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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reconciling an Uncommon Betrayal

Ted and Gayle Haggard’s to-hell-and-back story[1] highlights a silent enigma many relationships experience.

Betrayals are common in life, but we don’t know about them until we see their signs; those being less common. Beyond infidelity, every human being in a relationship both betrays and is betrayed. It’s our nature to transgress, even minimally.

But what makes it more of a problem is when the thoughts-to-betray are acted upon.

These uncommon betrayals shatter marriages and lives alike — the ripples extending out concentrically seemingly without end.

Forgiveness When Trust is Vanquished

The Haggard family story is an inspiration — but not because of his repentance. It’s his wife’s response that’s the astounding thing.

They bring the Christian truth to bear, that if the offending party will repent, the offended are asked to forgive and allow the restitution to occur — and therefore restoration. But, just how difficult is that to achieve, especially when trust has been destroyed?

It seemed illogical to the world that Gayle Haggard could forgive. When the Haggard couple were interviewed on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Gayle was treated suspiciously for letting him back in. It seems nonsensical that such courage to forgive be lambasted in a ‘show cause’ way, though viewers needed to see why — it was, therefore, necessary as a case of Christian witness to God’s healing of a strewn relationship.

Recognition in Restoration

This uncommon betrayal turned to restoration was mainly due to the offended person’s grace to allow the offender another chance. Only a small fraction of the kudos goes to the successfully repentant offender, because they lied and deceived the offended in the first place.

But, still, they turned their hidden life around to transparency.

Restoration in of any of these sorts of issues in marriages requires massive amounts of attitudinal shift and work as a result. Both should be recognised for their particular differentiated efforts; the offended supported and not lambasted for forgiving and trusting again; the offender reassured for reforming and becoming more accountable for their behaviour.

Accountability and Forgiveness

It is easier to forgive someone if they’re agreeing to be held accountable for their actions, particularly around circumstances that will lead to further temptation. (A process of recovery — where applicable — is assumed.)

Indeed, if the offender will not offer to be held accountable, what right do they have to receive the forgiveness resplendent of a second chance?

Forgiveness and accountability are like two sides of the same relational coin. For marriages exposed to uncommon betrayals to survive past their dark hours, one must forgive but the other must be ruthlessly accountable. Trust can no longer be flaunted toward compromise.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Scene from Seattle Repertory Theatre’s, Betrayal – the play.

[1] Ted Haggard was an internationally esteemed evangelical church leader until, in 2006, his hidden life was exposed. He subsequently entered into a restorative process — centring on restoring himself through accountability and the love of God, and through restoring the trust of his wife, children and important others he had hurt (those who would forgive him). Gayle Haggard authored a book called, Why I Stayed. It is a great story of how betrayal doesn’t have to be the final word; restitution is — provided the guilty party will accede.

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