The Leader and Emotion: Betrayal

Betrayal is a common experience in leadership which stirs up many emotions. Betrayal happens when a person close to us violates our trust. Betrayal itself is an action, not an emotion. But it often catches a leader by surprise and results in many different emotions such as anger, hurt, bewilderment, etc.

A church member may suddenly leave, taking some of your members to begin a new church. A business partner may take some of your customers and begin a rival business. A spouse may unexpectedly walk away from a marriage relationship. A close friend may reveal to someone else a private matter you shared in confidence. You find out that someone close to you has been lying. The pain from these kinds of betrayal feels like someone stabbed us in the back so ‘backstabbing’ is another word we use for betrayal.

David, like many leaders, experienced betrayal by a friend. We can examine only a portion of what he expressed in Psalm 55, 12 “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers. 15 Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them. 16 As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. 18 He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me” (Psalm 55:12-18).

David’s experience shows all servant leaders how to deal with the inevitable times of betrayal.

Betrayal should be recognized. David pours out his heart to God and says that if the insults had come from an enemy he could have hidden it. But “…it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.” David recognized the emotions which were stirred up by this betrayal. He was angry, fearful, and he wanted revenge.

Many leaders who experience betrayal know they are in pain but don’t stop to identify what they are feeling. But David helps servant leaders to recognize betrayal and to name the emotions that come with the pain.

Betrayal should be revealed. David didn’t pretend that he was not in pain, he revealed his emotion first to God and now to all of us. He says, 16 “As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” By writing these words, David revealed the pain of his betrayal and was able to process his reaction with God.

Too many leaders seek to bury the pain of betrayal by working harder or preaching louder. Or they reveal their pain in an angry outburst of harsh words which they later regret. Servant leaders, like David, expose the pain of their betrayal to God and ask Him for grace to walk through it.

Betrayal should be restrained. The way we respond to betrayal shapes our leadership. David declares at the end of this passage, 18 “He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.” He realized that God “rescues me unharmed” and called him to continue in his role as a leader. David learned to forgive and release the pain so that he could continue leading well.

Servant leaders learn from David to restrain betrayal so that it does not keep them from leading like Jesus. With God’s grace they allow the pain of betrayal to make them better instead of bitter.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

 

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read all of Psalm 55. What more does this teach me about betrayal?
  • Identify a time in the past when you experienced betrayal and then reflect on that experience by answering the following questions:
    • What was the situation in which I was betrayed?
    • What emotions did it stir in me?
    • Was I aware, at that time, of these emotions?
    • Did I appropriately reveal my emotions?
    • How did I respond to the person(s) who betrayed me and how did that impact my leadership?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

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