What are Christian couples to do when caught in the grips of unfaithfulness and infidelity?
- Is forgiveness possible?
- Can a marriage facing this problem survive?
- If so, can the couple be happy again?
Many marriages that face the crisis of infidelity go on to not only survive but thrive after such an event. However, one critical aspect of this process is the need for the offended party (and the offending party) to embrace forgiveness. The following actions will help:
1. Carefully define the meaning of forgiveness.
- To forgive means a person no longer remembers the offense. Scripture only refers to God's capacity to forget sin and places no such expectation on His people (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:12). Our ability to remember hurtful events helps inform to our future decisions.
- Other misconceptions: forgiveness means condoning, ignoring, repressing, allowing future abuse, or the end of pain, hurt, and consequences. Though definitions vary, the central or critical core of forgiveness is "an individual's choosing to release his or her anger, bitterness, and any desire to retaliate related to offensive and hurtful behavior."
2. Consider whether anger has served its appropriate purpose.
The emotion of anger, by itself, is neither good nor bad. Scripture describes Jesus' anger when He drove the money changers from the temple (Matt. 21:12-13). His behavior was not viewed by God as sinful. Anger is a natural emotion measured by how it is used. It can be used to help propel action to protect the things we love or it can be used in destructive and selfish ways.
3. Acknowledge the specific losses and hurts you have experienced.
Specifically address the injuries that have given rise to anger. Develop a list of specific ways the affair has affected your relationship and your family. Share this list with a trusted and compassionate same-sex friend or even your mate when he or she is willing to listen empathetically and own responsibility for the injuries.
4. Make a choice to forgive your mate and commit your anger to God.
By making this choice, you are saying "I am no longer entitled to feel angry, bitter, or resentful toward my mate for hurts related to the affair." Remember that you are offering the gift of unmerited grace to your spouse. You have no control over your mate's actions; so if change is going to take place, it must begin with you.
5. Work to hold on to forgiveness.
What will you do when you are tempted again to go down the road of anger? Maintaining forgiveness of the deep profound hurts from close family members often requires sustained dedication to the task. You not only have to decide to forgive, but you then have to live with forgiveness.
Your action of forgiveness reflects your appreciation of our indebtedness to God.