Another chunk of excerpts from “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
I really can’t recommend this book enough. (Of course remember, I also recommend everyone read the Marquis de Sade for deeper understanding of freedom, history and sexuality.)
From her section on Betrayal.
It doesn’t interest me it the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can
To be true to yourself;
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
And not betray your own soul;
If you can be faithless
And therefore trustworthy.
We often look for someone we can trust more than we trust ourselves. Perhaps this is because we know how often we betray ourselves.
I suddenly realized that the people in my life who are the most trustworthy—those who tell the truth, even when the truth is hard—are not those who always keep their agreements with me. Those who can be faithless—who can bear the responsibility of breaking an agreement with someone when the alternative is to betray themselves—are trustworthy.
As the original version of “The Invitation” was copied and shared by people all over the world, the most frequent change made to it was to substitute the word faithful
for the word faithless
. I received phone calls and letters asking, sometimes demanding, that I explain my use of the word faithless
. People didn’t like it. It made them uncomfortable.
If we cannot live with our need to renew agreements we have made, we break the only promise we really owe each other—to be truthful. This means finding both the courage to be truthful with ourselves and a way to live with how our actions affect others, even when there is no ill intent and no one to blame.
We have all been the betrayer and the betrayed. If we cannot acknowledge this we will find ourselves harsh and unforgiving, unable to grieve for the times we have betrayed ourselves.
When an agreement that is important to us is broken, we feel hurt and angry. And if an agreement is broken but we pretend that it has not been violated, we learn to distrust ourselves or those others when the truth is revealed. The real damage of betrayal is in the lies we tell one another and ourselves, the lies that cause us to lose faith in our ability to recognize and act on the truth.
Being trustworthy, not betraying ourselves, is, in part, about recognizing moments or situations when we are likely to be untrustworthy and seeking the counsel of people who love us and are willing and able to be honest with us. This may mean that we will sometimes hear things we do not want to hear. It is almost always means slowing things down a little and considering that we may be wrong, that we may not be trustworthy in that moment.
Refusing to betray ourselves is not a license to break agreemenst on a whim, to disregard the very real repercussions of our actions on others. The hard part , the place where we hope wisdom will find us, is in deciding where and when we must break a promise to be true to ourselves. We must weigh the cost to our soul if we keep our agreement—the cost to that which is essential to who we are—against the cost to others if the agreement is broken.
Sometimes we may to decide to make a sacrifice for another. Ask any parent about the small daily sacrifices.
Tell me, can you do this? Can you take the choice that’s for life even when that choice is hard, when doing so means others will see you as faithless? Can you make the choice without putting yourself or the other person—no matter who is the betrayed, who is the betrayer in this moment—out of your heart? This is what I want to know. This is what I want us to learn together to teach each other in the way we hold each other when the choices are hard.