Forgiving Infidelity: The Gift of Forgiveness

Long ago when I was a child, I had a friend who abused and misused me. The circumstance was simple (as is most of what happens in childhood). He told me he had a new best friend, and in the blink of an eye, I was on the outside, crushed by the fickle state of relationships. What I felt then was not much different than what many feel at the stage of discovering what their mate has done to them. At first I felt devastated and alone. I wondered what was wrong with me that he would choose another? My pride felt destroyed and shame washed over me like a roaring river. Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity were my constant companions, and although during my childhood, I knew enough to understand I hated what I felt and wanted nothing to do with him, or the feelings now associated with him. Would I ever have another best friend? Would anyone ever want to hang with me again? Similar to forgiving infidelity, I didn’t know where to start. Certainly, forgiving infidelity is “no easy road”.

Then I began to catch my emotional breath and gain perspective. No one was going to treat me that way. I found that each time I rode by his house anger flooded my soul. I imagined hurting him in the same way he’d hurt me. I'd ignore him when we met in public. If we were both outside, I'd move to the other side of the street. If I encountered him in the store, I'd leave. If I saw him at school, I'd move to the other side of the room and pretend he wasn't there. I wanted to make sure he'd pay for what he'd done. I was going to make sure that I would never be treated that way again. If someone had suggested that I forgive him, I would have laughed, cursed or even thought them to be insane. In my mind he didn't deserve forgiveness! He deserved death, pain and suffering! I wasn't interested in getting even- I wanted to get ahead. I was sure that the antidote to bitterness was revenge.

I find that to be a common belief, even for adults. The incredible pain of the betrayal may create a near impossible situation for the betrayed. To forgive or not to forgive, is where almost every betrayed spouse ends up. Overcome with a myriad of emotions, the mind of the betrayed is maxed out with questions of whether or not to forgive. If you forgive and give your mate what they want, what will keep them from doing it again? Will they have suffered enough or even long enough to discourage them from doing it again? Bitterness and anger are the weapons used to inflict the pain necessary to discourage future indiscretions. By not forgiving infidelity, betrayed spouses may even notice their mate working harder to reconcile and gain forgiveness. For many, granting the gift of forgiveness is their last point of control. How can you maintain safety once you release your anger and bitterness?

What we fail to realize due to the overwhelming and practically incapacitating pain, is that FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT YOU GIVE YOURSELF. This is one of those issues where the teachings of Jesus are very clear. Forgiveness is not optional, not even when it comes to forgiving infidelity It is not for the benefit of the betrayer, but rather for the benefit of the offended that forgiveness is given. I learned this concept early on as a young child, yet the lesson has stayed with me for decades. I discovered that my unforgiveness affected me far more than my friend. As long as I held a grudge, he had control of my life. When I saw him, I had to alter my plans to make sure he knew I was still angry. I lost my peace. Just the very sight of him stirred deep emotions of hatred and ruined my day. It stole my joy. Nothing made me more miserable than seeing him living well while I still suffered. My unforgiveness served no good purpose other than to harm me, and in reality, I had already been harmed enough.

Now, don’t think for a moment I'm at any level alluding to the fact that forgiving infidelity is quick or cheap. In fact, it's far more than the offender deserves. Again, though, it is not for their sake that we forgive. We forgive for God's sake, and for our own benefit and ultimate recovery. Bitterness and unforgiveness will never bring peace or joy and will most certainly frustrate any sense of hope for reconciliation and restoration. They are the poison I take to kill another.

I'm also not saying that forgiving infidelity is synonymous with trust or reconciliation. I'm not even saying that the anger and hurt should be gone. The forgiveness I'm writing about is between you and God where you (like Jesus) say “Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing”. It's releasing them to God and allowing Him to forgive them through you. This is to set yourself free, not your mate.

If you are the betrayer reading this note, then please don't use this to say to your mate “you have to forgive me”. That's between them and God. In fact, if you feel you need your mate’s forgiveness in order for you to be ok, then I'd like to invite you to consider the possibility that your mate may be your god and their approval just might be out of balance in your own life. Those from whom we seek to gain forgiveness in order to find peace, or to relieve our fears, are the ones who we actually look to in order to fulfill us. For the betrayer, what this normally reveals is that they fear people far more than they fear God. If you have been able to receive God's forgiveness, and He's the one you live for, then whether or not your mate forgives you will not affect your peace. If you've received the forgiveness you need from God, then you'll be free to assist your mate in finding healing rather than pressuring them to forgive you for your own benefit.

I realize that there is much more to be said on this crucial subject than can fit in this brief column, so if you have questions, please feel free to write us at

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