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I recently learned that my best friend shared some deeply personal information about my life with another person without my permission. This information spread to other people and eventually got back to me. Due to of a string of previous betrayals in my life, trusting others hasn’t been easy for me. This discovery has devastated me and caused me to wonder if I can ever trust anyone again. It’s so confusing why she would share my information with someone else, especially when she knew how sensitive it is and the fact that I haven’t told anyone else about it. I’m not sure what to do now because I feel pretty shut down and untrusting.
Your friend made a terrible mistake that needs to be repaired if you’re going to continue forward in a trusting and supportive relationship. It’s understandable that you would feel frozen and unsure about what to do. When we are betrayed by someone to whom we’ve given our full confidence and trust, we feel lost and unsure as to what we can trust. Even if your friendship doesn’t recover from this betrayal, your courage to speak up about the impact it’s had on you will help you heal and move forward in your life.
We may never know why your friend broke your trust and shared your personal information. In fact, she may not even know. Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught that this divisiveness is one way Satan separates us from each other, which is the opposite of a Zion society. He said:
It should come as no surprise that one of the adversary’s tactics in the latter days is stirring up hatred among the children of men. He loves to see us criticize each other, make fun or take advantage of our neighbor’s known flaws, and generally pick on each other.[i]
Even though your friend may not have had malicious intentions when sharing your private information, her carelessness creates a divide between you and other people. Even if you don’t want to continue in this friendship, I still believe it’s important for you to speak up and close that gap. She needs a chance to correct what she did and you need to know who you can trust.
The Savior taught us that when someone offends us, our first responsibility is to, “Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to [him], and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.”[ii] Even though you will seek comfort and strength from God, working things out with your friend is an important part of the healing process.
Please recognize that even though you feel humiliated, you have done nothing wrong by having personal challenges. Just because these things were shared in a spirit of judgement and criticism doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. Gossip can make us feel inferior to others, especially when they ignore their own humanity and elevate themselves above others.
It takes great courage to speak up to someone who has betrayed our trust. It requires us to be vulnerable at a time when we already feel so exposed and foolish. Thankfully, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently delivered a powerful promise to all of us who seek to reconcile these broken relationships. He said, “With the apostolic authority granted me by the Savior of the world, I testify of the tranquility to the soul that reconciliation with God and each other will bring if we are meek and courageous enough to pursue it.”[iii]
I encourage you to speak with her as soon as possible and let her know, in the words of President Dallin H. Oaks, how her “small actions of unkindness [created] devastating consequences.”[iv] Regardless of her intentions, it’s important for her to know how this friendship has been dramatically altered because of her words. You don’t have to be aggressive or return unkindness to her, but you can speak clearly about how shocked and devastated you were to learn this information.
More than an explanation, you need to know she feels deep remorse and sorrow for her actions. Broken trust can be repaired, but only when there is a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” on the part of the offender.[v] Let her see the full impact this has had on you. You trusted her once to share this deeply personal information with her, so it’s critical that she understands how much you counted on her to protect your confidence.
If she’s remorseful and wants to repair the damage, then ask her to speak with her confidants, let them know she was wrong in sharing this information, and request that they don’t share it with anyone else. Additionally, she can share your strengths with them and show them who you really are instead of this spotlighting this one-dimensional detail of your life. You are more than your struggles and she can not only apologize to you and them for painting you in a negative light, but also shine the light of truth on your strengths.
It’s highly likely your friend will feel remorse and want to know what she can do to fix her mistake, but only if you are clear with her about how deeply this has affected you and affected your relationship with her. You may not want her to feel bad for her mistake and reassure her that what she did wasn’t that serious. Let her see the effect this has had on you so she can make it right and you can begin rebuilding a friendship on a foundation of integrity, compassion, and mutual respect.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[ii] 3 Nephi 12:23-24
[v] D&C 97:8