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Compassion and Betrayal

We all know that those closest to us are the ones that can hurt us. The members of our family or our spouse are those with whom we are most vulnerable and therefore most exposed to being disappointed. When we are vulnerable we open ourselves by letting down our guard and allowing those who love us to be close. What our family or loved ones say and do to or about us has an impact on us; they have the power to affect us. Being hurt by a loved one is like a dog lying on its back, wagging its tail anticipating its belly being rubbed or scratched and instead it gets picked up by its paws and thrown across the room. The dog was calmly and restfully expecting love and affection and instead is assaulted. Sometimes we treat the ones we love just like that. We cause one another to suffer.

One of the definitions of betrayal is to cause suffering. Betraying someone is to turn someone over to suffering. Contrast that with the definition of compassion. It means to suffer with someone. If we cause someone we love to suffer by how we treat them then we are betraying them. If we enter into someone's suffering then we are being compassionate with them. In families, marriages and other intimate relationships we often find ourselves betraying in one context and offering compassion in another. Our betrayer can also become our source of compassion and vice-versa. This is a characteristic that make relationships so difficult and confusing. It will take some effort of reassurance before the dog you threw across the room will let you scratch his belly again. The only way to do this is to offer compassion, to enter into and own the suffering you caused.

I have often thought about Judas and why he hung himself. He betrayed Jesus turning him over to suffering. The great paradox is that Judas' betrayal brings salvation to those who believe in Jesus. Jesus' death on the cross is God's awesome demonstration of compassion. According to the Bible, he suffered with and for us in order that we might be set free from sin. Our betrayal of Jesus is not too different from Judas' betrayal. We too have turned Him over to suffering because of our sin. But when we receive salvation from the Cross we participate in the compassion of Jesus. We believe that He loves us no matter what we have done. Judas' suicide is a commentary on what happens when we believe compassion is not available for us. If we believe like Judas that we must bear our suffering alone there is no place for suffering to go and it destroys us.

In our intimate relationships we need to understand this relationship between betrayal and compassion. We need to be able to enter into one another's suffering even if we are the cause of that suffering. Being compassionate with one another, being willing to suffer with each other opens up the door to freedom from suffering. Otherwise it will destroy the relationship; just ask the dog.

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