Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. – 2 Cor. 7:10, NIV
When you see the fruit of advice destroying someone or yourself, you are seeing something bringing death as this verse tells us. This is not from God.
God is not one who came to kill, steal, and destroy but to give life (John 10:10). Satan wants destruction, not Jesus.
I think this is helpful to remember for both faithful spouses and adulterous spouses.
Let’s talk about the adulterous spouse first:
The adulterous spouse ought not to see themselves as “worms” but rather as ones who have done wrong and need to do their best to make amends.
If they view themselves as worms, then they are stuck in worldly sorrow and self-pity. This helps no one except Satan who loves to see people made in God’s Image destroyed.
Godly sorrow is true sorrow. And it is empathetic sorrow. This is what I’d hope to see in a truly repentant adulterer or adulteress.
It is a sorrow that takes the focus off of oneself and onto how one’s actions/choices first hurt one’s God then others who were involved–for example, one’s spouse.
And godly sorrow is not about agreeing with a shame label: “Slut,” “Whore,” or “Man-Whore.”
Remember that God did not approach Cain in this way when he did something wrong (see Gen. 4:6-7). He rather focused on Cain’s actions and exhorted him to do better next time. God does not attack our worth.
I’ve seen this label-thing used against faithful spouses as well. The cheater suggests or implies that the faithful spouse wants them to wear this “Scarlet A” for the rest of their lives and tries to use that imputed desire to depict the faithful spouse as unreasonable.
Once the faithful spouse is painted as unreasonable, then they do not have to bother listening to reasonable requests or really make any amends for their sinful deeds. This works quite well temporarily (but not eternally as the sin is never addressed through repentance).
Now, let’s talk about the faithful spouse:
While this verse is more about responding to when one is actually wrong, I am going to apply it here to how one feels after hearing advice from “friends” or “Christian leaders.”
Does the advice tear at your self worth and make you want to kill yourself? Then it likely only has one source–i.e. from the pit of Hell.
Does the advice build you up even if it is difficult to hear? Then it likely has a godly origin. I’d also look for the fruit of the Spirit in it (see Gal. 5:22-23).
When looking at advice and the response of adulterous spouses, look to see if life is present as this verse suggests.
The sadness ought to water the ground for new life, new hope, and growth like a gentle Spring rain watering fertile fields broken open and planted for a new season of harvest.
*A version of this post ran previously.