The Oblivious Ones


So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.

– Luke 17:3, NIV

If you have survived discovering infidelity and/or gone through divorce, you will inevitably encounter “well-meaning” but oblivious Christians. They may even be related to you by blood. 

These are the sort of people who say things that they may sincerely mean as encouraging but rather are a subtle blameshift and/or shaming. Sometimes these things are simply from a place of ignorance or lack of self-awareness–i.e. about hurtful, false assumptions or prejudices about divorcees or adultery victims.

They never had to consider their assumptions on these matters or have chosen not to do so.

I think the best way forward with these individuals is to apply the Luke 17:3 principles. Tell them how their words hurt you. This gives them the opportunity both to examine their hurtful, false assumptions and repair their relationship with you if they choose to apologize (and repent).*

If they do not apologize or repent, then I suggest either ending the relationship or limiting contact with this person as much as possible. You do not need to welcome that sort of hurtful, willfully destructive relationship into your world. Life is far too short.

But if they do apologize and repent, they you have won over an ally and restored a relationship. This is good and godly.

I am not just saying this. It is something I have personally walked out in my life:

For example, I had a pastor share some insensitive remarks with me shortly before my denominational switch. He was talking as if marriages end because one spouse has made the other so miserable that they divorce the other (i.e. a version of “The Shared Responsibility Lie.“)

After I explained to him how his assumptions were flat out false pointing to solid evidence, this pastor apologized for his insensitive remarks. We remain on good terms to this day. I am glad that I took the time to lay out the evidence to him.

But–to his credit–it took a compassionate person willing to listen and learn for our relationship to have been restored. Not everyone–as faithful spouses know all too well–will respond as well as he did.

Give it a shot.

You might find you have more people with you than you ever thought.

Maybe it is my optimism speaking here, but I tend to believe it is worth giving the benefit of the doubt on these matters to the loved ones in our lives who have proven their care by investing in us. Wouldn’t you want to have a chance to make it better if you unintentionally hurt someone you loved by something you said? 

I know I would. And that process starts with the individual telling me that my words hurt them.

* I am offering advice here I learned especially from Gary Chapman’s excellent book now entitled, Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion