How do I cultivate humility in a betrayer/betrayed relationship? This is something I’ve practiced or tried to practice all my life. I find myself drifting from a humble mindset to a more firm/fixed or rigid mindset. How do I practice humility without being a doormat? Is this just something I have to abandon for now? I feel like I’m losing large chunks of myself to stay in this relationship and I’m not sure how to navigate that.
On the surface, it would seem unfair to ask someone who’s been humiliated to practice humility. However, your question tells me that reclaiming yourself in the wake of betrayal involves staying open and teachable. I agree with you that regardless of what we’ve endured, humility is essential to healing. Practicing humility in the context of betrayal, especially when you’re living with the person who betrayed you, isn’t easy. I do believe it’s possible to cultivate humility under any conditions, so let’s explore what that might look like.
I believe there are myths about humility that do more harm than good. One of these myths is the idea that being humble means allowing people to take advantage of you. Some even call it “being Christlike”, assuming he let people walk all over him when he was on the earth. True humility isn’t boundaryless. The scriptures are packed full of examples where Christ spoke up, was silent, walked away, defended, took decisive action, and followed through on promises. His willingness to submit to all things and descend below everything was part of his mission and he only allowed himself to allow the mistreatment to continue unabated when it was time for his mission to be fulfilled.
In fact, if you want to contribute to a healing environment in your broken marriage, cultivating the attributes of true humility will not only help you, but also help your relationship. For example, we are taught to “speak the truth in love.”[i] When you’re surrounded with lies and deception in your marriage, speaking the truth in love is essential for your own sanity and the healing of the relationship. Speaking with love is less about volume and tone and more about the state of your heart and your commitment to truth. Staying quiet in the name of humility will only allow enable the continuation of destructive patterns.
True humility is also about enduring all things well.[ii] This mean that you can seek to cultivate patience in yourself and the process as you move forward. It means you might seek out truth wherever you find it. It can be in the form of gratitude for blessings in your life or acknowledgement of growth in yourself or your husband. Humility is also praying for those who hurt us.[iii] Humility is recognizing that we are all dependent on the same God for our very breath.[iv] Even the Savior, the very Son of God, said, “I can of mine own self do nothing.”[v]
You can cultivate all the attributes of humility and still protect yourself. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us that the Lord “did not … say, ‘In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’”[vi] Even though you may recognize that in God’s eyes you’re not better than your husband, or anyone, for that matter, you can still be wise about protecting your peace and safety. Humility doesn’t mean you need to subject yourself to patterns that leave you exhausted and afraid.
We are encouraged to maintain “humbleness of mind”[vii], which means being teachable and open to guidance. This is certainly a time when you are seeking guidance and direction. There may be times when you feel led to do something that seems counterintuitive. True humility is embracing the guidance even when we don’t fully understand the end from the beginning. It’s trusting that you’ll be safeguarded as you stay open to God’s guiding care.
One of the common effects of abuse and trauma is losing connection to ourselves. We feel pulled toward becoming a version of ourselves we not only don’t recognize, but often don’t respect. True humility is having the courage to ask what needs to be reclaimed as we gather up the pieces of our shattered lives. We might be guided to start certain behaviors and practices that are for our good. We might also be warned to stop other behaviors that are harming us and others. Elder D. Todd Christofferson further clarified what this humble acceptance of God’s direction looks like:
“He will ensure that we receive all the help we need, whether it be comforting, strengthening, or chastening. If we are open to it, needed correction will come in many forms and from many sources. It may come in the course of our prayers as God speaks to our mind and heart through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 8:2). It may come in the form of prayers that are answered no or differently than we had expected. Chastening may come as we study the scriptures and are reminded of deficiencies, disobedience, or simply matters neglected.”[viii]
You’re seeking to be led and guided through this process. You want to keep a soft heart even though it feels risky. You can still have a soft heart while practicing wisdom and caution about where to reveal it. In fact, practicing healthy limits in your uncertain situation will allow you the freedom and safety to stay open and teachable.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught masterful sermons on humility and meekness and how our refinement is dependent on our submission to God at all times. He reassured us that God was our only safe submission.[ix] Your heart is broken from betrayal, and you’re seeking safety, comfort, and reclamation of yourself. I’m confident your humble seeking of Father’s guidance in your life will give you healing, clarity, and courage as you go forward.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If broken trust is an issue in your relationship, download Geoff’s FREE video series “The First Steps to Rebuilding Trust” to help you begin healing: https://www.geoffsteurer.com/freebie
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About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.
[i] Ephesians 4:15
[ii] D&C 121:8
[iii] Matthew 5:44
[iv] Mosiah 4:19
[v] John 5:30
[vii] Colossians 3:12