When does the truth expire? Maybe your friend said they’d make you Assistant Manager when they got made Manager. Maybe your parents promised to let you participate in something and then prevented you from attending. Maybe someone said they love you and now they don’t. Why did these people lie to you?
The truth is they didn’t lie to you. They said whatever they honestly felt at the time but for this to make sense we must lose the false notion that people are their names. Names are labels. In the moment people are their behaviour. So people in a state of ego will easily assume that you are not your history but rather you are your most current behaviour. Friends are the people who see past that to who you generally are.
In the case of the friend at work, their professional identity is suddenly completely transformed and so then is their relationship to you. That’s also when they start to find out the responsibilities and limitations that go with their new job–and that might or might not include hiring you despite what they may have wanted to do or thought they wanted to do.
In the case with the parents I’ll use me as an example. My parents were strict but fair and their rules were reasonable. One night–thanks to a pretty girl–I was out past my curfew and my parents decided I couldn’t go to a drum clinic I had bought a ticket for and really wanted to attend because it was being taught by a musical hero of mine. No go.
My parents hadn’t lied to me when they made that promise. The difference was, when I asked them the question I was following all of the house rules like my siblings. Later I wasn’t. And so the other me who was theoretically home on time still did theoretically have the ticket. I just currently wasn’t that kid to my parents and I accepted that I deserved the adjustment in the definition of me.
In the case of a relationship the trick is that the changes often happen slowly. A couple marries because they have fun together and they say their vows sincerely. But after a few years of nightclubs she wants to have kids and be a stay at home Mom, which is great, but after a few years goes by you have a wife at home desperately missing the adult time that work provided and so she’s not looking or feeling very sexy or fun.
Meanwhile the husband is stretched financially and his schedule is crazy. He’s always frustrated or upset and he gets impatient and disconnected. Slowly she becomes bitter about the lack of help and attention and he becomes bitter about the lack of gratitude and affection and suddenly they look at each other and see a completely different person; someone they’re not in love with. No one means for that to happen but without vigilance it will. Our relationships with other beings should always be very conscious.
By being more receptive and less punitive we will encourage a more secure environment in which people can risk making their apology. And until we all get there as a culture,it’s a lot easier to survive a hit of betrayal when we learn that the vast majority of it is really just a misunderstanding created by the concept of time and the vagaries of a symbolic language. There are genuinely deceptive people but you can feel sorry for them. It just keeps catching up in all sorts of weird ways. But most people are sincere when they make a commitment to you, so before you get upset it might be worthwhile to look at both what society and the relationship have been going through. It might just place events in a temporary context where they make more sense.
Betrayal can be dangerous because it can play on the mind for many years if permitted. Because these stories involve people close to us we run into a lot of links to them in our memory all that time. That just gets us to replay and replay the same angry narratives and all it does is eat us away. We are better to never develop the feeling, but to do that we must not blame another person when we feel that urge. Instead we must keep an open mind that everyone may be innocent to a degree.
We all need to carry less fear and anger and hurt and blame and we must seek out more excitement and joy and compassion and connection. Look at your life and see where you spend time invested in negative energy and instead of just replaying those old stories yet again, consider looking at what happened again from the other person’s perspective. You might just find that seeing things their way could be what gets you feeling better. Happy meditating.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.