Forgiveness Does Not Change Facts!


It still feels strange for me to even speak about how my first marriage ended.


I feel internal pressure and accusation as if speaking the facts means I have not forgiven her or am bitter. That’s a lie, by the way.

But it is a hard one to shake growing up amidst a Christian subculture that cannot move fast enough away from such discussions of marriages ending and people committing evil like adultery is (e.g. Deut. 22:22).

A good way to avoid talking about adultery and how such sin destroys marriages is to shame adultery victims into silence. Call them “bitter” or “unforgiving” if they dare mention what happened to them. This needs to change.

Sometimes choose to share the facts of how my first marriage ended. Not always, mind you. 

It happened. My first wife committed adultery against me, God, and our marriage. Then she discarded me via divorce. That happened.

And it has shaped me. To not know that chapter in my life is to miss out on knowing a great deal about me. It is not the entirety of who I am and my aspirations. However, it was a very major traumatic event in my life. And I do not need to be ashamed of the fact it is part of my life history. It is.

Forgiveness does not change facts.

Forgiveness is about our response to the facts. And sometimes the furthest we can go on the long path of forgiving infidelity is giving all the injustice over to God for Him to handle (e.g. Romans 12:19).

He is the Judge, after all. Not me. Not you.

And He is just. Plus far wiser than I.

I trust He will deal justly and wisely with how His adopted son was wronged and wounded someday.

That is enough for me.

Forgiveness does not deny that the injustice and violations did occur. 

The journey of forgiveness moves us from a place where those wounds and hurtful events own us to a place where we own them in the sense that the pain and grief no longer has power over us and we can freely talk about the events as historical facts. That’s how I see it.

Talking about evil events will be upsetting for some. It will especially be upsetting for those who rather not face their own vulnerability to infidelity. Their own powerlessness.

Also, it may be upsetting for those who know the perpetrator and would rather not deal with the reality that he/she committed such evil against the faithful partner.

It does not make the faithful spouse “bitter” or “unforgiving” to speak the facts.

Labeling them as such says more about the labeller than the labeled. It speaks to someone who is unable to handle the reality of living in a world broken by evil. And make no mistake, adultery is truly evil!

3 thoughts on “Forgiveness Does Not Change Facts!”

  1. “It does not make the faithful spouse “bitter” or “unforgiving” to speak the facts. Labeling them as such says more about the labeler than the labeled. It speaks to someone who is unable to handle the reality of living in a world broken by evil. And make no mistake, adultery is truly evil!”

    Thank you for putting this so succinctly. I fully realize that no one can understand the crushing weight of being betrayed unless they’ve been there, but to attempt to silence the betrayed because someone is unwilling to even begin to legitimize the pain can be yet another crushing weight for the innocent victim.

    Case in point: I taught a ladies’ bible study and in the course of one class it came out that four of the ten women in the room, unbeknownst to each other, had ex-husbands who had committed adultery. As their stories spilled out, emotions were high and their pain was raw–each of them still hurting even though all but one had been divorced 5+ years. Then a fifth woman broke down and shared that her husband was currently in an affair with a woman in their Sunday School class and threatened to take full custody of her small children if she told anyone about it.

    The next week I arrived early to prepare my classroom and overheard the husband of one of the non-betrayed women in the class telling someone in the class he was teaching in the room next door that his wife would be joining his class that night because my class was nothing but a bunch of “husband-bashers” and she wouldn’t stay in the same class with women who would talk about their husbands that way. That night none of the non-betrayed women in the class came back and I learned that Mrs. Indignant had shared her opinion with them that ‘listening to such talk would lead them to bash their own husbands and cause their own husbands to divorce them.’ (Side note: the woman whose husband was currently committing adultery also never came back, never responded to my phone messages, and never responded to e-mail. I never saw her in the church again.)

    Later I spoke with Mrs. Indignant privately and respectfully and told her that I admired her 40+ year marriage and that I hoped she herself never ever needed a circle of friends who would compassionately let her share pain without judging her for it. After that neither she, nor her husband, would make eye contact me if they could help it.

    When the church shames the betrayed for their pain, the betrayed stop trusting the church. When the church rushes to ‘restore’ the unrepentent betrayer, tripping all over itself not to be called ‘judgmental’ and patting itself on the back for how well they forgive, the betrayed stop believing in the church. When the church condemns the betrayed for ‘their part,’ the betrayed walk away from the church. Shame on you, Church.

    “Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” –James 1:26-27 (The Message)

    1. I have been thinking a lot lately about the church\Christian sub-culture and how so much of it amounts to just lip service, politeness, clichés and outward appearance.

      I had a conversation last week with a Christian friend regarding forgiveness. He is a proponent for unconditional forgiveness and said the usual stuff about forgiveness, anger and bitterness. I realized later, that the sort of “forgiveness” these people mean is not only unbiblical: it is self-serving because it is purposed to make oneself feel better and negates accountability. The focus is on oneself. How is this edifying? My response was that relief from betrayal does not come from mental acrobatics, but giving it over to God and knowing that He will deal justly and wisely with it. My friend seem dumb founded and this is a person who has been a Christian for over 40 years.

      He then moved to say that if God forgives us and we don’t deserve it, then we should also forgives those who do not deserve it. The first thing that came to mind was the difference of repentance and not everyone is going to heaven so not everyone receives forgiveness. It’s conditional. But DM, I was wondering if you had a more elegant response to this?

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