Et tu, Brute? (How to handle betrayal and rejection.)

Brutus Old

Betrayal hurts. Whether it’s from a spouse, a parent, a child or a BFF, when someone is disloyal and lets you down, you feel it. Deeply.

"Et tu, Brute?" is a Latin phrase meaning "you, too, Brutus?" and supposedly these were the last words of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Brutus at the moment of his assassination.

You may not die at the hand of your betrayer, but something inside of you hurts so badly you might wish you were dead.

I told my wife about thirty-five years ago that I was done with our marriage and wanted a divorce. That betrayal wounded her deeply.

In a moment of intense anger, my dad once told me never to call him “Father” again. That rejection sent me into a tailspin of grief and despair.

Over the years, some good friends (at least I had thought they were good friends) who were involved in my church have betrayed my friendship, and they left cursing my name on their way out.

Like I said, betrayal hurts. It rips your heart out of your chest, stomps on it, and then casts you aside like trash set out at the curb for pickup.

Betrayal 1

You’ve probably already dialed up a painful memory in which someone said or did something to crush your spirit. We’ve all been there at some point.

Tragically, traits like faithfulness, loyalty, and steadfastness are not as common as they once were in our culture. Some have suggested there is a “narcissism epidemic” in our country, and that too many people today belong to the “Me, Me, Me Generation.”

When it’s all about me, then my commitment to any relationship is subject to my emotions and my wishes at any give moment. Turning my back on others isn’t that big of a deal when I’m the center of my world.

Obviously, this self-centered view creates a climate in which it’s pretty easy to screw somebody and betray them without a second thought. If it’s best for me, and it helps and satisfies me, then why not?

Betrayal 2

Okay, betrayal happens (thanks for throwing that pain in my face again, Bubna). So how should we handle it when it does?


Here are four things I suggest you consider (none of which are easy, btw):

  1. Die gracefully.


Whether you’re dealing with the dissolution of a marriage or the death of a friendship, it’s always better to take the relational high road in the aftermath of betrayal. You can kick, scream, and bite with a vengeance, or you can entrust your life and soul to the One who understands. Don’t forget, Jesus was scorned, rejected and betrayed on a regular basis. He understands, and He’s there for you in the midst of your pain.


To choose to die gracefully is not to deny the reality of your situation or your broken heart. It is, however, to say, “Jesus, help me to die to myself as You did and to forgive as you forgave even from the cross.”


Death of our supposed right for vengeance never comes easy, but remember, with God in the mix, death is never the end of the story either.

Betrayal 3

  1. Learn abundantly.


In my experience, when there’s an issue and conflict between two parties, one person is rarely to blame for everything that happened. Nobody is that perfect to be wrong all of the time.


Years ago, a very good friend accused me of something I did not do. I was livid! I ranted and raved for days building a case for my defense and attacking his character in the process.


Then the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “What will you learn in your pain?” Of course, my immediate thought was, I’m going to learn how to hurt that guy! Again, came the gentle prodding of the Spirit. “Kurt, don’t make this about how right you are; make it about personal and spiritual growth.”


A wise man or woman will ask, “What can I learn from this betrayal and this experience?”

Betrayal 4

  1. Forgive profusely.


I’ll be frank; it’s easy to talk about forgiveness but extremely difficult to practice it. In fact, maybe you’ve noticed it’s waaayyyy easier to hold on to a grudge and to be bitter than to release someone from our judgment.


Our human nature demands vindication. We want revenge. We don’t typically drift to forgiveness. We fast track to payback!


Certainly, sometimes it’s necessary to correct someone’s action against us. And the unjust offender may, in fact, suffer some natural consequences for their injustice toward us.


But walking in unforgiveness is not an option for a Christ-follower. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven. We forgive to set the other person free of our judgment but mostly to set ourselves free from the bondage of unforgiveness. As Lewis Smedes once said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Betrayl 5

  1. Love lavishly.


I’ve taught the value of unconditional love for decades. On a regular basis, I circle back to this issue in my blogs, books, and messages.


Why? Because God’s love for us has absolutely nothing to do with our performance, and He calls us to love as we are loved.


When betrayed. Love.


When wounded. Love.


When falsely accused and rejected. Love.


When a BFF becomes a WPE (worst possible enemy). Love.


When everything in you wants to scream and curse and take somebody out. Love.


It may not change your situation. It may not affect your circumstances. And I can promise you it won’t be easy. But love nonetheless.


Love because it changes you. Love lavishly because the alternative is never good. Love because you are loved.


When your “Brutus” sticks his knife in your back, choose by the grace of God to say, “Ego quos amo, perducat vos, Brute!” (meaning I love and forgive you!)


Choose well. Live well. Be well.

Betrayl 6


 At just the right time,

when we were still powerless,

Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6 (NIV)


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You might also be interested in my newest book for children: Pete the Prodigal Pumpkin! A Good News Halloween Story.

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Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna has published seven books, is an internationally recognized blogger, conference and retreat speaker, as well as an experienced life and leadership coach. Bubna has over forty years of experience working with individuals, teams, and a wide variety of business and non-profit organizations.