The Shock of Betrayal
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Pastor Phil Waldrep discusses the process of healing from betrayal. Whether you’ve been betrayed by a close friend or family member, Waldrep shares a trusted path to recovery.
The Shock of Betrayal
Bob: What do we do when we learn that someone we’ve trusted has been untrustworthy? Phil Waldrep experienced that with a ministry associate, and it hit him hard.
Phil: The first thing that happens is you think, “How can I be so stupid? Why didn’t I see the signs?” Suddenly, your precious couldn’t-get-better-than-this world is shattered. And when your world is shattered, now you have all of these broken pieces. You don’t know who to trust; because: “Wait a minute; if I can’t trust him, can I trust the other people in my ministry? If I can’t trust him, can I trust the people at church?” All of a sudden, you don’t trust anybody.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 14th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Betrayal can rock our world, so how do we respond? How do we recover? Phil Waldrep joins us today to help us think, biblically, about betrayal. Stay with us.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You guys know, from working with couples—the point where you start to look and go, “Can this relationship be rescued when trust has been violated in a significant way?”—the rebuilding of trust is one of the hardest things to do in a marriage relationship and family relationships. When there’s been betrayal, that leads to that breaking of trust. You’ve got hard work ahead of you to get to a relationship that can thrive.
Dave: I know; how many years ago?—I walked out of one of my best friend’s house after he found his wife in an affair.
Ann: —and she was one of my best friends.
Dave: Yes; they are/John’s still in a small group with me, and Betsy with Ann. God did save that marriage; He did. But the betrayal, and the hurt, and the journey—He did not save it in a day or a month.
Ann: A journey to healing takes quite awhile.
Bob: I’ve talked to people, who have been the betrayers/who have violated the trust. Even when they’re repentant and contrite, and they want to rebuild, there’s still this question of: “How long does it take to rebuild?” I said, “There’s no answer to that. It takes as long as it takes”; but it takes consistent behavior over time.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve got a friend, who’s back with us on FamilyLife Today. Phil Waldrep joins us. Phil, welcome back.
Phil: Well, thank you! I am so excited to be back here.
Bob: I have to tell you—I first heard a message from Phil—we were just talking about this—I don’t know how many years ago—a message that you did on prodigals that is probably the message that I’ve referred people to—certainly, on that subject—there’s no message that I’ve said, “You’ve got to listen to this.” In fact, it’s on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; you can go listen to it.
Dave: You’ve got me wanting to listen to it.
Ann: I’m going to go read the book, Reaching Your Prodigal.
Bob: It’s great content on prodigals. You’ve been here before; we’ve interviewed you on this.
You’ve just written a book on this subject of betrayal and trust. It’s called Beyond Betrayal: Overcome Past Hurts and Begin to Trust Again. This came out of an experience, not in your marriage or family, but in a business situation/a ministry situation, where you experienced significant betrayal.
Phil: It did; I remember the day well. You’re going through life, and everything’s wonderful. Our ministry was clicking along. I can remember walking out of the house and thinking, “Lord, You’ve blessed us so much. It just cannot get better than this.” I told my secretary that day, “This is a catch-up day.” By that I mean, “This is a day I don’t want any appointments; I don’t want to talk to anybody. I just want to catch up on everything,”—which to her meant—“Be my guardian; it really needs to be an important phone call.”
So when she buzzed my office and she said, “Uhhhh, there are two men here to talk to you, and they need to see you,” I immediately said, “I don’t have time.” She said, “No, I think you need to talk to these two men.” After trying to put it off, I said, “Are these ministry friends?” She’s like, “No; I don’t know who they are, but they have badges.” I [said], “Okay; this is a joke; right?” She’s like, “No; and they’re wearing suits.”
Phil: I walked out; and these two men said, “We need to talk to you”; walked into my office. I remember the first thing that caught my attention was they closed the door; I didn’t close the door.
Phil: Yes; I sat down. They identified themselves from two different federal agencies and they said, “We’ve got to talk to you.” When people come to your office like that, I’m thinking, “Maybe they’re having personal problems.” And I realized real quickly, “No; that is not why they’re there.”
They looked at me; and the first thing they did was, “We have to swear you to absolute secrecy.” I’m like, “Well, you know, ministry confidentiality.” They said, “No, no, no. We don’t mean just confidentiality. You need to understand what you’re about to learn involves a major investigation. If you even hint to someone who we are or that we came by here, lives could be lost.” [Gasps]
Dave: —including your wife; right?
Phil: —including my own life. I’m like, “Okay; you have my attention. I really don’t want to participate.” Basically, they said, “You must.” What they shared with me over the next few minutes was they were investigating a money laundering investigation. Just to be real quick—for people who aren’t familiar with that—that’s where people, who are involved in illegal activity; namely, drugs will take money, and they will mix it with good things. They mix it with legitimate businesses or organizations. This idea is: “When they get on the trail of the money, they can’t trace it.”
I’m sitting there, and I said, “Okay.” They said, “We think that you have an employee who may be involved in this.” I was just in shock; because I’m like, “We have wonderful employees. They all love God; they’re all involved in church.” They said, “We need your help.”
Bob: Were they thinking that this employee was running money through your ministry?
Phil: They, I think, at one point, did. By the time they came to see me, I think they had eliminated that; it involved, potentially, some family members.
Ann: And Phil, was this a friend of yours that they were referring to?
Phil: Oh, absolutely; somebody that I had known for years that had been involved in launching our ministry. The one person that I would have said—I’m an only child, so I don’t have any brothers or sisters—the one person I would have said was the closest thing to an earthly brother I’ve ever had, so I immediately defended him: “That’s illogical; it’s not true.” They said, “Well, you can help us prove that it’s untrue.”
I don’t want to imply/I was not, in any way, an informant or anything like that. They just needed to know some basic things. And there were some questions they needed regarding some future travel plans that I needed to help them with. I was willing to do that, but I couldn’t tell my wife; I couldn’t tell anyone else. In fact, when they left, they even gave me the cover: I was to tell [others] that they were trying to help someone at a nearby place/near us, in Huntsville, Alabama, where NASA is. They were trying to get a higher clearance, and they were there talking to me about their clearance.
Bob: Yes; because your secretary’s going to come back to you and say, “Who were those guys? What were they up to?”
Phil: Yes, sure; absolutely.
Bob: Here you are in ministry, and you’ve got a cover story.
Phil: —which is a lie; right?
Bob: I mean, you’re in a tough spot. You’re trying to work with the government. It was a tough place for you to be.
Phil: And this went on for three or four months.
Ann: What were you feeling in the midst of this?
Phil: I was scared; because I think anytime someone draws a question mark over someone, you immediately wonder, “Is there any truth to this?” Fortunately, three months later, I met with them under some very unusual circumstances—much of that I still can’t tell; they have their creative ways of communicating with you—because they knew someone might be watching me, which is a scary thought. I had to tell my wife, “This is one time you have to trust me; there’s something going on.” Looking back, it’s almost like a movie.
Three months later, one of the gentlemen came to see me; and he said, “I come to bring you good news and bad news. The good news is—your employee’s not involved. I think it’s important to know he was not involved in any illegal activity, nor was anyone in his family involved; they’re completely clear. Thank you for your help.” I said, “I’m so glad; it’s exactly what I expected.”
I remember as he was leaving, he turned around, “But as a fellow believer, I need to tell you: you have an employee who is not what you think he is—nothing illegal—but he is not what you think he is.”
Ann: Well, that’s a bomb drop, right there.
Phil: It is because he wasn’t able to tell me what he knew for several reasons, but he told me where to go look. When I went to look at phone records—this is in the days when we didn’t have cell phones; you had to have a long-distance carrier and so on—the bills. I began to realize he was having four-, five-, six-hour long-distance conversations with people. There was no reason for that at three in the morning.
When I began to investigate, and I called, I realized he had a very serious issue in his life. I gathered all the proof because, you know, when someone’s betraying you, you don’t want to initially admit it. Admitting a betrayal means I have got to deal with it. A lot of times, when there’s someone—you know, you see all the signs of someone maybe being unfaithful in marriage—you kind of turn your head because: “If it’s true, I have to deal with it,”—if it’s my friend, if it’s my spouse, or whoever.
Dave: You want to believe the best, maybe even put your head in the sand; right?
Phil: Sure; because you don’t want to deal with the pain. When it became very obvious, my initial response was—I sat down/confronted him; and he was very broken/very repentant: “I’ve got an issue. I need help.” At that point, I’m like, “Great; we’ll work through this. I’ll get you counseling.” And we did.
Then, a few months later, I learned he was missing counseling appointments; there was something always coming up. I found, through his wife, that he had returned to the behavior. Then, I had to have the hard conversation and say, “You can’t be involved in ministry here.” He chose to resign. I’m glad he did, because that probably made it a little easier for me.
But then, there was a bit of a campaign to try to deny what was true, and trying to deal with his wife, and going through that betrayal. But for me, it was the pain of: “How could I trust someone?” Any time there’s a betrayal—you’ve got an unfaithful spouse?—the first thing that happens is you think: “How could I be so stupid? Why didn’t I see the signs?” Suddenly, your precious couldn’t-get-better-than-this world is shattered. And when your world is shattered, now you have all of these broken pieces. You don’t know who to trust; because: “Wait a minute. If I can’t trust him, can I trust the other people in my ministry? If I can’t trust him, can I trust the people at church?” All of a sudden, you don’t trust anybody.
That’s where I found my place. I have to tell you—it took me nearly 20 years to really get to a place, not of forgiving, but where I could say my heart is healed from that experience.
Phil: It puts a question mark on every relationship you have; and all of a sudden, people are guilty until they prove their innocence. That affects every relationship you have.
That’s where I was; so I sat down and started—through my own experience, and through Scripture, and through friends—to learn: “You know what? You can get beyond betrayal. You can trust again. The good news is—the sun shines again, and life can be good again.”
Dave: But you’re saying 20 years!!—
Phil: Twenty years.
Dave: —the sun shines again.
I’m thinking of somebody/thinking, “Okay; this is a really good friend for you. If this is my spouse, is it 30 years?—40 years?” I know every journey’s different, but 20 years—it’s a long time.
Phil: I do believe this. I think, in a marriage situation in particular, a lot of it depends on the betrayer: if the betrayer is truly repentant/truly broken and is willing to be an open book.
Many times, when someone is the betrayer, the first thing they say, especially in a marriage, is, “You just need to trust me and get over it.” I look at people and say, “That’s easy for you to say; you were the betrayer.”
For me, I kept trying to do the big Christian thing; I kept trying to say, “I’ve forgiven him. I’m over it. I said I have forgiven him, and I’m over it.” Well, I wasn’t over it; and in reality, I really hadn’t forgiven him. There were a lot of financial ramifications. When something is shattered, it’s often the innocent that has to pick up the pieces. For me, I kept picking up those pieces. I was so angry, because I wanted him to be repentant; I wanted him to acknowledge it.
Bob: Do I remember this right? When you went to him the first time and laid out the evidence, he seemed to repent—he confessed; he acknowledged. You thought, like we all do, we want redemption; we want somebody to be healed from that.
Dave: —and you want to give grace.
Bob: Right. You thought, “Oh, this is good,” and felt like, for a while, maybe the corner had been turned, only to find that that was false repentance. There’s a difference between worldly sorrow: “I was caught,” “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry,”—and godly sorrow, where you see the fruit of repentance. You saw worldly sorrow from your friend and co-worker, but he was still harboring the behaviors.
Phil: Looking back, I think he feared the consequences: “I’ve been caught.” Many times, those who have been involved in ministry at the local jail, will tell you that the person who’s a career criminal/ who’s going to be in there a long time is much easier to deal with than the guy, who got brought in last night for DUI. The guy with DUI: “I’m going to repent. Man, go talk to my wife.” They’re worried more about the consequences.
Looking back, I think he was trying to control the consequences of his behavior rather than being genuinely repentant. When you are genuinely repentant, you are open to accountability; you’re open to say, “Whatever it takes, I’m willing; I’m ready; and I’m able.” For me, I did not receive that from him; so I had to deal with it in more serious ways. But the big thing was—I kept trying to heal him when I needed to heal myself.
Ann: What do you mean by that?
Phil: Meaning—we always want the betrayer to change: “You need to do this, and this, and this.” I had to realize, before I could deal with that, God had to bring a healing in my own heart—that I had to walk through what it meant to forgive; because much of what I had heard about forgiveness, I found not to be the case.
“What does forgiveness look like?” and “Then, how do I rebuild my world?” One of the things that really bothered me was he had shattered my dream and my vision. You know, you’re going through life/you know, everybody lives—if you’re in ministry, you have this vision of: “This is what we’re going to do.” I see it in church life; and all of a sudden, a staff member that everyone loves has been unfaithful, or you have a child abuse situation in the church—make out whatever list you want. When people go through those experiences, it sets you back; it sets a church back. It sets you back personally; it sets you back financially. When your world is shattered and you’re set back, then you get kind of bitter; because you’ve got to pick up all these pieces, and sometimes you don’t get to fulfill the vision.
I know people who have gone through an unfaithful spouse, and the spouse did not want reconciliation. Now, all of a sudden, you’re a single mom/you’re a single dad. This perfect world of: “Happy mom and dad, and two great kids, and the condo on the beach,” is suddenly shattered. Your security is gone.
For me, I knew that was gone. But first, before I could deal with that, I had to deal with the healing in my own heart.
Dave: When did you realize you needed to deal with your own healing? Initially, reading your book, it wasn’t the next week.
In my own life, a few years ago, a guy betrayed me on our staff at our church. I was the guy like, “Okay; I’ve dealt with it. I confronted him. He lied to me…” Months later, I’m like, “I’m good. I think I’m good.” Then, his name came up in a conversation, and I just exploded. My son looked at me and said, “Dude! What was that?” I said, “Whoa! I haven’t healed. I haven’t even started the process!” It was like a warning light on the dashboard of my soul, going, “Dude, you’ve got to look at this.” When did that happen for you?
Phil: You know, it’s interesting—what you said—two things right there I can identify with. Number one, it was my daughter who said to me, “Dad, you need to deal with this.”
Ann: Do you think that’s typical?—that other people see it in us before we even realize it?
Phil: Oh, definitely. Here’s one of the ways you can always tell: if I’m at a dinner conversation, and someone brings up a betrayal in their life—we don’t have to be discussing the book—but they just bring it up. Say something nice about the betrayer:
“My husband—he was unfaithful to me, and I just can’t believe he did that to me.”
You say, “He was one of the best singers I’ve ever heard,”—say something positive about the betrayer—watch their reaction. If they have to go into character assassination, they haven’t dealt with it.
When you get to the point, where you’ve really forgiven someone—you may not trust them; that’s totally different—but forgiveness means, “I really do want God’s best for you.” When God starts blessing the person who betrayed you, and you can legitimately rejoice in it, now you’ve worked through it. But you don’t get there in a week; you don’t get there in a year. For me, it took 20 years; I know people—it’s taken longer. I think it’s when you can actually come to the place—doesn’t mean hire them again; doesn’t mean you have to remarry them—I mean, with all of those issues—but you come to that place, where if God chooses to bless them, I’m not going to be angry at God.
Bob: You map out a process that you went through and that others can go through in your book, Beyond Betrayal. We want to take our listeners into that process this week. I am curious how you thought of God in the midst of this. He could have alerted you, protected you, warned you; and yet, He allowed this to be part of the story that He took you on. How’d you make sense of that?
Phil: You know, I have to tell you, that was one of the hardest things that I went through because, for me: “God, why did You have to use someone from the federal government to make me aware of what was going on?” The Lord said, “I did use them to make you aware.” I think part of it was God’s timing. To understand that, in the midst of my pain, God wanted to teach me something. God certainly was not behind his behavior—I don’t want to imply that—but God wanted to teach me something.
I really believe that people, who have been through deep betrayal, have an opportunity to walk through something that our Savior walked through—that until you are betrayed, you’ll never understand. It helps you to love people and to be Christ-like. I really did/I was angry at God—not publicly—because we learn the certain [words] we’re supposed to say. But I was probably angry at God: “God, how could You give me a vision?—he’d be a part of it and then it shattered.”
I went through that, and what I found is that there was nothing I told God that He didn’t already know. I was very honest. To come through that—and going back, and learning, and spending time understanding from Genesis to the Revelation—I came to the point, with my personal walk with the Lord, the Lord says, “Now, I can teach you something through this.”
Bob: I’m guessing just about every listener, as we’ve had this conversation, has had a name or names that have come to mind—
Bob: —because it’s the reality of the human experience and living in a fallen world. Betrayal is a part of relationships. The potential is always there; the reality is occasionally there. When it happens, it’s devastating, whether it’s in a marriage and family, or a work relationship, or an old friend—whatever it is. That loss of trust and betrayal is so wounding to our soul.
Dave: It is deep. That’s why names are coming to people’s minds/that came to mine. It hurts. It isn’t superficial; it’s down in the soul. I was thinking, Bob, when you were saying that: “How many people thought of my name?—that I’ve hurt them?” We always think, “I haven’t hurt anybody like I’ve been hurt.” Yet, there are probably people that have our names coming up that have had to forgive us.
Ann: Why did you have to say that? [Laughter]
Dave: I’m not talking about you!
Ann: It’s true, though. When you said that, oh, you’re absolutely right; I have hurt people—which makes me go to the next step: “Do I need to go to someone and ask for forgiveness?”
Bob: Phil’s book, as I said, gives us a strategy/a path to walk on—if we have been betrayed/if trust has been violated—and we find ourselves in that place of pain. We want to make your book available this week to any of our listeners who may be in this spot themselves, or you may know someone who has been betrayed recently. Get a copy of Phil’s book, Beyond Betrayal: Overcome Past Hurts and Begin to Trust Again. It’s our gift to you this week when you make a donation to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today.
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Tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about what it looks like to forgive and what it looks like to trust again after betrayal, whether it’s in a marriage relationship or any kind of betrayal you’ve experienced. Phil Waldrep will join us again tomorrow. I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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