The Act of Betrayal

Level of hell for betrayers | treachery

Betrayal is defined as a “violation of a person’s trust or confidence, of a moral standard…backstabbing, disloyalty, double-cross, faithlessness, falseness, falsity, infidelity, perfidy, sellout, treachery, two-timing, unfaithfulness” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). This imagery conjures up impressions that are caustic, abrasive and vile. It may be no wonder that Dante described the lowest, deepest level of hell as one populated by “betrayers of special relationships frozen in a lake of ice” (The Circles of Hell, Dante inferno, 2021). Interestingly, Satan is the main figure representing those relegated to this realm of hell along with Cassius, Brutus and Judas Iscariot. Treachery in Dante’s mind was equivalent with the imagery that represented evil itself.

When one is betrayed, they feel eviscerated, blind-sided, unfairly if not forewarned of attack. Typically there is a power element to the relationship. This power position can be created by the act itself as in an emotional relationship, but also can be created from authority or leadership, control or advantage as in business and even familial relationships. Betrayal most often comes without warning. The surprise element adds a dimension to the act as it punctuates the fact that not only has trust or faith been obliterated, but that breach was not anticipated. Subsequently, one of the first things one may do is to self-critique how and why we were vulnerable in the first place. We begin the process of examining our past actions, decisions and choices, trying to find out the flaws that another saw and acted upon. Inevitably, we decide where fault may be most comfortably placed.

What are the remnants one is left with after a betrayal? This is an important question that begins to align the betrayed with a path of personal acknowledgment and growth. Understanding the motivations of the betrayer is vital in determining how one will move forward. Very often, betrayal results in drastic changes of life. These changes can be in the forms of many things such as income, marriage, housing, family dynamics etc. In order to move ahead and adapt to the forced changes one may experience, it may be helpful to truly understand why the betrayal took place. It may not be the easy, but by seeing the aggressor’s viewpoint from a sympathetic view may allow one to realize or acknowledge events or situations that caused or resulted in the betrayal. This may alleviate blame to a certain extent and dullen the impact of the betrayal, allowing for an easier road to healing. If there is a possiblity of mending the relationship, then this analysis is vital so that both parties can move ahead with the understanding of the causal event so that trust and faith can be built upon.

While affable reconciliation is optimal as it becomes the basis of rebuilding the relationship, it is sometimes not possible. There are times that evil reminds us that it does exist. When betrayal for the purpose of gain without regard of the pain and suffering it may cause as a result occurs, then a reconciliation may not be possible. Some may say that you should forgive for the sake of forgiveness, however, when evil intentionally creates harm and discord, and knowingly does so, then there can be little or no assurance that such an action would not occur again given certain justifying circumstances or opportunities. Additionally, if malice was the predecessor of the betrayal, then it would be difficult if not impossible to rebuild the fracture unless there was penitence, recompense and goodwill. Goodwill may be further explained as a reason for the betrayed to open up and begin to become vulnerable again. This vulnerability is characteristic of mutual relationship, evil however, casts a shadow on good intent.

The big question is, what should or does one do when they are betrayed? Is there guidance or steps that minimize the resulting wounds? There are many experts that can offer specified guidance for working through a betrayal. Understanding and viewing the events objectively can be a healthy start in evaluating what happened, why it happened and what might be courses of addressing the issue. Taking personal inventory of attributes, shortcomings and potential are also important to measure and decide on better courses of action and effort. While that may sound aloof, the evaluation of self-worth is vitally important. It may be easy to minimize one’s value in light of a betrayal. It is precisely at this time that a headstrong approach to well-being, self-betterment or change of environment for positive outcome can positively enhance not only recovery, but the self-valuing we all go through. Striving for a better place, better view, enhanced quality are all outcomes that are possible through this metamorphic process. If one perceives themselves as spiraling in a negative fashion…get help by any means that would include professional and competent counseling.

Betrayal exposes raw nerves, emotions and leaves us vulnerable. Using this time to rebuild, re-tool, revamp our personas, abilities and presentations are positive outcomes that are possible. Each day is new, holding any possibility. Turning the corner reveals a new landscape that is hidden unless we venture outdoors and take that extra action…outside of ourselves and comforts.


Definition of betrayal. (n.d.). Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s most-trusted online dictionary.

The circles of Hell| Dante inferno. (n.d.).

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