Caution: Venting ahead.
For over 8 years now I have had the good fortune of working with a group of women who became so much more than a group of co-workers. At one point I actually gave our team of professionals a nickname; the Wonder Team. There wasn’t anything we could not tackle and find solutions for. We worked together better than anybody else I knew. The basis for this “efficiency” was mutual trust and respect. Or at least that’s how I have always seen it. After recent events I am wondering now if it worked rather because I was always so willing to believe –true or not – that I was indeed trusted and respected within the team. Outside work we became good friends. We were there for each other when our personal and professional life hit the proverbial bumps on the road and we were there to celebrate each others’ successes.
Today we are a wreck, a pile of disconnected bones trying to stand up on their own and failing miserably. At the heart of it all there is betrayal; that insidious feeling of a knife thrust deeply and purposively into the tender flesh of your back. At the National Book Festival yesterday, author Michael Buckley referred to betrayal while answering a young woman’s question about one of his characters. He said that betrayal hurts more than any other pain because it comes from someone you care about. Those words rang so very true to me; I have been betrayed by someone I considered a very good friend.
When we talk of betrayal we normally think of an action taken against someone. We forget that betrayal also happens when someone uses inaction as a weapon. When I was a pre-teen a friend of mine betrayed me while standing by, watching me being bullied by people she was friends with. She didn’t do the bullying but she stood by and said nothing. This time a dear friend of mine thought it perfectly alright to ostracize me and give me no explanation of any kind. Others followed her cue and I was suddenly the unwilling (and clueless) star in a high school drama titled “The Pariah”. Everything I do or say is now being second guessed by people who have no business doing so. My great team is starting to look a lot like Jaws coming after me while I’m trying to swim to shore without much success. At least the shark was doing what a shark does. There was no thought or ethics involved. My personal “sharks” are doing it for reasons totally unknown to me while turning my job –which I always loved – into a living hell.
Mother Teresa, my ultimate hero and idol, is credited to have written a now famous poem called “Do It Anyway”. I came across this poem during a yoga class and I remember thinking, “This is my philosophy of life. Somebody put this into actual words.” Don’t get me wrong; just because I try to live by these guidelines does not mean I am always successful. Of course not. I am human after all and messing up is one of the prerequisites for membership in the species. But this is what I strive for, the design for my behavior, the goal for all my actions. I am often thought of as weak because I turn the other cheek easily. I am often thought to be a sucker because I am a believer in second chances and I like giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. I would never betray a friend. I am fiercely loyal (probably too loyal for my own good) and I would first hurt myself rather than hurt others. So, you can imagine my emotional turmoil of suddenly, and for no reason known to me, being the target for friends’ disdain and anger.
Betrayal is an awful feeling. When someone betrays you, you question yourself; did I do something wrong? How could I be so stupid? You start thinking that there must be something wrong with you that you never once suspected this could happen. You feel guilty that you are angry about it because “what if this is my fault”? It’s a feeling I do not wish on anyone. There is no going back from betrayal but it is possible to at least mend some bridges if everyone is willing. This is what I hope. But I will not hold my breath…
Sculpture by Erin Michael Wilson @deviantart