Ask Celes – What Do We Do When We Have Been Betrayed by a Friend?

Ask Celes

“How should we react when we find out that a friend betrayed us? How do I turn my anger into something positive instead but without being on the losing end? I was promised a great opportunity by a friend but found out that she secretly offered it to someone else later. Thank you Celes.” ~ Zenwell

Hey Zenwell, thanks for your question. :)

Questioning the Assumption

My first question is: Can you be absolutely sure that your friend deliberately “betrayed” you? Sometimes what we perceive may not be the truth. It may merely be our perception which would be based on a subjective belief system.

For example, a while back, a friend of mine thought that I betrayed him by backing out on something I had promised. However, in my mind, I never made the promise. It was a difference in perception that led to the misunderstanding. After several talks and effort to rebuild the friendship, we finally buried the hatchet and mended the rift between us.

For your friend, it is possible that she offered the opportunity to someone with valid reasons and has not had the chance to inform you yet (rather than “secretly” offering it to someone else). It is possible that the opportunity was offered to someone else due to circumstances outside of her control and she has not informed you yet because she feels guilty about it. It is also well possible that she never “promised” you that opportunity and was simply talking about it as a hypothetical discussion.

These are possibilities you can consider in giving her the benefit of the doubt. Without knowing your friend and what was exchanged between both of you, I can’t pass a verdict on whether she did betray you or not.

Assuming She Did Betray You

However, let’s say that she has indeed done you wrong by deliberately, secretly, offering this opportunity to someone when she has already promised it to you.

My questions to you are: How important is this friend to you? Is this a friendship you treasure? Can you do without this person in your life, or is she someone who means a lot to you and whom you want to keep by your side? Does she mean enough for you to look beyond this betrayal?

Or is this a hi-bye acquaintance-like friendship, where her presence or non-presence in your life wouldn’t mean anything at all?

Option A: Working Out the Issue with Her

If this is an important friendship to you, then you should work this out with her. Find a good time and place to air your unhappiness. Do this objectively—don’t make it an issue about her, but rather, your grievances about her actions and their impact on your feelings. This will focus the discussion on the problem at hand rather than turn it into a personal attack. The article on How To Give Constructive Criticism in 6 Steps would help.

Don’t fume in silence, because that’s never a good way to resolve issues. Issues can’t get resolved if they aren’t aired. And if you want to build a meaningful friendship with someone, anyone at all, you need to be transparent in your feelings, be it good or bad. That’s how strong, authentic connections are made.

Besides, by not talking about the problem, you are not being fair to her at all. It’s well possible that she’s not aware of her “betrayal”, just like in my situation with my friend. (I only knew his unhappiness after getting him to open up, because I could feel that something was amiss.) And if your friend isn’t aware that she has made you unhappy, there’s no way she can even redress the problem. There’s no way she can make things right at all. She would be forever tainted in your eyes and there’s nothing she can do to fix that. What kind of a friendship would this be, if not a superficial one?

Option B: Letting Her Go

On the other hand, if this isn’t an important friend at all to you (plus you are absolutely sure that she deliberately betrayed you), then let her go. There are way too many people in this world to bog yourself down over an incompatible connection.

I’ve written before about how I let go of an incompatible friend after being best friends for 10 years: Why I Parted Ways With My Best Friend of 10 Years. While it was not an ideal scenario (the ideal scenario would be us continuing to be best friends and supporting each other in a way that is aligned with our values), the episode helped me to learn a lot about friendships, why it’s important to have friends who are compatible with your being, and how sometimes letting go is the best way to move forward.

Let Go of Your Anger

Whatever the option you take, don’t hold on to the anger, because when you hold on to anger, the person you hurt the most isn’t the other person, but yourself. That’s the worse way anyone can live life, and I don’t want that to happen to you.

Read my series on how to deal with anger, starting with: My History with Anger and How I Finally Let Go of It, Part 1: Growing Up in a Household of Anger

What I want for you is to live a life filled with happiness and no regrets. At the end of the day, betrayal is only a mental notion. While it’s never a good feeling to be betrayed, we can only let betrayals affect us if we let them affect us.

Create Your Opportunities

Whatever opportunity it is that you have lost, find ways to get that same opportunity then, if not better. While that door may be closed, there are other doors open and waiting for you to find them. The longer you stay hung up over that closed door, the more you are going to miss out on those bigger and better opportunities out there. Wouldn’t that be the truest waste of all?

Good luck Zenwell, and I wish you all the best in your talk with your friend (assuming you pick that path) and in your life. :D

Here’s a related follow-up article: What To Do When Someone “Stabs” You in Your Back: 6 Tips To Move On From the Ordeal

Image: Question mark

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • Zenwell

    Hi Celes,

    Thanks for addressing my question. I was angry but more for the lost opportunity rather than my friend. I’ll consider to take your advice to speak to her when the opportunity comes to do so. I’ve since then moved on to look or similar or even better opportunity. But I’ve not spoken to her both off and online since that incident. Thanks for showing me the Anger management article. I’ll read through it.

    Again, thank you Celes. you are always a great mentor :dance:

    • Celes

      Hey Zenwell, not a problem at all! :) I’m glad that you’ve since moved on to look for similar or even better opportunities. That’s a mark of a great individual—not letting the past get you down, but instead, looking to create a better future through your actions. Kudos to you!! :) A big thanks from me to you for submitting the question and allowing other PE readers to learn through your experience. :)

  • Bryan

    I’m really glad I read this. I had a hard time dealing with someone who I wanted to still be friends with but they didn’t want anything to do with me. It really clicked when I read about creating new opportunities. He was someone I knew was trying to be a Renaissance Man and I thought that without having someone like that in my life I’d be lost but I realize now that my feeling to aim for that hasn’t changed. He may be further than I am but I realize I can aim just as high and live my life without him ;)

    • JadePenguin

      Renaissance Man as in someone who has many skills and interests? I think I know what you mean – I’ve also been hoping to find someone who’d engage in several of the same activities, to do them together and inspire each other. I met someone who said he was interested in many of the things I do and got hopeful, but it turned out he didn’t have that much time. He never did promise anything though, so it was just my misunderstanding based on his eagerness. Sometimes words are just words, nothing more.

      And as was said, this doesn’t mean I can’t do all those things alone and inspire myself! :D

      • Bryan

        thats very true and you’re right there isn’t really anything stopping you or I from accomplishing the things needed to reach that level of skill and experience. Having gone through what I did, the frustration, heart ache and difficulty passing through to learn to stand on my own I feel like I’ve made progress in achieving that objective. I hope you and I can both reach our goals ;)

  • Christina

    Hi Celes,

    This is really great advice–thank you for addressing this question! I appreciate your thought process and how you look at the situation from different angles and then present a solution that is heartfelt, authentic, and compassionate.


  • naki

    hi celes

    I really liked your article and it helped me a lot but it also kinda confused me, about whether I am right or wrong..

    We’ve been best friends for about 3 years now..I know not a long time, but long enough to let a really strong bond grow. The thing is, since the summer that passed we have grown apart, we talk occassionally and never about something really important, just chit-chat. Well, I decided to do so because I felt betryed by her, feeling that she was jealous about me and always trying to put me down. Whenever I would mention a boy that I liked and liked me back, or I flirted with someone she would try to ‘steal the show’ or mention how someone I found attractive, flirted with her at another time, that some people I met back then ‘werent for me’ and other things like that. Sometimes it eveb felt like she was happier when I was sad. So, not to hit around the bush, I felt like she didnt treat me as I deserve.
    I must confess that I’ve also done her some wrongs, while I was passing through a rough time, emotionally I was a mess. I know this isnt an apology, but I apologized to her for whatever I did that hurt her and told her that I didnt want to lose her and then everything was ok and after a while it all started again. So I decided to leave her behind me or at least take some distance, so as the situation could calm down.
    This didnt happen…I couldnt and cant let go of her. She was something like my little sister, but as much as i want to, I dont feel like trusting her, Im afraid she’ll start all over again..She didnt support me when I needed it the most. She kept things to her even if I was involved. But worst of all, she didnt talk when she had to, she had to stop me when I didnt treat her right, as I did and told her that we were growing apart when she wasnt fair.
    Since then I cant trust anyone, I feel like everyone will betray me in the end. As a result I feel like I havent any friends really, although there is a bunch of people i go out with and spare time with, but I never ever open up until a certain point. I hate this feeling! Its eating me up inside, cause I want to trust and share, but I cant.
    From what I told you am I right here or am I at wrong?

    Thank you for your time. :)

    • Celes

      Hey naki, there is never any right or wrong. As mentioned in the article, give people the benefit of the doubt first rather than assume their intentions are to betray you at onset (based on your comment “I can’t trust anyone” and “I feel like everyone will betray me in the end”. Viewing relationships with the oneness approach will be very important in establishing meaningful relationships, as I’ve covered here:

      Your question has also sort of been covered already here:

      (By the way, the comments section wouldn’t be the appropriate problem for elaborate problem sharing. Recommend to use PE Forums instead where you can share your situations in-depth with other forum members and have detailed discussions:

  • Lena

    Hi Celestine,

    I just read your post on facebook, but then followed the link to here. I was really betrayed by someone, and I am growing forward and I would love to know what advice you can give. I am normally upbeat person and love to laugh and see both the humor and beauty in all things. I write poetry, songs, and have been working on a script and about to attend school. I would like to have advice on how to deal with someone that you thought was a friend and they betrayed you over and over again especially when you tried talking to them about it all.

    • Celes

      Hey Lena! I would say Option B: Letting The Person Go would definitely be the way to go. It seems that it’s not a compatible relationship and it would do better for you to let go of someone who is toxic to your life.

      Here’s an article on ending a friendship that might be helpful for you:

      • Lena

        Hi Celes,

        Thank you so much for your response and your advice is most helpful. Also thanks for sharing the article about ending a friendship it’s providing me with some much needed thinking and soul searching on this, that I need to do. Thanks again Celes :D

        • Celes

          Hey Lena, you’re very much welcome. Much love and light to you; I hope what I share in these articles (the Ask Celes one and the one on ending friendship) will help you identify the best course of resolution for your situation. :hug:

  • Candice

    Hi Celes, I’m not really sure what I should do. I treasure him as a friend and i’ve considered option B due to my past experiences, and I do think he doesn’t really know why I am acting this way (ignoring him because i feel betrayed), and he wants to have a talk with me, if i am willing to. Should I? I’ve also considered option B but i’m not sure if i’m able to do it because we see each other all the time and we’re in the same clique. What should I do?

    • Celestine Chua

      Hi Candice, if B has already tried to reach out and wants a talk, give him a chance and hear what he has to say. At the same time, before the talk, pen down what are your key “issues” / “grievances”, and let him know about them (in a conscious manner, vs. an attacking/personal way) so he knows. A friendship takes two hands to clap, and given that you do treasure him and he wants to talk, I say give it a shot and see how it goes. Everyone deserves a second chance and it may well be that he has no clue as to what’s happening at all and needs to hear from you. Hope that helps and let us know how it goes!

  • Rosie0208

    It was interesting to read the article. I have just been through a horrible situation where a “friend” betrayed me. I’d become friendly with my neighbors across the street. The wife had been very stressed out because the small company she worked for appeared to be going out of business and that meant she’d be out of work. Long story short: I told her about a job opening at my company and talked her up to the boss. She got the job and soon got a promotion working for the President of the entire company–getting paid way more than I could ever dream of. Needless to say, she wasn’t popular with the other girls in the office and I was bullied because I was the one who got her the job. I explained to her what was going on and told her I didn’t think it was a good idea to hang out at work. She said she understood and we still did stuff outside the office. Then my company started to downsize and I was one of the first people to be let go. I found out later she had gone to the president of the company and bad mouthed me saying I was lazy and unqualified for my job and how I had shunned her at work and all other kinds of terrible things that weren’t true. Four years later, she still doesn’t realize I know this (a friend of mine that works in HR told me this after the fact.) I was stunned! But I knew I had to let it go and forgive her. Her former sister-in-law doesn’t believe me when I say I’ve forgiven her but I had to–not for her but for me. She doesn’t even know that I found out what she did so if I held on to the hurt and the anger, the only person it would have damaged was me. Even if she knew I was wise to her, she’s not the kind of person that would care, take responsibility, feel regret or shame for her actions, .I have kind of let our friendship go. I don’t call her, email or text her anymore. I don’t think I’m willing to stay friends with someone who’s that toxic.