I remember when my sin finally found me out. My wife discovered the secrets I had been keeping for a long time … pornography, prostitutes, strip clubs. All my ugly mess finally out in the open. I would like to say that I responded with humility, brokenness, and honesty. But I didn’t. Instead, I was defensive, still secretive, and trying to manage all the consequences that were coming at me like a freight train. All my schemes to keep a lid on that mess just made it worse … for me and for her. That made our divorce inevitable.
I keep hearing names of people who are being publicly exposed in the wake of the Ashley Madison hack and it has made me think a lot about how I responded those first few weeks. I weep for the tremendous pain occurring in 38 million homes right now. (What a staggering number—larger than the population of Canada.) I think about those men and women who engaged in affairs and wonder how they are responding. Do they yet see their exposure as the blessing that it really could be?
If your name is on the Ashley Madison list, or if you have some other secret infidelity like pornography or strip clubs, please do the following right now:
1. Come clean with your spouse, without omitting or minimizing. Get some counsel as to the level of detail to go into, but the bottom line is that your spouse has a right to know about the extent of your behavior. Honesty at this stage can, perhaps, be the beginning of healing for both of you, even if the conversation itself is painful (and it likely will be very painful). But hiding information, deception, and minimizing is just a continuation of your unfaithfulness. I have spoken to so many men in the early stages of being found out who simply could not be honest. Truth just barely dribbled out. For many, their marriages ended not because of the affair, but because their dishonesty never stopped.
2. Get the right kind of help—emphasis on the right kind of help. In our culture, many of us refuse to speak plainly and biblically about our destructive behavior. Some will call your affair a “mistake” or a “choice.” But the most helpful term for you is to call it what it is—sin. By honestly calling your behavior sin, then the very power of God that brought Jesus back from the dead is available to you to fight against your sin (Ephesians 1:19-20). Connect with your pastor, a biblical counselor, or a Christian recovery ministry to get the help you need to heal and grow. Of course, your spouse will need help too. A lot.
3. Get connected. Part of getting help is getting on the radar screen with other men. Time and time again when I meet with a man caught in an affair it is obvious that man is isolated from other men. Ironic, isn’t it, that a man who has an adultery problem really has a problem connecting with other men? You must find two or three other men and start getting honest with them. Early on after I was found out, this was invaluable to me. My men’s small group in our church’s recovery ministry encouraged me when I needed encouragement, and challenged me when I needed to be challenged. I’m not sure I could have made it through those awful days without them.
4. Remember that your consequences are for your good, even if it does not seem like it at the time. God loves you enough to allow those consequences into your life to shape you into the image of His son. He wants you to crave righteousness more than the pleasures of the flesh. His discipline of you is hopeful because it is evidence that you are His adopted son (Hebrews 12:6-8). While there is pain when we reap consequences we have sown, a much worse fate would be for God to simply turn us over to our sins.
Finally, most importantly, never forget that in Christ, God loves you. Because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, the sin of my adultery and your adultery has been atoned for. It is finished. Jesus was shamed for you. God’s anger at you was poured out on Him. Your adultery was nailed to the cross and there it remains. Be sorrowful for your sin because it necessitated the death of Christ. But by God’s grace, you have now been made new. Let that truth stir in your heart. It is more precious than a few moments of lustful ecstasy.
Meditating on who Jesus is and all that He has done for you leads to real worship. And it is worship that will ultimately crowd out the lust in your heart and fuel the changes you will need to make.
Adapted from “The Ashley Madison List Bomb” that originally appeared on www.authenticmanhood.com. Copyright © 2015 Authentic Manhood, used with permission. All rights reserved.