I Shouldn’t Feel Betrayed By Someone I Trust—How to Grieve, Breathe, & Receive in the Wake of Broken Trust with Steve Carter

Episode Notes

Have you ever felt betrayed by someone you thought you could trust?

It's a deeply painful experience that can leave you questioning not only the betrayer but also your own judgment. Trust, once broken, seems almost impossible to rebuild.

My guest today, Steve Carter, experienced a series of profound betrayals at a pivotal moment in his life. In 2018, amidst misconduct allegations against Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Community Church, Steve made the difficult decision to step down from his role as a newly minted lead pastor—a position he once considered his dream job. Shortly thereafter, he faced yet another personal betrayal by his own parents.

Reeling from the loss of his job, his dream, and his trust in those closest to him, Steve entered a desert season guided by three words he sensed God gave to him: Grieve. Breathe. Receive. Steve's journey through loss is so powerful, so honest, and so deeply healing. Please do not miss this conversation!

Here’s what we cover:

1. 2 essential ingredients for trust

2. Why grief is the antidote to cynicism

3. Confronting our attraction to patterns of narcissism

4. The anger high vs. the peace of forgiveness

5. How he hangs on to his love for the church

Preorder Grieve, Breathe, Receive: Finding a Faith Strong Enough to Hold Us by Steve Carter

Get a copy of Evening Psalms by Steve Carter

Thanks to our sponsors:

Additional Resources:

  • The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. -Frederick Buechner

Related Episodes:

Episode 97: I Shouldn't Feel This Anxious—Insights on Trauma & Healing with Monique Koven

Episode 98: I Shouldn’t Feel Alone in My Grief—Why Your Grief Matters & the #1 Most Important Support For Those Who Are Grieving with J.S. Park

Episode 99: I Shouldn’t Feel Like My Spirit is Broken—Exploring a Broken Spirit & the Dark Night of the Soul with Christopher Cook

Episode 79: Surviving Trauma & A Path to Forgiveness—Finding God In the Hardest Parts of Your Story With Esau McCaulley

Music by Andy Luiten

Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik

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While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.


Alison Cook: Hey everyone, and welcome back to the 100th episode of The Best of You Podcast. It's hard to believe this is our one hundredth episode since the podcast aired almost two years ago, and gosh, what a journey this has been. I have loved this work of bringing different topics to you each week. It feeds the teacher in me, the part of me that really enjoys breaking down concepts and making them understandable.

I used to teach high school and I've taught some graduate level courses in psychology. And so this work of podcasting has just been such a treasure for me. And the fact that you've responded to this podcast in the ways that you have through sharing it, through messaging me, through listening and reviewing all of your kind reviews has really validated this work that I do. And I'm just so grateful for that. 

Frederick Buechner has a beautiful quote that says, the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. And this podcast has been one of those places for me where I felt like and here I go. I'm going to start tearing up, which is par for the course for me on this podcast. But this podcast, sitting in my little back room closet, speaking words over the microphone to your listening ears has been a place where I can tease out ideas and, and learn with you, even as I'm trying to describe and explain and unpack and untangle the knots of complicated topics related to psychology, related to emotional health, and related to our spiritual lives and our faith in God.

And so on this release of our 100th podcast episode, I just want to say, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for caring about this work of bringing together good psychology, good science, with deep, rich, abiding faith in the God who made us and made himself known through the person of Jesus.

I'm so grateful that you're here with me each week. It gives me so much hope in the world, as I know you are putting so much goodness, so much healing, and so much light into the world around you, even as we gather on these Thursdays to talk through hard topics.

Today we are continuing the “I shouldn't feel this way” series. We're talking about betrayal, and Steve Carter, my guest today, is an incredible example of naming what's hard, framing your reality and then braving a healing path. And those are the three practices that I lay out in I Shouldn’t Feel This Way. Name what's hard. Frame your reality. And then brave a new path. Those three practices are essential to living a wholehearted life in partnership with God's spirit.

So this book, I Shouldn’t Feel This Way, is the most forward facing of all my books. It's teaching you how to do these daily practices, again, of naming, framing, and braving so that you can stay on that path toward the life that God has for you. The book comes out May 7th, and when you preorder it, you will get the first three chapters now. 

So you'll get the naming step and the framing step, which is actually my favorite step, which I shouldn't say, but it is because I think it's the least talked about and I think it's important, but you're going to get those first three chapters, a guided journal, as well as access to the video masterclass stuck in your head that I did a few weeks ago. You can get I Shouldn’t Feel This Way anywhere books are sold. It's going to be in your hands in just a couple of weeks, but you'll get started on those first few chapters now. Head over to ishouldntfeelthisway.com to claim those bonus items.

So in today's episode, we get into betrayal. Betrayal is the act of betraying a trust that has been placed in someone. Maybe you placed trust in a partner, in a friend, in a pastor, in a parent, in a person. work colleague, and maybe they were unfaithful to you. Maybe they lied to your face or spread lies behind your back. Maybe they broke promises time and time again. Maybe they shared secrets that you had told them in confidence, maliciously with other people. Betrayal isn't making a one-time mistake. 

We talk about this a lot on this podcast, And I want to drill down on it one more time here–we all make mistakes. We all make mistakes. The difference between making a mistake and a pattern, is whether you own it, whether you can go back to the person and say, I made a mistake. I'm so sorry. Here's what I'm doing to change so that this never happens again. 

You'll hear my guest talk about this today. Betrayal is a consistent pattern of unfaithfulness, of deception, of manipulation, of broken promises, of breaching confidentiality, of toxic behaviors. Without taking ownership, without repairing, without any effort to make a change.

And it's incredibly painful when you realize that someone you trusted has betrayed you. And not only have they betrayed you, but they're not trying to make it right. They're trying to cover over what they did by adding more lies, and more secrecy.

My guest today, Steve Carter, has experienced every kind of betrayal and he's writing about it in his new book called Grieve, Breathe, Receive. And one of those betrayals in particular was extremely public. Many of you may have read the story about what happened at the Willow Creek church. This book is just a profound offering about the journey of grief that we have to go on in the wake of a major betrayal.

I love that Steve framed this healing journey as one of grief because in doing so, he honors the truth of his experience even as he honors the process of grieving that loss that he's been on. Steve Carter is the bestselling author of The Thing Beneath the Thing and the host of The Craft and Character podcast. He's a coach and he currently serves as a teaching pastor at Forest City Church and teaches regularly at churches, conferences, and businesses worldwide. He lives outside Chicago, Illinois, with his wife and two kids, 

You can get his brand new book, Grieve, Breathe, Receive: Finding a Faith Strong Enough to Hold Us anywhere books are sold. I cannot recommend it enough if you're someone who's experienced betrayal by anyone or just experienced any sort of complicated loss that has left you feeling confused and anxious, angry and frustrated. This book has real help and real hope for you. I'm so thrilled to bring you my conversation today with Steve Carter.


Alison Cook: Steve, this is just such a powerful book. Grieve, breathe, receive–it's such a powerful title. But I was really struck by the betrayal after betrayal that launched this process of grief. Throughout the book, you write about these betrayals, the betrayal being on staff at Willow Creek, not just on staff, but being, correct me if I'm wrong, but being tapped to essentially succeed Bill Hybels as the lead teaching pastor. Is that right?

Steve: It was going to be the two of us, but I was, over content and with the congregation, in many ways going to be the face of the primary preacher. Yep.

Alison Cook: I remember you telling me, when you interviewed me about The Best of You, that you had a book queued up about that, and it was even called The Best of You. 

Steve: Yes. Yes. It was so wild because when we talked and I saw your title, I was like, I always loved that title. What was crazy is, when I submitted that book, my publisher knew about the Bill Hyvel story coming out and they told me and I was like, what? So that's how I woke up to it. 

I was preparing and had written a book, like a young Timothy taking and stepping in after Paul, and then to see it all come crashing down and the betrayal of it…yeah. Yeah.

Alison Cook: It's stunning because that book went by the wayside. You write about another book that went by the wayside, but it brings tears to my eyes because I know how hard it is to write a book by your own decision, because you realized I'm not writing this book out of the right place. So you pulled that book. 

You've discovered that the story you'd been told about your biological father wasn't true. So a betrayal by your own parents. There is just a stunning list of betrayals that you experienced within a fairly short period of time.

I think about these “I shouldn't feel this way” moments. And as I was reading this with tears in my eyes, thinking this is more than any one human should have to encounter, I'm thinking to myself, and you do such a good job of describing, you were the one in the wake of all of these betrayals that's left without a job. That's left with people mad at you because you pulled out of Willow Creek on the early end, before a lot of other people did. 

While the church was still in the midst of covering it up, correct me if I'm wrong. So you're the one without a job. You're the one people are mad at. You're the one reeling. You're the one feeling horrible, and yet you hadn't done anything wrong.

Talk about an “I shouldn't feel this way” moment. And Steve, put us back in that moment in time when you have so many emotions, when you hadn't done anything wrong. 

Steve: It's a little bit overwhelming to hear you retell all of those sequences. And I don't know if three years ago, I would have even used the word betrayal, and I never would have even connected the idea that betrayal could be trauma. And the effects of that are: they mess you up.

You start to just wonder, how can I trust myself? And so I think back to when it all came out, as it started to unfold, I thought I could save it and I thought I could get everyone to the table and I thought I could, I thought we could do this.

I never actually believed that an institution would betray victims. I never thought that the people that I knew would choose to preserve something. whether it's a story, whether it's a secret, whether it's hiding, and as I started to be awakened to that, whether it's in my family, whether it's in my church family, I was like, is any place safe? 

And I say this pretty much every weekend I preach now–safe plus consistent again and again, over and over, on repeat, makes someone worthy of trust. If someone is unsafe and consistent, they're not worthy of trust. Or if they're safe, but inconsistent, it's really hard to trust them.

What's so tricky is when you start to play out the areas and the spaces where you're getting blamed as the one that betrayed them by leaving. And I'm like, friends, I fought to do the right thing. I didn't do it perfectly. There's some stuff I really wish I would have done differently, like the book that we talked about a moment ago.

There's things I wish I did differently, but for the most part, what I really longed for was for the church to be what I know the church to be. To walk alongside and hold space with the victims and the marginalized and the hurting, and to proclaim goodness. But I also realized that I was accessible. The former lead pastor was gone but I was online and people could get to me and I would engage.

And I began to have to really translate their pain. Because what they said, some of it was just not personal, but it felt very personal. It was about someone else, but they were directing all of that energy towards me. And it was hard. It's hard to navigate through all that stuff.

Alison Cook: I'm just thinking of the listener who, maybe not at the same public level of betrayal where everybody knows and it was just such an enormous international scandal, but there was a process of wanting to believe in the institution.

There was a journey of wanting to believe, even as information was coming out until you got to that point of, I've got to leave. I've got to post my resignation. That's important for people to hear, because we do feel so much guilt.

It takes so much time. How can I not believe in this institution? How can I not believe that what these people are telling me isn't true? I think that's such a normal process. And I guess I'm curious about that. That was maybe a few months of a period of time, where you just came to the point of recognizing, I can no longer trust this institution, this behemoth. Yeah.

Steve: I got subpoenaed to meet with one of the victims and two two other staff people and one elder and Willow's lawyer and this woman's lawyer. And I knew this woman, like she lived in my neighborhood back in the day. Like I knew her. And when she walked in the room, I just knew right then something happened because that wasn't my friend. And she sat across and shared her story. And up until that moment. I was like, hey is there truth here? 

My wife, she was a lot quicker to the truth than I was. I was hopeful. I was hopeful we could figure this out. But when I sat across the table with this woman and she shared, and at the end of it, the end of the conversation, I was like, hey, I'm in Bible college, they never taught me how to have conversations with lawyers. I don't know how to do this. We were friends. Can I call her? 

And the lawyer talks to her and she says, I would like that. And so the next day I call her because I'm imagining the vulnerability hangover that she's feeling. And at the end of the conversation, I ask her this question, the dumbest question, but the greatest question I ask her is, what would you like me to do? And she said, get to the truth. And I said, okay. 

From that moment, I felt like I had permission from a victim to get to the truth. It jolted me out of the gravitational, institutional preservation protection-mode to, oh my goodness. And I just started going one by one to each of the women victims and hearing their stories. I totally went rogue and I don't know if it was the right thing to do, going totally rogue. But I didn't know who I could trust. As I started to hear these stories, I realized this stuff happened.

Alison Cook: Yeah.

Steve: If we can't name what we did, if we can't name what we did, how can we fully claim what God did?

And there was this massive cognitive dissonance. That was the tricky part. I think that moment opened my eyes, and then the next few months. every single day, some other news or information is being revealed to me that I'm going, oh my goodness, I got totally played. I got played. So it's just, it was tricky and all of that.

Alison Cook: This is the thing about complicated emotions–and I see this with so many people walking through what you're talking about. I think people who are really loyal, people who are really empathetic, almost don't want to feel those things that you feel–the distrust. There’s something we're not getting at–what is the truth? 

Sometimes really going after the truth forces you to do things like going rogue, talking to people, asking things, and it can feel uncomfortable to people. It can feel like you're being disloyal, it can feel like you're going behind people's backs, but you're trying to get at the truth, and so the fact that you're naming that is so helpful to people because it can feel really uncomfortable. We might rather avoid the complexity of those feelings.

Steve: And that's when I first heard the title of your next book, I was like, that's exactly how I felt. I shouldn't feel this way–I'm much more in homeostasis by being loyal, believing the best, really leaning forward with hope, giving someone the benefit of the doubt. That's how I am. And to realize as I start to untangle, oh my goodness, I'm having these thoughts. 

And then all of a sudden you shouldn't feel this way. Behold, it felt so unfamiliar for me to actually see the whole of a person, the beauty and the brokenness and hold both. I was so scared; it felt so unfamiliar. I think some people are way better at that. I felt like I had to grow up really quickly in that regard.

Alison Cook: This is the trauma of toxicity and of gaslighting and of these tactics that people use. It's beautiful, your God given design to be loyal, to be empathetic; it is beautiful that you want to have hope, that you want to believe in people. That's a beautiful aspect of our God-given design.

When people manipulate, exploit, prey upon that, and you came to find out, actually, that had been happening to you since you were a young child. You didn't even know. It distorts that otherwise good quality. And so you're trying to figure out, how do I be wise? And also that innocence that isn't all bad.

And so I want to pivot here, because that's where you end up. How do I get back? I don't want to become somebody who's just completely untrusting, who's cynical, who's skeptical, which would be an understandable path after what you went through. Completely understandable, Steve. This is why I want everyone to read your book.

Because you have experienced the depths of betrayal, and also there's a lot of hope in this book, a lot of goodness. You haven't lost that innocence. And one of the things that is so powerful is that you frame what happened in this book as grief. You frame it as a process of grief.

And I thought that was such a fascinating way to frame the complicated mix of emotions that you went through. How did you begin to conceptualize the aftermath, the incredible emotional aftermath, as grief? I think there are a couple of ways you could have really framed it, but that framing of grief was really interesting to me.

Steve: Yeah. The day after I resigned on August 5th, 2018, my wife and kids and I went to Madison, Wisconsin. I got up super early and I had turned my phone off, and so I turned my phone on that morning and it's just littered with comments. Some say good things. Majority of them are really painful things and I go on a walk in downtown Madison, and I'm just asking the Lord, and I haven't had this kind of thing happen very often in my life, but I just was like, I need a word, I need something. 

I don't know what I'm doing next…I knew what the next 25 years of my life was, I don't know what it is now. I sat down at a bench, I didn't hear anything and I literally just kept crying out to God, and three words came. Grieve, breathe, receive. And I just, I wrote them down. I went to a donut shop in downtown Madison. I sat down and I wrote, it was almost like a marching order for me.

Grieve what is. Grieve what I thought it was going to be, grieve how key people let me down, breathe in new mercies, and exhale anything that's getting in the way, and receive what I need to learn, receive what I need to own, and receive who God wants me to become. That became a mantra, but to be honest, I had no idea what the word grief meant.

I had spent my life bypassing the desert, running from the wilderness, not leaning into grief at all. And I think as I started to lean in, I realized oh, I got to feel this. And I think in my own home growing up, I learned I shouldn't feel grief. I think even on Sunday mornings, when everything's just always happy and up and to the right, we're just subconsciously taught, you shouldn't feel this, you shouldn't feel this.

And I think I had to learn my definition for grief and it's–there's way better ones–but for me it was helpful: I'm going to honor what comes up. When change shows up, and there's good change and there's hard change and there's just change. And how do I honor all of those complex emotions that are happening within me?

Not try to bypass them, but hold space for them. And it became something that just slowly, but surely, God began to reshape and reform me to be a healthier person than I was previously.

Alison Cook: Yeah. You and that, and you walk us through in the book, those three words, that mantra, it shaped the next few years. Tell us a little bit about the different emotions, the different complex emotions that came up for you.

Steve: Yeah. One of the greatest gifts in the desert season, because my family, we lived close to Willow, then we moved to Arizona, and I just started reading the desert mothers and fathers. I just tried to hike and really walk through the deserted lands and see what started to show up.

And one of the great gifts of that time was a bunch of mentors who had been in my life from years prior just made themselves available. I couldn't have gotten through this as quickly without them. But one of them, he knows I love Hebrew and Greek and words. And so he just called me and he just said, how's the SPADURA?

And I'm like, what are you talking about? Is that a Greek word? I don't know that word. He's like the SPADURA, and I'm like, I don't know what you're talking about. There's this acronym that he was he saw grief and it was really based off of Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief, but it was really talking about the shock and the sadness that comes and being able to honor it. 

Oftentimes, as Kubler-Ross writes, we start to kind of bargain. ButI had a lot of anger. It just wasn't fair. Wasn't right. And I have mastered the art of bright-siding; I never wanted to be angry, so I could always turn it to be good. And this was a chance where I just had to sit in it. And then oftentimes when I sat in it, because I didn't have any muscles for grief, that anger turned to such profound sadness that it was like a downturn. There was a depression. I never had been on medication before that, and I needed help. My body could not get me through this like it normally had. And then there's this almost surprise, I don't know if it's hope, if it's a little bit of an upside, it's maybe where the waves aren't crashing as much and you just start to begin to see this. 

And so as I started to walk through this, I realized it's not like you go from S to P to A to D to U to R to A. It's really like, I can be at a U and then go on Twitter and see what someone's posted. And it sends me to A, and it's almost like ping pong all over. And it felt more spiral, dynamic, and circular than it did actually moving from stage to stage. And so those words became almost like a feelings wheel for me to teach me how to name where I was at, because again, I was brought up with “You shouldn't feel this way. You shouldn't feel angry”. And to be able to honor that was a real gift for me.

Alison Cook: You talk about in the book how crucial it was for you to be defining your reality by naming, to be naming and defining your reality, and that was a lifeline for you. And I can imagine with the level of gaslighting and the level of having to unpack all of the manipulations, it's almost like you had to replay the tape of the story of those years at Willow, even the story of your childhood with the other betrayal against this new understanding of the truth. And so tell me a little bit about that process of really spending that time in the desert, redefining your whole reality.

Steve: This was the hardest part for me of the grief process. Because I had to be able to look at something and realize, oh, I was told that was true, but it's actually not true. I was told that was not true, but that was actually true. And I remember I actually spent some time with someone who does complex trauma therapy.

And I walked through my story and I'll never forget what she said. She said, Steve, I just need to reflect something back to you. Number one, you were a victim in this, your goodness, your innocence, it got played on. But number two, this is what I'm more fascinated by. Why are you drawn to narcissists? And I was like, whoa. 

And I think some of the stuff I had to realize was, why am I drawn to certain places and certain people and certain systems and certain structures? And I think part of it is that it was a familiar position growing up. It became familiar. I knew how to navigate through that world, number one. But then I think too, as you start to untangle, you have to look at stuff in the most honest and true way. And if I did get played, which I feel like I did, I have to also honor the truth that someone thought that they could play me. That the perks would overshadow doing the harder right.

And that my way of living and operating and people pleasing and fawning and living made me very susceptible to bet on, that I would stay complicit and silent. As I had to start to do that level of work, I realized, oh my goodness. That untangling, but then as you start to untangle that, there's stuff that's really beautiful there, but there's also work to be done. And so I think it was not just the untangling of all that’s bad. 

It was really the untangling of, man, I let that person say that. And I believe that to be true about me and that it wasn't. And there's a great verse in Genesis: who told you that? God's saying that. And I remember Christine Cain saying that: Who told you that? And did God really say…? Who told you that? 

And I just realized, I took some other people's words as gospel, and I had to untangle that. And just coming back to, oh, this is who I am. Broken and beautiful. This is who I am. And that was work. That was a lot of work.

Alison Cook: And doing that work without shaming yourself, because you were the victim. And it's such a delicate nuance, tension, of, I was taken advantage of. I was wronged here, let's name what's true. Let's name what's true. And also that receive–how do I grow so that I don't lose that innocence and also don't let this happen again?

To the best of your ability. What do I have to learn so that I can, and it's such a delicate balance from not shaming or blaming yourself, but also just looking deep within. That's brave work. I loved that reframing of the “who told you?” not from a shaming place, but from a loving place, Steve. “Who told you this?”

Steve: Yeah, I think that's really good. Yeah. Alison I just realized, sometimes the speed of our life, we don't get to slow down to actually stop and reflect. And sometimes when we do, we often feel that shame. And I think part of that process was just realizing–one of my mantras was like, no shame, no shade, like just consent to reality and just hold it.

And let's just turn it around, almost like it's a diamond, to see what reflects. To see different colors and get curious. And there were days that it was harder. I felt like, man, did I mess up? Wow. There were days and I had to catch myself and be like, all right, that was enough. That was seven seconds of shame. This is not helpful to the conversation. 

What can we learn? What can we be curious about? What's the deeper work that can be done? So that was a helpful piece, but it is so easy for that shame to creep in and take over.

Alison Cook: You talk about a quote that's about that liminality. I talk about “places in between” in I Shouldn’t Feel This Way to do that work of, I do feel this way. I have to have places to metabolize it. He said it so beautifully. He said, hope is the liminal vulnerability that invites us into a place where we show up as our whole selves, and admit we are limited. 

We can't undo the past. We can't make people change their minds. You're holding the tension of your whole self, what you have control over, what you don't, what you can't change, what you can. There was so much wisdom in that. 

Steve, it seems as if there was a precision to the naming, because what is so beautiful about the book is that you are pretty honest. You're not, to use your word, bright-siding things about what happened to you. It's also not a book of hopelessness or cynicism.

And I think that's a really hard balance to strike. You said something really profound. You said, Willow didn't hurt me; five people did. And that reframe seemed really important to you in figuring out how to contextualize what happened. Can you talk to me a little bit more about that?

Steve: Yeah. I found myself just getting asked all the time. How can you still love the church after what happened? And people talking about Willow really badly. 

Alison Cook: Yeah.

Steve: I struggled with it and I had to really wrestle. Am I bright-siding here? Am I just trying to preserve and protect? But honestly I started to realize, I'm not mad at the sophomore in high school who went to the youth group. I'm not frustrated with many of the staff. I'm not. I loved my job. I loved my life. I loved what I got.

I felt a connection with those people and those people, I believe, felt a connection with me. God was working. I knew it. And as I started to really sit with it, I'm like, it's not Willow. It's these five people. And that reframed it for me to realize, oh, my work is to ensure that I'm doing the reparative work to not allow the seeds of unforgiveness to take root in my heart, in my soul, where bitterness and resentment can take over. 

And that's hard, because every day, there are oftentimes reminders of the faces of these five people. And I have to remember the process of forgiveness. And it's always at work trying to make sure that my heart is ready. That if that day comes where I can break bread, that potentially a miracle can happen. I don't know if that will ever happen, but my work isn't to control whether they show up.

My work is to say, will I be ready and not violate my soul, but from an integrated and healthy and beloved place by Jesus and the kingdom of God, I can engage that. I didn't want to, because you get energy from being angry, you get energy from being bitter, you get energy from anger-fantasizing, like “If I saw one of them, this is what I would say!”. There is a high that you get from that.

You don't get the same thing with forgiveness. You get to be a little bit lighter and freer, but it doesn't have that same energy if that makes sense.

Alison Cook: Oh yeah. Yeah. You get the daily, you get more of the peace, you get more of the hope. It's so interesting as you describe that process of compartmentalizing, and I see this with folks who've been through traumas. Compartmentalizing those five people that are the real root of the anger, of the bitterness, of the resentment, which paradoxically allows you to be restored with all the folks where there isn't that hurt.

It's such a paradox that by really drilling down on what was hurtful and the people that really are like, no, that wasn't okay, and maybe I'll work out through a process of forgiveness, but I will also bracket them in my brain as folks who are untrustworthy.

Steve: Yep.

Alison Cook: It also paradoxically freed you to have more peace with the larger story of your time at Willow.

Steve: Yes. 100%. And I did an intensive with my therapist and I realized that, and I know that you're familiar and IFS, I feel like I learned about it from your first book and I started to really begin to engage with it. But I realized the feeling of powerlessness would come, the firefighter would come out and just get that fire out. Don't ever feel that, go buy something, go eat something, go experience something, go preach, go work, do something, don't feel that. Or protect yourself at all costs.

Alison Cook: Yeah.

Steve: But oftentimes I didn't know how to sit with the powerlessness, and then choose a more integrated, embodied path forward.  And that is what the gift of almost Sunday brings. The gift of Easter and resurrection is that There is something on the other side of the betrayal; there is something on the other side of the grief.

There is something on the other side and I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. And yet the forming work that came continues to surprise me.

Alison Cook: It's just, oh man, the part of me that just grieves with you, I think also being a writer and knowing the labor that at the very least of all of that, those two losses of two books you had to let go of. I'm so grateful for this book because it shows the fruit of the journey for you these last three years. And it's so rare, Steve, for us to see examples of people who are naming what's hard, who are being relentlessly honest about the truth and also simultaneously the process of staying hopeful for lack of a better word. 

Hopeful that it's not a binary and actually, the more you name what's hard and the more you quarantine it out, the more you actually can find hope. What would you say, Steve, to that younger 38 year old you now, if you could sit with him for a moment, who's about to go into this.

Steve: It's gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. The whole first half of life energy and second half of life energy, there's something that's so real about it. But there's a band called Brand New and they have this song. They're not a Christian band, but they have this song called Jesus Christ. And they say this line, Jesus Christ, Jesus, what did you do those three days that you were dead? Because this problem is going to last more than the weekend. 

And I think that kind of sense of, for some of us, Friday is going to be a lot of days, just the grief. And the Saturday of Breathe, that might be a lot of days and a lot of seasons. But Sunday does come. And it doesn't come the way that we thought it would come, or that we hoped it would come. It usually surprisingly comes in different ways. And I think I just realized it's not gonna be what I thought it was gonna be. But it's gonna be okay. It's gonna be okay.

Alison Cook: It's a powerful example. I love that. Going into that place in between, that Easter Saturday, for a prolonged period of time and letting it do its work so that now, in good time, you're able to tell your story. You're able to tell it in a way that will bless people, will honor folks who've been through betrayals, who've been through hard times, who need to grieve and who also don't want to get swallowed up by it, but want to come out the other side.

The last question I would ask is, what would you say to those listening who've been through betrayal? Or who are in the midst of processing through betrayal? Maybe it's the same thing.

Steve: Yeah I think that the grief journey, I think that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, just became a, grief is Friday, breathe is Saturday, receive is Sunday. It became a healthy mantra, but I had to honor what comes up when Friday shows up, and your Friday is when you are in grief.

You're like, how could this happen? And then Saturday is you actually trying to trick your brain to go, I can get through this. I can get through this. I'll figure this out. I know what to do. And then Sunday's just the reality that, oh, you can't get through it. But you will walk with grief. And it will be a part of your story, but it won't have the same amount of energy that it once had. 

I'm not saying it's going to be easy. You're going to hold it. It's going to be a companion that you will carry with you. And it will shape you and form you and it will also surprise you. That's the reality that, for anyone who's walking through it, it's okay to name if it's Friday, or if it's Saturday, but just hold on to the reality that in a way that doesn't make sense, God will surprise you because Sunday's coming.

Alison Cook: Thank you for pastoring us through this with this book. I think it's going to help so many people. How can people find you? How can they find the book?

Steve: Yeah. Thank you. Stevecarter.org, @SteveRyanCarter on Instagram and Twitter or X or whatever we call it. And then the book is everywhere books are sold. Feel free to reach out. I always love to connect with people. 

And Alison, I just have to say, your voice is so refreshing when I read your words. I listen to the podcast and I hear you, and then I get the chance to read, and I hear you and it's your ability to take such thoughtful concepts and make them accessible. There were moments where your first book, it was with me in the desert. And so I just thank you. I think for so many of us who would listen to you on the regular, thank you for consistently being that truth teller, that guide and a reminder that it's going to be alright. It's going to be alright.

Alison Cook: I appreciate that. I'm so grateful that, I guess it's it's cliche, it's Mr. Rogers who said, in the midst of so much dismay, look for the helpers. Look for the people. And you're one of those people. Reading this book, I was honestly, Steve, going into this book grieving, not in my own personal life, but some of the tragic fallout of our culture that we're seeing in the church culture.

And I read this book and I thought, what a gift in the middle of it. What a gift. I am so sorry that you had to go through it and I'm so grateful for the fruit that you allow God to bring in your life through it. Just so grateful for you. Just so grateful for your work, for these words, for your life, for the goodness that you've allowed to continue to come through your story.

Steve: you. That means the world, coming from you.

Alison Cook: Yeah, so Steve, are there any pre-order items for folks if they want to go ahead and get the book now?

Steve: Yeah, our books actually come out on the same day, which I'm so excited about. It's such an honor. If people pre-order and they go to SteveCarter.org, I wrote something called the evening Psalms, which is like a devotional of 150 Psalms, so they can get that for free.

And then we'll have small group curriculum that we've created for conversations for people to have. So they're on my website. There's a bunch of little freebies if people choose to pre-order and submit the receipt number.

Alison Cook: I'm so glad because I guarantee you, whatever you've put out will be helpful to folks. So go get that, and read Grieve, Breathe, Receive.

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