Wednesday, 6 May 2015


“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” - E.M. Forster

Betrayal: A word for Thursday that we all have encountered and which, for some of us at least, has marked our life, changed it in some dramatic way.

betray |biˈtrā| verb [ trans. ]
be disloyal to: His friends were shocked when he betrayed them.
• be disloyal to (one’s country, organisation, or ideology) by acting in the interests of an enemy: He could betray his country for love of money.
• treacherously inform an enemy of the existence or location of (a person or organisation): This group was betrayed by an informer.
• treacherously reveal (secrets or information): Many of those employed by diplomats betrayed secrets and sold classified documents.
• figurative - reveal the presence of; be evidence of: She drew a deep breath that betrayed her indignation.

betrayal |-əl| noun
betrayer |bəˌtreɪər| noun
ORIGIN Middle English : from be- [thoroughly] + obsolete tray [betray,] from Old French trair, based on Latin tradere ‘hand over.’ Compare with traitor.

“All love the act of treason, but none the traitor love.” Plutarch remarks, and this is mostly true as people would think nothing of learning what a traitor divulges, but they condemn and despise the person that does this. To have one’s confidences betrayed, to be the victim of a betrayer of one’s secrets, the recipient of a friend’s disloyalty is one of the most miserable and distressing feelings one can feel. The closer the person is who has betrayed us, the greater the pain and anguish we experience when the betrayal is discovered.

A colleague at work who betrays us, causes perhaps the least distress as in many workplaces people have been used to a culture of competition and think nothing of stepping on others in order to advance or achieve their personal goals.

A relative who has stabbed us in the back generates a feeling of great pain, especially as we would expect love, support and comfort from members of our own family. However, many families are divided for a number of reasons, and betrayal in these situations is not uncommon.

If a person whom we have considered a friend betrays us, we feel a void within our soul where before he or she was ensconced. This is because we choose our friends and one of the reasons we befriend people is because we expect from them support and loyalty, the same that we are willing to offer in return.

Perhaps the greatest betrayal comes when we recognise in the betrayer the face of our partner. One’s wife or husband who betrays a spouse can deal the deepest wounds and generate the most heartache.

What makes someone betray another person? It would depend on the relationship between the two parties: Betrayer and betrayed.  Are we looking at friendships that have been contracted (on one side at least!) superficially? Is envy to be found lurking underneath these relationships? Is it a feeling of disgruntlement, rancour, personal gain that motivates the act of betrayal? In families betrayal often is caused by a wish for personal financial gain. Matters of inheritance can divide families and cause unbridgeable rifts. In marriages the betrayal by an unfaithful partner is the most common cause for the relationship to break down irretrievably.

In all cases, the feelings of anger, grief and loss experienced by the one who is betrayed are universal and may haunt that person for a long time. At the same time, they may be powerful stimuli for change. Changes in character are difficult to make, but changes in behaviour are more likely to be achieved. It certainly has changed me. I think that the experience has made me a stronger person, a wiser one, one who is more likely to rely more on logic than emotions as stimuli for actions. Betrayal causes the survivors to develop a harder outer shell in order to protect their inner vulnerability. I still have my soft centre, it’s just tougher to get at, now.

Have you been betrayed by a colleague, relative, friend, or partner? Did it change you?
(Image is “Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss”, from the illuminated book “Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany”, produced between 1503 and 1508).

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