothing more the exercise will make you feel better.

So I did—I enrolled in a dance class and while I was never good at it, I did feel better. And I found much wisdom in Buddy Hackett’s sentiment…for truth is I had to make a choice. I could spend time dwelling in the despair of what I saw as a betrayal or I could dance it out of my system. And the harsh truth I had to face was that while I was affected by the betrayal, the other person most certainly was not dwelling on the issue or matter. The only one it was hurting was me, which brings me to my next tip, and one I coined all myself.

3. Hatred, anger, only harms the one harboring it in his heart, so don’t let a ship dock that was never meant to sail.

Anger and hatred never hurts the other person. It really only ever hurts us so stop it now for unless you are a masochist there is no sense in dwelling on things that can’t be changed, can’t be corrected or can’t be resolved. Let it go. But let it all go with love.

4. Forgive them Father for they know not what they do—Jesus of Nazareth.

Whether you consider Jesus to be the one and only son of God or one of the world’s most prescient prophets is irrelevant when considering this quote.  Fact is the man was crucified and he was alone and even abandoned and yes, betrayed by those closest to him during and prior to his death.  Judas and Peter come to mind. One of whom went on to help found what would become the Christian religion and the other whom committed suicide due to guilt over the betrayal.

I am not going to delve into the religious implications of this quote, but instead into the spiritual ones.  Jesus knew that due to the times he was living in and due to the religious and political implication of those times, not to mention the fear and power struggles that were occurring that his death was imminent. If for no other reason than for the one that the message he was imparting stated.

Yet, he was able to ask for the forgiveness for those who were killing him. He knew what all great spiritual leaders from Buddha to Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Mother Theresa know—that we are all connected and an act of hatred (including murder) against another is an act of hatred against oneself.  Because all acts of hatred lower the humanity of humankind.

5. The ability to forgive is the true fountain of youth—Ya think?

Ponce de Leon may have searched for it in Florida, but forgiveness is the true fountain of youth. For it’s the balm that soothes–heals–the human soul.

Egyptian lore claims that upon death Ma’at judges mankind. Whether or not one transcends to the next level is based upon the weight of one’s experience upon one’s heart and soul.  It is weighed against a feather.  If the weight of the soul, heart, and its life experience is as light as the feather then the soul can move on.

Fantasy Fiction writer Dean Koontz talks about this concept in his unique way in his Odd Thomas series. In his realm, earth is boot camp and if a person passes the test of boot camp the intermittent level after death is service. If one passes on to service they have the shot at the next level, which some of us call heaven, and others nirvana and so on.  But if they fail the quest on earth in boot camp, then the soul merely ceases to exist.

That’s the metaphysical reason for why forgiveness keeps us young…it rejuvenates the soul. But let’s look at it from a purely physical standard. If you forgive and no longer harbor bitterness in your heart, a great weight is lifted. You’ve moved on and now are able to forgive that person even if only in your heart and most of all you are able to forgive yourself for…well…..being human.

You are wiser. You can honestly access the situation in a detached manner and say—yeah, it happened. Yeah, I got burned and maybe misplaced the gift of my trust onto someone who didn’t earn let alone deserve it. Yeah, maybe I was even young, naive and stupid. Yeah, all of the above.

But guess what…it didn’t kill me and I can wish them well and also wish myself well and that is what being human is all about. For for better or for worse, we’re all in this together and we’re only as strong as the weakest link….so I think I’ll try to be a strong link in humanity and lift others up as opposed to crush others out.

If you can live your life with this premise and goal, I can promise you that years, decades, will be lifted from your body and face appearance-wise. Because you will be viewing the world from a spiritual place and you will be living and experiencing it from that place as well.  Your spirit will be light and it will be reflected as such on your face and in your smile. So yeah, forgiveness is the true fountain of youth.

I just addressed in my humble opinion WHY  we must forgive.  Next time I’ll address HOW we forgive without becoming a personal doormat.  Especially in today’s world.


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