DM as #60 (2004)
The day I donned a football helmet and put on shoulder pads are now over a decade ago. In many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. However, those years playing football (13 years) taught me some very important lessons. One of those lessons had to deal with personal responsibility.
In college, each game was filmed from two angles so that all the players are documented as to what they are doing in the game. After a game, we would sit down and review the film. If you made a play, the coach would point that out with praise in front of the other players. However, if you committed a “fatal error” (a mistake that killed the play), he would point that out as well and use it as a teachable moment to ask what needed to be done instead. My best year as a college player was filled with these position specific film sessions. They taught us to take responsibility for our actions and encouraged us not to make boneheaded decisions on the field (because everyone would see it in slow motion technicolor on Sunday).
How does this relate to dealing with adultery?
I see adultery as a crisis of personal responsibility. Like a stubborn, hard-headed football player, sometimes a cheater needs the “film”–i.e. evidence–put on rewind and played over and over until it sinks in that they actually did do this deed and are fully responsible for the damage it caused.
It’s a teachable moment.
And some need the reminders in technicolor, slow motion.*
Sadly, I hear and have experienced too many pastors and Christian counselors focusing on other players in these crucial moments. The faithful spouse. The cheater’s parents. Their peers. These Christian leaders almost seem invested in looking anywhere except directly at the cheater.
And they are missing the fatal error that killed the marriage dooming the team for good.
Sure, other “players” may have made mistakes. However, it is the fatal error** that needs the greatest attention. It’s a show stopper. And it is unbelievably damaging.
Whether the marriage continues or ends is for the faithful spouse to decide. But let’s not play dumb about what really killed this “play.” The faithful spouse may have made a false step here or there. But it was the adulterous spouse who stepped back and allowed the linebacker free reign to viciously snot-knock the quarterback to the ground.
It’s not much of a game if one player is giving free shots at his quarterback. Similarly, it’s not much of a marriage as long as the adulterous spouse is allowing or orchestrating free shots spiritually and emotionally on the faithful spouse.
That’s what needs addressing!
And you only get to the place of stopping such behavior by pointing out the destructive actions and poor choices made. The “player” has to own them first before he or she can change them. Plus, it is a waste of time focusing on other issues until you correct the “fatal error.”
*Some may suggest this is too cruel. However, we understood as players if we made an error then we needed to own up to our choices and actions. If it was too bad to do, then the cheater ought not to have done it in the first place. Pointing out the action is a necessary, if painful, part of the process towards repentance and healing. If the point is that they do not want to look bad, then they should have thought about that before acting bad. Ignoring and playing blind to the sinful “bad” behavior helps no one.
**I use the term “fatal error” as a metaphor. Obviously, I see adultery is far more heinous than a mere error. It is soul rape. And it is more than just one act. After all, no adultery can occur without lies being present as well.