The Soft Betrayal of Disconnection

Before I share with you something we read last night, I want to take time to share some personal notes. Tomorrow morning Sara is having major surgery. For reasons of privacy we’re not sharing the details of that surgery, but it is not life-threatening and it does not involve cancer. It will, however, take significant time for her to recover and I will be her caregiver during that time. So, if these pages are quiet for a few weeks, I hope you understand and keep Sara in your prayers as Father might lead you.

Two nights ago we were sitting on our floor putting together our last mail-out newsletter, “Living Loved”. From now on we’re only going to release it on-line. I had not been around to help with one for some time and as I put labels on I saw names of people that I had visited years ago, or had significant contact with during a certain period. Some I now haven’t heard from in some time and it warmed me with joy to recount so many wonderful people God has allowed me to know over the years, and it made me a bit sad that I’m not up to date on the lives of many of them. It was a bittersweet evening. And, for those who are anxious, we’ll be releasing this latest edition early next week.

But this is what I wanted to share today. Sara and I are currently reading together Dr. Brené Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly I’ve talked about her on some podcasts and previous posts. She’s a gifted communicator as you can see from her Ted Talks on
The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame. Our favorite of her books, however is still The Gifts of Imperfection, though this one is wildly popular. I’ll warn you, Dr. Brown writes and speaks to a secular audience. Though she is a sister in Christ, she does not offer spiritual solutions to the issues of shame she diagnoses so incisively. I think she gets that, it’s just not the audience she is writing to.

But her observations about the need of the human heart for real and deep connection and how shame sabotages our attempts to find it, are incredible. Born out of decades of research she has documented the most significant result of the Fall, and that is our being lost in shame. Though her guidance and exercises can be helpful for some, I don’t think we ever rid ourselves of shame by human effort alone. Only an engagement with Jesus’ work on the cross and accepting his love for us can finally set us free from the shame that so twists our lives.

I wanted to share with you something we read last night, that we have both faced in our lives, though thankfully not with each other. It was about those who destroy relationships through betrayal, as she answers her own question, “What’s the worst betrayal of trust?” Surprisingly it’s not the overt acts of lying, adultery, or cheating we usually think about. For those to happen, something more insidious takes place first.

This betrayal usually happens long before the other ones. I’m talking about the betrayal of disengagement. Of not caring. Of letting the connection go. Of not being willing to devote time and effort to the relationship. The word betrayal evokes experiences of cheating, lying, breaking a confidence, failing to defend us to someone else who’s gossiping about us, and not choosing us over other people. These behaviors are certainly betrayals, but they’re not the only form of betrayal. If I had to choose the form of betrayal that emerged most frequently from my research and that was the most dangerous in terms of corroding the trust connection, I would would say disengagement.

When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing and fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears – the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain – there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness. It can feel crazy-making.

God made us for deep, vital connections with other people of growing trust. Some of our greatest joys spring out of those relationships. And that’s why betrayal is such a brutal repudiation of God’s life. To discard a relationship simply because it no longer serves your interests demonstrates just how far the human heart can wonder from God. As I read this section to Sara last night, however, I couldn’t help but wonder how much this falls under the chicken-and-egg question. Do people betray because the let the relationship grow distant, or did they let the relationship grow distant so they could act without regard to the feelings of another? The latter is often true. It’s difficult to stab a friend in the back, so you have to make them your enemy first.

In a broken world, betrayal will happen. They did to Jesus. But that didn’t stop him from being faithful when others were faithless. It didn’t stop him from loving out of the deepest place, even when he knew others didn’t have the capacity to return it. One of the greatest fruits of living in that kind of love is the unmitigated desire to pass that along to others——to become trustworthy in relationships and fight for them however you can, even if others have give up.

That’s what I see my Father doing. And I am so grateful.

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22 Comments
  1. Rusty May November 29, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Very timely Wayne….. no less than an hour ago my wife and I were discussing this and how at times it seems like it’s only us and Christ. We even talked about how Jesus loved, gave all he had and people hated him even still. Even though there are not many friends these days I’m so thankful to have my wife and a loving relationship with Father to carry us through. Peace.

  2. Penny Dugan November 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Dear Wayne,

    Please know you and Sara are in my prayers for tomorrow. I pray for a speady recovery and God to Be the Great physician we know He is. Giving wisdom to those He is using.

    This post was so timely….I don’t understand why people are not more willing to work on relationships….it is so the Father’s heart!
    I love you guys and thank you for all the input and insight you give to the Body of Christ.

    Hey I am Saturday with Mark and friends will let you know what we discuss.
    Give Sara a hug for me!
    Penny

  3. Lincoln and Joan Brown November 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    We are praying for you too. Thank you for sharing your story and modeling the process of being well-loved. May you both feel His presence in a personal way tomorrow. Sincerely, Lincoln and Joan

  4. ro elliott November 29, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    thanks for giving us the opportunity to lift you all in prayer~ May you all feel God’s nearness, love and grace in abundance.

  5. Rusty May November 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Very timely Wayne….. no less than an hour ago my wife and I were discussing this and how at times it seems like it’s only us and Christ. We even talked about how Jesus loved, gave all he had and people hated him even still. Even though there are not many friends these days I’m so thankful to have my wife and a loving relationship with Father to carry us through. Peace.

  6. Penny Dugan November 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Dear Wayne,

    Please know you and Sara are in my prayers for tomorrow. I pray for a speady recovery and God to Be the Great physician we know He is. Giving wisdom to those He is using.

    This post was so timely….I don’t understand why people are not more willing to work on relationships….it is so the Father’s heart!
    I love you guys and thank you for all the input and insight you give to the Body of Christ.

    Hey I am Saturday with Mark and friends will let you know what we discuss.
    Give Sara a hug for me!
    Penny

  7. Lincoln and Joan Brown November 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    We are praying for you too. Thank you for sharing your story and modeling the process of being well-loved. May you both feel His presence in a personal way tomorrow. Sincerely, Lincoln and Joan

  8. Ruthie November 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Praying specially for Sara. I pray all goes well and she has a full and speedy recovery.
    Blessings to you both

  9. ro elliott November 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    thanks for giving us the opportunity to lift you all in prayer~ May you all feel God’s nearness, love and grace in abundance.

  10. Chris Jefferies November 30, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Hi Wayne, I’m not familiar with Brené Brown’s writing, I should at least take a look at those TED links (I always enjoy a good TED talk). So I’m going out on a limb here.

    But I’d say, even before the disengagement, there are usually issues that cause feelings of pain or disappointment or despair and disengagement can simply be a ‘coping mechanism’. The solution, I think, almost always lies in turning to the the Father where we always find the affection and acceptance we need. Jesus reopened the way so Papa’s love is always available. With that security we are in a better place to continue to engage with those around us. But we are in a perilous place when we depend on others for acceptance and self worth (as we tend to do) instead of depending on the Source.

    All of this is subtle, of course. We’re often unaware of the causes of our own feelings.

    Anyway, thanks for the post, for the TED links and the book recommendations.

    May grace, peace and his loving presence rest on you and Sara during the coming days and weeks. You will, I feel sure, be the best possible post-operative carer. Bless you both.

  11. Ruthie November 30, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Praying specially for Sara. I pray all goes well and she has a full and speedy recovery.
    Blessings to you both

  12. Chris Jefferies November 30, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Hi Wayne, I’m not familiar with Brené Brown’s writing, I should at least take a look at those TED links (I always enjoy a good TED talk). So I’m going out on a limb here.

    But I’d say, even before the disengagement, there are usually issues that cause feelings of pain or disappointment or despair and disengagement can simply be a ‘coping mechanism’. The solution, I think, almost always lies in turning to the the Father where we always find the affection and acceptance we need. Jesus reopened the way so Papa’s love is always available. With that security we are in a better place to continue to engage with those around us. But we are in a perilous place when we depend on others for acceptance and self worth (as we tend to do) instead of depending on the Source.

    All of this is subtle, of course. We’re often unaware of the causes of our own feelings.

    Anyway, thanks for the post, for the TED links and the book recommendations.

    May grace, peace and his loving presence rest on you and Sara during the coming days and weeks. You will, I feel sure, be the best possible post-operative carer. Bless you both.

  13. DaRon Maughon November 30, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Great words, Wayne! Thanks for sharing!

  14. LP November 30, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Hmmm. Definitely something to think about, beginning with the title of your blog entry. Eerily relevant; as if it was something that I meant to *and* need to read.

  15. Wayne Jacobsen November 30, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Jeff, of course that’s true. It’s just not possible on a brief quote to cover all the contexts that would mitigate the content of it. I realize sin, flesh, and religious practice make us relationally challenged, and that many people have learned to run from genuine relationships, rather than embrace them. That’s why I think the work of Jesus in our lives is to heals our shame and removes our coping mechanisms so that we can have real and genuine relationships. And, I do recognize all of that is a life-long process with a lot of factors that contribute to our growing health and freedom. It so saddens me when people are so relationally paralyzed that the jettison the very relationships that would serve them in fear, greed, selfishness, or any other factor. The real joys we have in this age are almost all relational! Nothing material holds a candle to what real, supportive, loving, genuine, kind, gracious, relationships can add to our lives…

  16. DaRon Maughon November 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Great words, Wayne! Thanks for sharing!

  17. LP November 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Hmmm. Definitely something to think about, beginning with the title of your blog entry. Eerily relevant; as if it was something that I meant to *and* need to read.

  18. Wayne Jacobsen November 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Jeff, of course that’s true. It’s just not possible on a brief quote to cover all the contexts that would mitigate the content of it. I realize sin, flesh, and religious practice make us relationally challenged, and that many people have learned to run from genuine relationships, rather than embrace them. That’s why I think the work of Jesus in our lives is to heals our shame and removes our coping mechanisms so that we can have real and genuine relationships. And, I do recognize all of that is a life-long process with a lot of factors that contribute to our growing health and freedom. It so saddens me when people are so relationally paralyzed that the jettison the very relationships that would serve them in fear, greed, selfishness, or any other factor. The real joys we have in this age are almost all relational! Nothing material holds a candle to what real, supportive, loving, genuine, kind, gracious, relationships can add to our lives…

  19. Gene Kornegay December 1, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Wayne, such good news that all is well with Sara. But we do know that in some ways the surgery is only the beginning and the recovery can be frustrating in many ways. We will pray for both of you over the next few weeks to have strength and perseverance.

    If you are not familiar with Krista Tippett from NPR she has many interesting interviews with people related to “on being” which is the name of her program. She quite recently interviewed Brene Brown. You might find that interview interesting. It is located at http://www.onbeing.org/program/brene-brown-on-vulnerability/4928

  20. Gene Kornegay December 1, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Wayne, such good news that all is well with Sara. But we do know that in some ways the surgery is only the beginning and the recovery can be frustrating in many ways. We will pray for both of you over the next few weeks to have strength and perseverance.

    If you are not familiar with Krista Tippett from NPR she has many interesting interviews with people related to “on being” which is the name of her program. She quite recently interviewed Brene Brown. You might find that interview interesting. It is located at http://www.onbeing.org/program/brene-brown-on-vulnerability/4928

  21. Deborah December 1, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I’ve read Brown’s book, The Gift of Imperfection, and really enjoyed it. She has a lot of great insights, so I’ll be sure to check out her newest book. I think it’s really cool that you and Sara read books together. It’s one of the best ways I’ve found to make heart connections with people and engage in good conversation.

    I would like to addresss the aspect of the betrayal of disengagement. I agree with Jeff that disengagement is often a coping mechanism. I also believe that disengagement is not always intentional. It could be perception of disengagement on our part, but not every one may have the same desires for that deep connection that we do OR if they do, don’t know how to get there and what it’s going to look like. Equal communication is critical for connection. Not everyone is good at listening nor is everyone good at expressing their thoughts. I feel that we need to accept what the other person has to offer at the time. I’ve also discovered that as I’ve learned to rest in Papa’s love and acceptance, I’m more gracious (or I’d like to think that I am) to others.

    Wishing you and Sara nothing but the best 🙂

  22. Deborah December 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I’ve read Brown’s book, The Gift of Imperfection, and really enjoyed it. She has a lot of great insights, so I’ll be sure to check out her newest book. I think it’s really cool that you and Sara read books together. It’s one of the best ways I’ve found to make heart connections with people and engage in good conversation.

    I would like to addresss the aspect of the betrayal of disengagement. I agree with Jeff that disengagement is often a coping mechanism. I also believe that disengagement is not always intentional. It could be perception of disengagement on our part, but not every one may have the same desires for that deep connection that we do OR if they do, don’t know how to get there and what it’s going to look like. Equal communication is critical for connection. Not everyone is good at listening nor is everyone good at expressing their thoughts. I feel that we need to accept what the other person has to offer at the time. I’ve also discovered that as I’ve learned to rest in Papa’s love and acceptance, I’m more gracious (or I’d like to think that I am) to others.

    Wishing you and Sara nothing but the best 🙂

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