“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” -Mt 10:16, ESV
I remember early in the dissolution of my first marriage feeling confused after I had a conversation with my (now) ex-wife. As I remember this conversation, she had accused me of deceiving and manipulating my best friend and my parents into doing my bidding. I was flabbergasted by this accusation. These three people knew me better than any three people on the face of this earth. My best friend has a Ph.D. from Yale and had been my undergraduate roommate plus known me for over a decade at that point. He is no one’s fool. And my parents raised me from birth. Add to that, I am a notorious bad liar wearing my feelings on my sleeves (just ask Mrs. DM).
The accusation just did not add up.
Now, I understand what I did not understand that July afternoon. She was projecting her own shame and sin upon me. I suspect my ex-wife was the one successfully manipulating and deceiving her own parents and best friend to do her bidding. As I see it, the proof of this is in how none of those individuals have own up to me about their role in the destruction of the marriage after her adultery became indisputable. All of them are silent even though some were deeply involved prior to the divorce. They were the ones she was playing. It had nothing to do with me or my friends/family.
I offer this point as a lesson. Projection happens. And sometimes the accusations of the adulterous spouse belie more than she wishes to reveal concerning herself.
For pastors and faithful spouses, I encourage you to be wise to this dynamic. Be innocent of sin. But also be wise to the ways of those who do not want to face the pain of the shame or guilt that comes with wicked sin. It is a heavy load, and sinners have been known to try to shirk it off on a willing victim who is desperate to save that which one person can never save (i.e. a marriage).
By naming the dynamic, you can recognize the accusation is false and not take on false guilt or shame. It is not your burden to bear, and not an accusation to ruminate over as if it holds any wisdom. Also, by recognizing this dynamic in adulterous spouses, a wise pastor can put the focus back upon the person needing to repent of these matters. They can do this by calling the adulterous spouse out on the accusation.
We are well past the time where Christians need to grow greatly in being wise like serpents!