Ask Celes – What Do We Do When We Have Been Betrayed by a Friend?
“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 Decided to 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.
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
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