Brokenness Sin Origin False Narrative

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:6, NKJV

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“Can’t you see he only did this because he is broken.”

“She’s broken. That’s why she cheated. Don’t you think it’s time we take the pressure off of her?”

I wonder if anyone here heard such lines from well-meaning friends or Christian leaders in the aftermath of adultery discovery. Personally, I think this is horrible advice as it obscures what is important. The adulterous spouse made sinful choices and needs to repent of such sin. Focusing on “brokenness” as opposed to repentance feeds into Satan’s game to encourage moral fuzziness in the Church.

And I agree. I do believe every adulterous spouse is “broken” in some sense. Where there is sin, there is always brokenness. That does not mean one is any less responsible for choosing to sin, though. And I am concerned about how this idea of brokenness is used to excuse adultery or explain away responsibility for the adulterous. It actually dis-empowers the adulterous spouse to turn from his or her ways as he/she are treated as victims of their brokenness as opposed to active agents in committing sin.

Let me use an example to make this clearer:

A sociopath is still a murderer even if he is “broken” as in incapable of feeling empathy. He knew what he was doing and chose to kill because he wanted to kill. The murderer still needs to be held responsible for his actions. We get that in this case but start getting fuzzy in the head when dealing with adultery.

Or perhaps, people are saying the adulterous spouses lost their minds when they committed adultery when they refer to their brokenness?

I find that narrative hard to believe.

The level of deceit–whether it be for days or years–that most adulterous spouses use to cover their tracks suggest otherwise. It is pre-meditated soul rape. And they know what they are doing is wrong because they decide to lie about it to hide it. This does not sound like a crazy, broken person to me. It sounds like a wicked person deciding their wants are more important than not hurting the innocent.

The acts of deceit and adultery are not the acts of a passive person. They are acts of aggression leading to the rape of the faithful spouse’s soul. And such acts need the firm loving rod of a shepherd halting an aggressive animal bent on tearing into the hide of another beloved sheep. They harm needs halting and the destructive choices need correcting. It need not and should not be cruel correction, but it does need to be firm in order to protect the innocent from further harm.

Also, I challenge the general narrative that adultery necessarily comes out of brokenness. Why can’t the origin just be plain old rebellion against God? Adultery really is just like the first sin in the Garden of Eden:

Adam and Eve were perfect, sinless creatures. This means no brokenness was there. However, a lie about God holding out on them was believed,* and they took what they wanted condemning humankind with Original Sin.

It is that simple:

A lie was believed about God. The humans decided they would take what they wanted choosing to be their own gods. Rebellion was born. And they took what they wanted; thereby, they sinned.

It was a rebellious act of the will.

How is that different than adultery?

I find it hard to believe people are unaware that having sex with a married person is morally wrong. However, I suspect they want to indulge their fantasies or desires believing some sort of lie about God (e.g. “God just wants me happy, and this makes me happy unlike my marriage”). And they grasp what they want sinning. They choose to commit adultery. And there goes a bite of the forbidden fruit.

Let’s be clear:

Brokenness did not sin. A person sinned.

And it is important to keep that in mind.

How did the person sin?

They made a choice and acted on that choice.

While it may be an interesting and helpful exercise to explore family of origin issues and past traumas at some point, it is important not to lose sight of the choices made and actions taken. Adultery is wrong. It is not inevitable, or God would not have bothered to command against committing it. People willfully choose to commit adultery from all sorts of backgrounds. We are not machines fated to sin. Humans have choices and will be held accountable for those choices by God (see 2 Cor 5:10).

As pastors and church leaders, we need to learn how to help adulterous spouses choose more wisely (if they are willing to repent). We need to learn how to undermine the lies Satan uses to “excuse” such sin. And we can begin by refusing to accept the excuse that brokenness caused the adultery:

No, the adulterer/adulteress chose to commit adultery. That choice is what cause it. Now, it is time to repent and make better choices in the future.



*I remember a talk years from William Paul Young, the author of The Shack, where he pointed out this truth. He taught that sin came from believing God is not good or is withholding from us. So, I want to acknowledge his contribution in idea form to today’s post.

5 thoughts on “Brokenness Sin Origin False Narrative”

  1. I know I wanted to blame my husbands’s actions on depression. Our MC said my husband might be depressed so I grabbed on to that and ran with it because I didn’t want to accept that he had this kind of evil in him. Turns out he does. Before this happened to me, I thought cheaters were scumbags because that’s what my parents taught me. I still think the same thing but it took me a while to accept it in my own situation. I think some people around us want to blame the adultery on brokenness, depression, whatever because they don’t want to face that it could happen to them. I find the people around me who still blame my husband’s actions on anything but him have serious emotionally codependent personalities. That’s on them. I just don’t think I can be around those kind of people right now.

  2. DM, I wonder if some of the fuzzyness in the thinking about adulterous spouses is because most people don’t realize the full impact of adultery. They know it’s wrong and a sin, but unless they’ve been through it, don’t understand the complete devastation of the faithful spouse, the PTSD, the destruction of a family, the long term effects on the children of divorce, the financial ruin, and the years it takes to recover from it, if ever. Maybe if the reality of this truly heinous sin was understood, spiritual leaders and others wouldn’t be so quick to use brokenness to mitigate the wilful actions of the adulterer.
    I’ve read that the adulterer murders his/her spouse, but leaves them still breathing. That’s what it feels like. A living death. I’m mourning for the life I thought I had and for the man I thought my husband was. It truly is soul rape, a kind of spiritual murder. And no one excuses murders become they are broken or have FOO issues.
    I myself am “broken” due to FOO issues and life experiences, but it has made me recognize brokenness in others and have empathy for them. It does not make me want to hurt the people who trust me the most. I am a human being, subject to the same temptations as everyone else and while not perfect, know the difference between right and wrong. Adultery is a crime against your spouse and family, a sin against God. There are NO mitigating factors, it is a choice between right and wrong, it is black and white. It is absolute.

  3. So well stated Carmella. Most people don’t understand the utter devastation that adultery causes. I know I didn’t get it until I lived it. I knew it was wrong, I knew there were no excuses for it but I didn’t know that is was as bad as murder- which I think it is. The best way I can help change this is to educate the people who will listen around me (especially clergy) and raise my sons to do better.

  4. Great comments. May I add that many Christians are very uncomfortable discerning and speaking against such behavior. They don t want to say someone did something wrong. What’s the big deal, nobody actually died is the thinking. Not physically. They are afraid they will be confronted with scripture about being perfect and be the first to cast a stone. But DM has pointed out earlier the follow up is always left out – the appearance of repentance by the woman along with instruction by Our Lord to live her newfound life in forgiveness – and to sin no more. So on these folks march to their chapels and houses of worship and play that no choices were made to do wrong because the person is broken. And victims of soul rape rain on the parade of happiness if we don t fall in step. It is annoying, at best.

  5. very good comments….
    My ex actually told me he was depressed a month before I found about the affair. I too, jumped into helping him, researching everything I could regarding male depression. Low and behold, it was a cover for his affair. he may have been depressed, situational depression caused by his lying. I too, blamed depression, FOO, and whatever else for the adultery. Anything but him…and his poor choices.

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