4 things needed to overcome the stigma of cheating (or any other sin that hurts another)
This is a longer post than normal, but I am optimistic it is worth it for those that have ever hurt somebody - whether big or small.
I recently held a speaking engagement with a group of 60+ business leaders with a Q&A afterward.
The audience sent me some questions in advance. I typically get your common leadership questions such as time management, pursuing your dream job, prioritization, etc.
To my surprise, the very first question that I received was not a softball, but instead, this group came to play! They were serious about growing.
I have been asked this question numerous times in private, but never in a public setting. Probably because the person who would want to ask this question, feared the labeling that may be associated with it if they asked!
The conversation with these leaders went great, and the audience found my response helpful, so I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you.
If you have followed me for any length of time, you know I am an open book and willing to share just about anything. Especially, if it will help others experience breakthroughs in their life to help them win again at work, and at home!
The question was, "How were you able to overcome the stigma that comes with cheating?"
Quick backstory for new readers: I had an affair early in my marriage, and eventually came clean. Due to a lot of hard work, my wife’s forgiveness, love, and us growing closer to God individually and as a couple, we are still married today!
You can read my book, ‘Win at Home First,’ to learn more about the story, but more importantly the road to restoration!
Here are four things to overcome the stigma of cheating (or any other sin that you have done that hurts somebody else)
1. Forgiveness from the other - Many believe this is the most important, and maybe even the only thing, required to overcome the stigma of cheating.
Absolutely not! Yes, their forgiveness is important, but not the only thing needed to move forward.
Forgiveness is the act of releasing anger, bitterness, etc. for something done in the past. You still have to live an honorable and trustworthy life moving forward - which is why this is just one part of the process.
I am very grateful that my wife immediately forgave me. Thanks to her hearing, or what seemed audible to her, a voice from God saying, ‘it’s going to be OK,’ she was able to immediately forgive me.
For those that have not had the other forgive them, I am sorry, but that can't stop you from living out the next three. My prayer is that by living out the next three, it will help with the forgiveness from the other!
2. Live an honest life in public - Yes, forgiveness is important, but so is trust. Forgiveness is about the past, whereas living an honest and consistent life is what builds trust for the present. After coming clean of my affair, I started taking action to show her she could trust me.
Still to this day, my phone is always facing up when it is on the counter. I want her to know that she can see any text or phone call that comes in.
When I communicate with other women about setting up a play date with their kids, I copy the kid’s father or my wife on the text.
Whenever she calls, I answer the phone. If I miss the call, I quickly call back, especially when I am traveling.
I hang around guys that make me stronger and are about building up their marriage and family, instead of guys that consistently talk bad about their spouse or flirt endlessly with the waitress.
I need to live an honorable life, in order to build trust.
3. Live an honest life in private - Yes, I have been forgiven by my wife, and yes, I do my best to live honestly in her eyes. But what I do in private is just as important for me to be faithful long term. Actually, this may be more important than 1 or 2.
When I cheated, it did not ‘just happen’. Instead, it was an accumulation of poor choices one degree at a time. One of the first degrees that happened was distancing myself from God. So to protect myself from slipping again, I spend time in the Word.
Most days of the week, I start my day with scripture, prayer, and journaling. This helps align my heart with God’s heart. If I get a compliment from a woman and I notice that it ‘feels good’, I pray about it, so it doesn’t go to my head, but especially my heart.
The devil will tempt us with what broke us before. The alcoholic that has the relapse. The cheater that cheats again. I know the devil will test me with another woman. I have to be on guard, and the best way for me to be on guard is to live an honorable life in private.
Spending time in the Word daily. Not watching bad stuff on TV. Not clicking the picture of the bikini lady on social media or watching the provocative social media reel.
I have to be putting on the armor of God daily, instead of the temptations of the world.
4. Forgive yourself - I saved this for last because I think this was the hardest for me, and it may be for you. My wife forgave me almost immediately (Thank you, God and Holly!) However, it took me years to forgive myself.
Why? One reason is I tied my identity to the labels of being a good Christian, man, and husband. How could I be any of those if I cheated on my wife?
I finally came to accept that Jesus did die for my sins! He has forgiven me! Thus I need to forgive myself.
I also came to accept, that to be a 'good Christian', or 'a good man' or 'a good husband', is not to be perfect - because that is impossible, but instead to be honest. To be vulnerable. To be real with others.
I know this was heavier than normal, but if you have read this far, then my prayer is that you found this to be helpful in your life.
Our past does not define us, but God will use our past to refine us!
Let the refining begin!
Time to rise and go!