NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Acts of betrayal have the power to violate our sense of trust, dismantle our faith in God, and uproot life as we know it. Yet victims of even the worst betrayal can experience healing and discover a life of health and wholeness through Christ.
That’s according to Phil Waldrep, author and founder of Phil Waldrep Ministries.
“When people go through betrayal, one of the things that happens is their self-worth is shattered,” he said. “They feel hopeless, that this person did not value their relationship, friendship, or marriage, that the betrayer was able to do whatever they did without thinking about how it would have hurt them. They feel like their life is in a million pieces.”
“If you let God pick up the pieces and put them back together, His way and with His Word, healing is possible. It may take some time, but the other side is more beautiful than you could’ve imagined."
The popular pastor and author speaks from experience. During a sit-down interview with The Christian Post, he shared how two decades ago, law enforcement officers surprised him at his office. Though the ministry was not its target, the investigation brought to light an employee’s unsavory activities, leaving Waldrep with no choice but confrontation.
“This was one of my closest friends, a guy I loved like a brother,” he recalled. “He was the one guy I would have said would be with me through thick and thin. But I found out he was doing a lot of very serious, immoral, unethical, although technically not illegal, behavior. I was shell shocked because he was riding on the back of the ministry to do a lot of that.”
After the initial confrontation, the employee was “broken, repentant, and acknowledged he had a problem,” Waldrep said. “So I decided to extend grace.”
Just a few months later, the man’s wife called Waldrep and informed him her husband had resumed his undesirable activities. Once again, the pastor confronted his friend. But this time, his reaction was different.
“He was defiant and unkind,” Waldrep said. “I was gracious, I think, to let him resign before I had to do anything. But when I look back, it left me emotionally and spiritually in shambles."
"Oftentimes, in a deep betrayal, the person who got betrayed is the one who is left picking up the pieces. The betrayer, many times, walks away unscathed.”
When a person is betrayed, several things happen: “First, you're going to be in a state of denial and shock,” he explained. “Once reality sets in, you're going to get angry. And if you don't get angry, it's not really a betrayal."
"Now, anger in itself is not a bad thing. However, we can let anger turn into bitterness if we’re not careful and that can turn into a desire for revenge. Once you realize that, you also have to realize it's going to take time to get over this. Betrayal is like an injury. It’s going to take time to heal.”
For the next several years, Waldrep walked through the feelings of betrayal in search of hope and healing. Through biblical guidance and prayer, he discovered solutions to overcome his pain and resentment.
He shares his experiences — both personal and pastoral — in his new book, Beyond Betrayal, which features a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Ann Voskamp. In it, he offers clear, biblical counsel to those burned by betrayal and uses the example of Jesus to identify strategies that activate freedom and forgiveness.
“You’ve got to understand your emotions, give yourself time to heal, and then get prepared for what forgiveness means,” he said. “Forgiveness means I am going to give up my right to punish you for what you did to me in the past and choose to forgive you, over and over again. Lift up the burden and give it to God in prayer. When we leave our conflicts in God’s hands, we become stronger, wiser, and deeper.”
Waldrep also offered advice to those who have betrayed someone they love, advising them to first “be totally transparent” and “repentant” about their behavior.
“Don’t justify your actions,” he said. “David (in the Old Testament) dealt with his adultery by saying, ‘I have sinned, there's no excuse for it.’ And then the second thing is, if you want to restore the relationship, you're going to have to be an open book for scrutiny and allow people to speak into your life because trust has to be restored.”
“When there has been unfaithfulness in a marriage, for example, you need to say to your spouse: ‘I am an open book. You are welcome to track my phone and ask me anything.’ Don’t be defensive. People will say, ‘I don’t want to live in that kind of punishment.’ It's not punishment because if you will give that kind of openness to your spouse, with time, trust is restored, and you can actually have a better marriage than before.”
Betrayal comes in many forms, from unfaithfulness in a marriage to a parent abandoning their child. And the church, Waldrep said, isn’t immune to betrayal. He revealed that many people he counsels have been betrayed by their pastor, ministry leader, or someone in their church.
“The problem I find in the Christian world is we tend to think that because someone says, ‘I'm a believer, I'm a Christian,’ that we feel guilty if we don't give them instant trust," he said. "A big reason we see horrible betrayal in churches, where there's been child abuse, for example, is because we were too trusting. We didn't do background checks. And when we saw things, we didn't speak up.”
According to Waldrep, a sign of a trustworthy individual is one who “does not mind scrutiny.”
“An honorable person will say, ‘I’m open to a background check. I have nothing to hide,’” he said. “We need to have wisdom and discernment. Now remember, Jesus had 12 apostles and one of them betrayed Him, and the others mentally ran off. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how discerning we are, betrayers can make inroads in our lives.”
Churches, the pastor stressed, need to have “guidelines” in place to prevent betrayals and abuses from happening.
“If we want to have credibility with the world, these guidelines are absolutely necessary,” he said. “We have got to be willing to put in those guidelines and accountability and watchdog groups in place to hold us accountable.”
“The wisdom is don't be too quick to trust, but at the same time, if you've been betrayed, don't withhold trust. Don't allow one person to destroy your future relationships.”
Waldrep told CP he prays his book will show readers how to get through betrayal without becoming bitter and broken, and to rest in the fact that through Christ, even the deepest wounds can be healed.
“God specializes in brokenness,” he said. “Betrayal doesn't have to define you, and betrayal should not destroy you. Through His life and death, Jesus demonstrated that there's a resurrection after the crucifixion.”