When Silence Is Not Golden

I’ve been weeding through several boxes of books this afternoon that I have stored under the stairway leading out of my apartment as I’ve managed to accumulate, once again in my life, too many books (it’s my only fetish–see definition #2–at least that I am aware of). They are weighing me down in more ways than one and it’s time to lighten the load (also in more ways than one).

While tossing them into three different piles (those to keep, those to get rid of, and those I’m not sure of yet), one book really caught my eye, and when I felt the need for a break, I brought it back upstairs (where it is considerably cooler then the stairwell area) and started reading it. Let’s just say there is not a person in the world who couldn’t relate to the topic which is a universal problem–overcoming betrayal and dealing with revenge.

Intrigued? I found the book on a discount table for only $3.97 last fall (and didn’t read it back then). You’ll recognize the author’s name right away–Dr. Laura Schlessinger (e.g., Dr. Laura). The title of the book caught my eye and the price made it hard to resist. It’s titled, Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land)(2011).

There is no better way to describe an initial and sudden betrayal then a shark attack. It’s brutal and it rips apart the life of the betrayed. At this point I want to quote several paragraphs from Dr. Laura’s book on pages 17-20 which describes the cast of characters in all betrayals (the betrayed, the betrayer, and the “others”):

No matter what type of person you are, there are really bad people out there who are ready to disrupt your world and well-being to a magnitude you never imagined. If you don’t know or believe that, you are dangerously naïve. If you believe that all the people out there are bad, you are dangerously paranoid. In between those two extremes is the truth of the sad nature of human beings with which we must all contend: betrayals are commonplace.

Betrayals are a breach of trust to a code or a person, including acts of dishonesty, lying, cheating, or stealing, double-crossing, deception, gossiping, duplicity, unfaithfulness, treason, leading astray, undermining, selling out . . . to name only a few faces of betrayal.

Every single human being on the face of the earth has been betrayed, back-stabbed, undermined, screwed over, or had their reputation attacked at least once in their lives. It’s a horrible experience, leaving you stunned, scared, sad, and very, very angry; and sometimes you become so cynical that it changes fundamental ways you think and react to people for a long, long time . . . .

When you are attacked, the first reaction is shock and disbelief. Next you try to shut down what is happening. When that doesn’t work, you strike back–which usually makes the situation worse. After a while you turn to others for solace, emotional support, and assistance in getting the betrayer to back off.

You probably found that most people were sympathetic at first, and then they didn’t want to hear about it anymore. You also probably found that not too many people would step up to the plate and speak up for you. Why? Because they don’t want a bull’s-eye pasted onto their backs next. People who betray are very powerful because “good people” are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives.

That means that adding insult (no valiant supporters rushing to your side) to injury (the betrayal) becomes your personal reality. Expecting rallying support from people becomes a huge disappointment added on to the original betrayal. In fact, the whole battalion taking a step back when you ask for volunteers to help you fight your battle can be a more devastating experience than the original betrayal. You end up being not only victimized but abandoned to fight your fight alone. It makes you wonder what friends are for. It makes you also doubt the legal and social systems that appear to lean way over backward to protect the perps (perpetrators).”

“People who betray are very powerful because ‘good people’ are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives . . .” Dr. Laura goes on to describe one of her own personal stories of betrayal and how a friend, who was among the betrayers but not one of them when the verbal attack took place, just stood in silence and said nothing in her defense. Nothing at all. And he didn’t even offer any support the next day after it happened, either. He remained silent.

Dr. Laura states these “stand by” folks will try (if they try at all) to defend their inaction by minimizing the betrayal. But she adds a big “however” to the equation when she states:

You [the betrayed] are usually wise enough–especially after a night of sleeping on it–to know the difference between a glitch in communication and a frank betrayal of your trust, faith, privacy, truth, status, reputation, relationship, and so forth (p. 23). 

She goes on to state on the same page regarding folks who betray others that it is the “everyday” people (and not just sociopaths) that should worry us the most as they are capable of hurting us in the most extraordinary ways. She states the following:

It is the everyday people, in service to their own egos, social status, financial opportunities, envy, and petty meanness, you have to worry about the most, as they are likely to pop up from the most unlikely places: school, church, family, neighborhood, circle of friends, work . . . anywhere you interact with people.

Do these people know that they are “bad” or have done something “bad”? I talk to people every day who have performed the most egregious acts of hurt and betrayal, yet deny that their behaviors weren’t righteous. Righteous! They try to give examples of what was done to them (usually innocuous) and convince me that their actions were necessary or justified. These “everyday” folks often just don’t think about the humanity of their victims at all, and in fact would deny that their targets even are victims” (pp. 23-24).

Einstein quote - those how watch and do nothingThere is not a person on the planet who hasn’t hurt someone by actions or attitudes and who felt justified in doing so or denied that it was done with any intent to hurt or inflict harm on that person. We are all guilty of that, folks. And while sociopaths absolutely don’t care what anyone else thinks and they like inflicting pain on others, “everyday” folks will justify their actions of betrayal or deny them to the nth degree. And when “everyday” people keep silence in the midst of the betrayal being done to others to protect themselves or keep out of the line of fire, it is just as Edmund Burke stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (quote source here). Silence is not golden.

While I haven’t read the rest of the book yet (and just in case you’re wondering), Dr. Laura never, ever encourages revenge. She does deal with the topic in a couple of chapters. Also, from a Biblical perspective, the apostle Paul states in Romans 12:17-21:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

My long term unemployment started from an act of betrayal that just keeps on giving after four plus years and sometimes my anger and frustration comes out (well, I spit and cuss in the confines of my apartment). But the truth is, all the spitting and cussing hasn’t changed my situation one bit. And yes, I pray daily about it (the entire situation). But this past week I ran across a portion of Scripture that really gave me pause for thought, and if you find yourself in a situation right now that seems insurmountable (like I do), maybe it will give you some encouragement, too. It’s found in I Peter 4:12-19:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

This long term trial with unemployment has been one of the hardest and is the longest trial I have ever had to endure, and after four plus years with no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard to understand why the Lord hasn’t allowed me to find employment yet or at least to be able to move on with my life. It’s in times like these that I have to remember that we don’t get to see or understand what is going on in the “big picture” of our circumstances except what we go through personally on a daily basis. And the big picture really is much bigger than just “us,” and it always is.

So as Peter advises in 1 Peter 5:6-11:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

And that is very good news . . . .

YouTube video: “He’s Got It All In Control” sung by B. J. Thomas:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here