I think we’ve all experienced the hard-to-shake feeling of being betrayed, whether it’s by a close friend or by someone we don’t know at all. The sensation can be devastating and can alter our future interactions, our faith in others, or maybe our belief in a system or entity. One act of betrayal can forever change your world view.

From Dictionary.com

betrayal

1.
a. To give aid or information to an enemy of; commit treason against: betray one’s country.
b. To deliver into the hands of an enemy in violation of a trust or allegiance: betrayed Christ to the Romans.
2. To be false or disloyal to: betrayed their cause; betray one’s better nature.
3. To divulge in a breach of confidence: betray a secret.
4. To make known unintentionally: Her hollow laugh betrayed her contempt for the idea.
5. To reveal against one’s desire or will.
6. To lead astray; deceive.

Reading the definition, it seems rather…flat. Doesn’t it? As if there should be more there to encompass the rainbow of feeling that goes hand-in-hand. In romance novels, perceived betrayal is often the basis for storylines using my most disliked plot device- the Big Misunderstanding. For those of you not familiar with it, let me just say that generally, one or two simple questions from the hero to heroine or vice-versa would clear up a lot of hurt and misunderstanding. Of course, then the book would be only 20 pages long, but I wouldn’t want to bitch-slap the characters for their horrible communication. Was that your lover you were hugging? Oh, it was your brother? Silly me, I love you, let’s get married 😉

But in real life, betrayal comes in many forms and can be damaging to marriages, friendships, business relationships, and careers. It can be something as simple as using someone’s ideas in what you think is a harmless way (I love the idea she had for her website, I’m going to do mine like that!), using a book or plot idea that they bounced off you or outright plagiarism.Betrayall can be found in the telling of a secret that’s not meant to be told, a choice of words that takes credit for ideas that aren’t your own, or in the laughter over a friend’s choice of outfits- after you had told her it looked fabulous.

The thing about betrayal? It’s not black and white. It’s shaded in the many, many tones of gray. What one person sees as an act of betrayal, another may see as a good business move, a harmless joke, or an act the person should be flattered by. No two people will likely see betrayal the same way. We are all molded by our beliefs, values, and experiences and that makes us view things individually.

An example: A wife is on a business trip, away from her husband and kids. She’s lonely and out of sorts so she goes down to the hotel bar for a cocktail. While there, she sees an attractive man who smiles at her, giving her ego a bit of a boost. She takes her drink upstairs to her room and proceeds to fantasize about what it might have been like to kiss this man.

For some people, just the fact that she thought about kissing someone other than her husband might be perceived as an act of betrayal. Others would argue that it was a harmless fantasy and wouldn’t count as betrayal unless she actually kissed him. And still others would say that ‘just a kiss’ doesn’t count as betrayal, if she’d gone farther…say…oral sex, that would be betrayal. And yet others would say that even if she’d had sex with the anonymous stranger, it was just casual sex, a one-night stand, didn’t mean anything and didn’t have any bearing on her relationship with her husband so it’s not betrayal.

There are a number of ‘real life’ examples I could use to illustrate this as well (Judas and Jesus, Bill Clinton, King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie)

See how values, beliefs, etc plays a role in our perception of betrayal? In romance novels, a skilled author creates a backstory and a belief-system for their characters that makes readers find plausibility in a character’s sense of betrayal. In real life, everything that has come before in our lives decides how we will react.

Probably, at this point, you’re wondering what brought this on, why I’m ruminating on this. A variety of things actually, some of which I can’t (and won’t) discuss on a public blog. But also because of three things that I read in the past day.

First, fans of Lost might find this blog interesting (link swiped from Michelle’s blog, where I saw it posted). It’s the blog of one of the writers of Lost and he quite clearly feels betrayed by a friend and colleague. Probably something that will impact his view and trust of others.

Second, my friend Jaci was the victim of plagiarism this past week. She and several authors actually. Some random idiot on the web took their books, changed the names to N’sync group member names and claimed the work as her own N’sync fan-fiction. She took entire books and posted them as her work on her website. The stories have since been removed, but I saw Jaci’s book up there with my own eyes. Her entire book. This is what Jaci has to say about it.

But J wasn’t the only author impacted. Another author, Douglas Clegg also had his work stolen by this same thief. He writes a compelling blog entry about it here. Now, clearly, neither J or Douglass know this person, but there still seems to be a sense of betrayal that can arise from an act like this. A betrayal of a sense of what’s right or just, maybe? As an author, you expect that your fellow human beings will respect the hard work, energy, creativity and emotion that go into creating and crafting a story and that they will not claim it as their own. How …violating to realize that not everyone has the same sense of morals you do 🙁

I’ve been very introspective about things the past few days and I think betrayal can sometimes be on of the most shattering experiences but also one that can cause you to grow and empower yourself. It all depends on what you take from the experience, I guess.

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