“True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.” -Desmond Tutu
Today’s quote is taken from an insightful blog by the famous progressive evangelical blogger, Rachel Held Evans. Her full post on abuse and forgiveness can be read here. While I do not always agree with RHE theologically, I found her post yesterday on abuse and forgiveness to be spot on when it comes to dealing with spiritual manipulation post-adultery.
She identifies the manipulative tactics used by abusers to silence survivors and avoid facing justice in the context of recent evangelical mega-pastor scandals. When I read the article, I felt like she was describing the abuse I experienced from various religious actors–including my former spouse and former in-laws– as I went through divorce. I encourage everyone to read her post.
Brief Thoughts RE: True Reconciliation–
The quote above from Bishop Tutu strikes me as especially important to keep in mind when pondering reconciliation with an adulterer or adulteress. It brings to mind the Scripture: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (I John 1:7, NIV).
Notice that fellowship follows from walking in the light. John goes on to talk about sin after this verse. So, one can only surmise by extension that such fellowship is predicated upon exposing the sin to the light. It is as Bishop Tutu says: the full abuse and awfulness must be exposed. Without this, no true fellowship can be had. And by extension, the marriage cannot be reconciled. Darkness still reigns, and the relationship is still broken by sin.
I would add that just admitting to the extra-marital sex is not enough. The awfulness and abuse is much deeper than that. It includes copious lies and gaslighting (usually) in order to keep the faithful spouse in the dark. These sins need to be exposed to the light along with how it impacted the faithful spouse. The cheater needs to see the damage he/she did to the faithful spouse. This is important to undermine lies that minimize adultery in the cheater’s mind. It is harder to say adultery is nothing after seeing the devastation in the eyes of one’s spouse–i.e. assuming the adulterous spouse still has a conscience.
Also, I am of the mind that if the OM/OW know something that the faithful spouse does not, then the adulterous spouse is still in sin. This is my conviction, at least. Their soul is still tied by the secret with the OM/OW. That tie needs to be severed for there to be true hope in actual reconciliation.
What was darkness must be exposed to the light. This is what is required for fellowship with fellow believers and Christ. It is a minimal requirement for true reconciliation.