Mailbag: “‘Feeling self-righteous and morally superior is a big trap.'”

Today, Chump Lady sent me this comment from her blog highlighting some rather awful advice given by a minister to a faithful spouse:

I am so glad to read this post and all the replies tonight.  I had an email exchange with my (former) minister earlier today that really frustrated me.  I reached out to him because my STBX is very active in the church (where everyone loves him because he is SO helpful and kind) and I have stopped attending because the hypocrisy is too much for me to bear.

Anyway, I have felt the lack of spiritual support and reached out to this person who ostensibly cares for all alike.  His advice?

[and I quote]  “Feeling self-righteous and morally superior is a big trap.  If you think you could never do what he did, there’s a possibility of moral superiority, so try feeling willing to forgive. (STBX) is in trouble. In so many ways, worse off than you. If you can’t help him, stop thinking negatively about him.”

Well, I could NEVER do what he did (threesomes with strangers, prostitutes, craigslist hookups, webcam porn […etc.] ) so I guess I am guilty of moral superiority.

And I’m living out of a suitcase in my brother’s basement while STBX continues whoring and drinking and dragging his heels on meeting to settle the divorce.

But he’s “in so many ways worse off than” me.

I’m just grateful to live in this age of the Internet and the access to Chump Lady.  This “betrayed spouse co-created this mess” stuff is crap.


Dear Roaring,

It grieves my heart to hear how poorly your local church family and leader has handled your situation. The person to whom they ought to be extending love and grace is you. Instead, they clearly have decided adultery is tolerable in their church contrary to all that Scripture teaches on the matter.

I do not blame you for choosing to leave that church body. In fact, I affirm you for choosing to leave a place that is not supportive of you and clearly does not take the Bible seriously enough to confront your stbxh as Scripture demands of them (e.g. I Corinthians 5:11ff).

As to your minister’s response, I have a few thoughts for him:

“Feeling self-righteous and morally superior is a big trap.”

Perhaps so. I think we all battle pride to some degree. However, I fail to see how that is the real or main issue here.

You have a husband actively raping his wife’s soul through engaging in illicit sex! As a minister who knows about this man’s sexual immorality, you have a Biblical duty to confront the adulterous spouse (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:20).

Shaming his victim is not godly. In fact, I call it spiritually abusive.

“If you think you could never do what he did, there’s a possibility of moral superiority, so try feeling willing to forgive.”

Once again, the focus is wrong here. The cart is before the horse.

It is next to impossible to forgive someone who is actively sinning against you. In fact, Jesus instructs us to forgive only if the person repents (see Luke 17:3). As I read Scripture, it is not wise to forgive prior to addressing the sin as that may just enable the sinner to sin more and lead to his/her spiritual damnation. At best, we can choose to hand someone over to God in situations where the sinner has stubbornly chosen wickedness over holiness (e.g. I Corinthians 5:5).

Also, forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice to discharge a legitimate debt. We do not command our feelings.

“(STBX) is in trouble. In so many ways, worse off than you.”

Agreed, stbx is in trouble in many ways. Soliciting prostitutes is not only immoral but also illegal in many states. Also, he is about to be divorced Biblically by Roaring as a consequence of his hard-hearted, adulterous sins. That’s a lot of trouble but only the tip of the iceberg.

The most serious trouble is that his soul is in danger of damnation according to Scripture as he does not seem to have choosen the path of repentance (e.g. I Cor. 6:9-10, I John 3:6, etc.). This spiritual danger ought to move a compassionate minister to action rebuking this man before it is too late for his soul.

“If you can’t help him, stop thinking negatively about him.”

As far as this “stop thinking negatively” exhortation, I would add that God thinks negatively about what this man has done and/or is doing. It is healthier to have the mind of Christ than the mind of man on this matter.

Scripture is crystal clear about God’s opinion about spouses that choose sexual infidelity over faithfulness (e.g. Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 22:22, Jeremiah 3:8, Hebrews 13:4, etc.). God calls what he has done “evil.” And, yes, that is a very “negative” word.

Furthermore, once again, it is hard not to have “negative” thoughts about someone who is actively sinning against you. That said, I suspect Roaring’s negatively is really just her expressing her pain, grief, and sense of injustice that she is experiencing as a result of her stbx’s flagrant adulterous sins.

It is cold-hearted and cruel to tell a victim to stop thinking “negatively” who is actively hurting from the perpetrator’s sins. 

Let me be clear:

Roaring is being/was violated, and you, minister, are sheltering the perpetrator of those wrongs!

It sickens me to continue to watch ministers extending more “compassion” to the perpetrators than to their victims. Further, it bothers me that they think it is godly to shame the victims for legitimate expressions of pain and grief over what was done to them.

Roaring, I assure you that this minister is not acting or responding the way God responds to adultery.

This is not God’s heart on your situation!

God makes it crystal clear that the adulterous will be judged for defiling the marriage bed (see Heb. 13:4).

What your stbx-husband has done and is doing is a HUGE deal to God! He is not amused and has instructed His people not to accept such actions within their community (see I Cor. 5) even if this particular pastor and church has chosen to ignore that instruction.

Finally, I want to encourage you. Not every church or minister holds such views or practices regarding infidelity/adultery. I am one who takes a strong line against adultery. Divorce Minister is all about taking adultery seriously! 

Take heart, and I hope these words build you up today!

Pastor David

5 thoughts on “Mailbag: “‘Feeling self-righteous and morally superior is a big trap.'””

  1. When a pastor says things like that, it makes me wonder if he’s a cheater, too.

    I have a friend who is divorcing her pastor-husband for adultery and abuse. They are part of a denomination that accepts divorced pastors. The man is already “Facebook official” with his adultery partner even though he is still married to my friend. It’s disgusting. He shouldn’t be a pastor and neither should anyone else who things cheating is not a big deal.

  2. Thank you. My church is Religious Science – not a Christian-based center…but one I thought was moral. I’m now searching for a new spiritual home. Thanks for your support.

  3. Thank you so much for your beautifully worded response, DM.

    Elizabeth Lee, you must have read my mind. I don’t know how much of my story you, or anyone on this blog know, but it’s Lifetime made-for-TV bizarre. I was married to a well-respected Elder in a church, about four months in the marriage, I found out had a mistress on the side (even while we were engaged). She was/is another Elder’s wife, and shortly after that, I discovered my then-husband had slept with at least three other women in the congregation (possibly four, but I have hard evidence of three). I discovered photos of him (and them) in bed because he liked to keep “souvenirs” of his “encounters” (his word). One was the married sister of the head of Women’s Ministries, another was the daughter of the same head of Women’s Ministries (and barely of legal age – young enough to be his daughter). He’s also exposed himself in a family restaurant, with small children no more than 15 feet away (and he really got a kick out of the fact that he “got away with it”. Yes, I was there, and was in total shock, so stunned I didn’t alert the management of the restaurant and the authorities, which is what I should have done, husband or not, and it’s now among my biggest regrets – that, and marrying him in the first place).

    That everyone at the church thinks he’s among the kindest, hardest-working, most devoted members of that church, leads me to believe he’s a textbook covert Narcissist. I approached the Pastor twice – each time with hard evidence to show him. The Pastor declined viewing it each time, stated he believed me, and said he thought my now-ex was always, somehow “broken”. However, he did nothing, no-thing, to address the situation. I waited three months for something. All I saw was a sermon he delivered about “people who lead double lives” and how God frowns on that. Seriously? Did he really think that was going to change anything – that my then-husband would realize that he has all the characteristics of a sexual predator, and would repent, because of some ambiguous sermon? Yes, with time, distance, and divorce behind me, connected the dots (and more hard evidence) and discovered the Pastor is polygamous – he has a legal wife, and a “spiritual wife”, and here’s the kicker: they’re sisters. Obviously, they keep it very discreet. No, this church isn’t affiliated with the FLDS. It’s a non-denominational congregation (from mainstream denominational roots) with no one they need to be accountable to. Birds of a feather.

  4. The wounded spouse gets to decide when they feel healed enough to forgive.

    Grace is given by our Lord and we can try to extend grace to an adulterous spouse but that doesn’t mean it happens on any time table beyond the one that is worked with God in the heart of the destroyed spouse. I would think that Roaring’s pastor would be working to heal both spouses but MOSTLY helping Roaring to cope with her pain. Sometimes the most healing words are those that agree you were wronged.

    I hope Roaring can find a pastor and church home that will support in her loss and help her find hope in her future. My pastor was amazing, I was very blessed in that.

    I think many people we turn to for support want to believe they can influence their own partners to be faithful. It scares them so much that they turn the blame and judgement to the victim. There are so many “worst parts” about being the victim of adultery. Our friends need to justify the cheater to retain the illusion of control in their own lives. I think rape, the loss of a child and other horrors are treated the same – where fear drives the need to blame the victim. I only told a few close friends because I realized they couldn’t listen without telling me how they have affair-proofed their own marriage. That is just another way of blaming the victim.

  5. It is sad when the church starts listening to the world instead of the other way around. I think the reason so many churches don’t take adultery seriously is because the world doesn’t take it very seriously anymore and some churches have just lowered their expectations like the rest of the world. Jesus certainly didn’t go the way of the world when he was on earth and it is our job as Christians to continue his work by expecting other Christians to live by His word. I do not hesitate to tell people what I think about adultery. I think I’m really blessed to be a member of a church that expects its members to live by Jesus’ words. I know there are other churches out there that are like mine and hope everyone finds one. It would be interesting to go interview pastors and ask them what they would do if one of there members was an adulterer.

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