Lock the Doors, Grieve the Death

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” 

-Psalm 34:18, NASB

Metaphors, while being imperfect approximations, often can help us grasp difficult and complex truths conveying both intellectual and emotional freight with vivid imagery. Here’s my shot on explaining by metaphor why focusing on forgiveness first after adultery is cruel:

Imagine you are a parent and own a nice house in the suburb. One horrible day thieves breaks into your house and kidnap your child killing him. The police find  one of the perpetrators, and no doubt is left over his responsibility. He confesses he did the deeds.

In this scenario, who in their right mind asks the parent why she hasn’t forgiven her child’s murderer already?

Is that really the appropriate first place to go?

A sane and compassionate caregiver looks to the safety of the parents first. Doors locked? Security on? How’s the search going for the other thieves out there that might come back?

Then they attend to supporting the parent in their grief.

Grieve the death.

Can you imagine a counselor or pastor in this scenario turning to the hurting parent and saying,

You sound angry. Why haven’t you forgiven him already? You know God commands you to forgive him. Besides, can you really fault him for breaking into your home and killing your child? You did a poor job locking up. And who leaves their kids unattended in a separate room…like ever? I really think you need to take your share of the blame here.

While such a response sounds absolutely insane to our ears in this scenario, I can tell you from painful personal experience this sort of response to adultery is all too common. And it is just as insensitive a response to the adultery survivor as it is to a grieving mother or father.

Demonstrate that you actually care for the survivor.

Look after their basic needs like the need for safety after adultery for it is an intimate and violent violation of the faithful spouse’s safety. It’s soul rape. Next, support the faithful spouse in grieving the death of the marriage–both the one they thought they had and the one that will never be for the innocence in the marriage has forever been murdered.

To those who may object to my metaphor as a false or strained analogy, I have a question:

Is a marriage less valuable than a child? I don’t know. Let’s just say both are very valuable, and the violent loss of either needs to be treated with caring respect.

Does forgiveness in either case ever come into the picture? Yes, of course. Jesus commands it for our own good, I believe. It sets us free.

However, I would suggest both the survivor and caregiver keep the order straight: 1) safety, 2) grieving, and 3) forgiveness.

Lock the doors.

Grieve the death.

And don’t be a  jerk.

10 thoughts on “Lock the Doors, Grieve the Death”

  1. My IC (counselor) did just this. When talking about how I still feel angry (affair discovered this Easter) and want to forgive but have a hard time, he tells me that I should be more kind and there are better ways than anger t detach. He says I need to forgive my wife so I can move on. Yes, I’m sure he’s right, but this week I had to tell a 12yo his mom had a boyfriend and doesn’t want to come home to us. His 16yo brother already knew but it still hurt him. Yes, I continue to work on forgiveness and my anger, while late to the party is helping and not unhealthy right now.

    1. So sorry you experienced that, David. All of it. Including the IC adding insult to injury. Glad you know that anger in this case is your friend and not enemy giving you the energy to set back healthy boundaries getting you through this awful time. It is healthy to be angry about such clear wrongs and sins as long as the anger is channeled in non-destructive/non-sinful ways. God is angry all the time at the wicked (Ps 7:11, KJV).

  2. Another great point DM!

    David, it is HARD to even fathom the thoughts of forgiveness when you are in the heat of the war. You are hurt and victimized over and over. For some people it gets better, but some have to continue the fight. Chump Lady has it right that you need to get to the point of , “Meh” first. Forgiveness for the affair will come eventually, but not in the heat of war.

    Another thought,
    Why is it people who are victims of adultery have the blame pointed at them also? We didn’t TELL them to go and have an affair, just like in your example the mother didn’t TELL the thieves and murderers to do what they did. Those people CHOSE to do this, the only person who told them to do this was the devil.

    1. Like Job’s “friends,” I think many people do not want to realize they are vulnerable like the adultery survivor. They do not like the reality that they do not control whether or not it happens to them. They blame because it eases that fear and soothes them with the idea that they can control this. But that is both hurtful and reality denying.

  3. Why is it that forgiveness means you cannot be angry? Why is it confused that being Christian carries an implication being walked over, trod upon? That is not exactly what being humble means. Our Lord got very angry with the Pharisees in particular. It didn’t make Him less of a shepherd or gentle…or Holy. A priest told me when you forgive the person, you are NOT excusing, condoning or sanctifying the damage done. You are saying, God, You saw this, and I trust You to handle it way better than I ever could. That definition of forgiveness, makes sense. It really helped me start climbing out of the awful muck. I am still really angry at times. I do not apologize for being angry. I just try to do it now in private. What the children and I have been subjected to is wrong on every level. 28 months later, I choose to let God handle my spouse and all the junk. I am stubborn, I was handing it over piece by tiny piece. I do hope to someday get the divorce complete.

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