Editor's Note: This is the second and final installment of a special series on adultery for the column "Counseling Corner."
"Duty, Honor , Country – those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn."
―Army General Douglas MacArthur, May 12, 1962, to West Point cadets upon receiving the Sylvanus Thayer Award
Duty and Honor
Right now, another Army General could benefit from MacArthur's message, to find the courage, faith, and hope – the needed character qualities to rebuild a damaged reputation and restore wounded relationships. To the watching world, General David Petraeus demonstrated duty to his country throughout his military career, but by dismissing his marital vows to his wife, he dishonored the meaning of duty ... he disgraced his commitment to honor.
Righting the course after sliding down the slippery slope of infidelity is a difficult but necessary choice that requires a series of steadfast decisions. Vital to remember is that there can be both hope and healing after an AFFAIR. If you are suffering the damaging consequences of adultery, allow the following seven steps below to help you restore honor to your marriage and regain a sense of true commitment to your mate. 1
1. Consider the difference between love and lust.
Don't think, "It can't be wrong when it feels so right?"
Decide now: Love is not a feeling. The supreme test in determining whether something is right is not how it feels, but what God says about it. If sin never "felt" good, no one would ever be tempted to sin. Love is a choice to make a personal sacrifice for the sake of honor and commitment.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself
up for her" (Ephesians 5:25).
2. Communicate godly sorrow.
Don't think, "If I admit I'm sorry about the affair, everything will be okay."
Decide now: There is a vast difference between "worldly sorrow" and "godly sorrow." Worldly sorrow is being sorry for getting caught. Godly sorrow is a change of mind with a change of direction, resulting in a change of behavior. You hate your sin so much that you turn from it and resolve to live differently.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
3. Cut all ties with the third party.
Don't think, "Affairs are okay as long as discretion is practiced."
Decide now: Adultery cannot be hidden. God knows, the illicit partner knows and in time, others will know. Ultimately, the affair will burn you.
"Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?" (Proverbs 6:27).
4. Confess the adultery.
Don't think, "I'll just put the affair behind me …. . . no one needs to know."
Decide now: The truth must come out in order for God to bring healing.
"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:16).
5. Choose where to place your thoughts when tempted.
Don't think, "People who have affairs do not love their spouses."
Decide now: It is possible to love one person and be infatuated with another.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philippians 4:8 NIV).
6. Commit yourself to your covenant partner …completely.
Don't think, "Children are the glue in marriage."
Decide now: Commitment is the glue that holds a marriage together.
"… the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth." (Malachi 2:14-15).
7. Continue to rely on God's strength to resist repeating the sin of adultery.
Don't think, "I could never make such a terrible mistake again."
Decide now: Maintain constant vigilance and guard your heart. Repetitive sin is often an easy trap because it's familiar territory. The Bible warns against the beguiling nature of sin.
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41 NIV).
About Face – Forward March
General David Petraeus has a history of dramatic and difficult "turnarounds." At the end of 2006, Iraq seemed to be on the verge of a civil war. Directing both U.S. and NATO forces, General Petraeus' counter-insurgency operations in the fractured country served as a crucial turning point by averting a full-scale civil war.
Today, General Petraeus has a choice – he can execute another daring change of direction, but this time it's on his home turf, in his personal life. The new road means no rationalization, no justification. And just as adulterous King David did, how wise to pray.
"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
For us personally, when a destructive decision has shattered the ideal of duty, it's never too late to do an "about face" that puts us on the path of hope and healing.