In my culture, infidelity is often overlooked. If children are born as a result from an affair, they are often embraced—the betrayal is never talked about, and everyone in my culture acts as if adultery is a “natural” part of life. My mother, however, taught me that adultery is wrong. My parents separated as a result of my father’s constant womanizing and eventually getting another woman pregnant. The problem is that my aunts and uncles (extended family, father’s side) have embraced the child and his mother into the family, and they insist that because my parents broke up long ago (they never divorced), my siblings and I should “get over” the betrayal and accept things as they are. I can’t do it! I feel that this child shouldn’t even be here – if my father had honored his marital vows, the adultery would not have happened. I hate my father (who is dead now) and my extended family for embracing this child, and I am resentful that they want me to acknowledge this child as my sibling. Please help me! I don’t know what God wants me to do in this situation.
Thanks for writing and sharing your story; I feel deeply for your pain. It seems the root of the struggles you’re having with your family derive in large part from this unwillingness to talk about it, this habit of sweeping the issue under the rug, which is why I recommend, highly recommend, finding a Christ-oriented counselor—someone with whom you can talk about all this stuff. Because there’s a lot of stuff there. You’re dealing with a lot—anger, betrayal, repression, generational sin—and I am not going to be able to give you the help you need via email, though I do hope to be able to provide some help and guidance. What you really need is face-to-face, on-a-regular-basis help. And there’s no shame in that. None whatsoever. We need each other.
When it comes to what God wants you to do in this situation, I can tell you, though you may not like it. The answer to your pain is forgiveness. I know it seems counter-intuitive. I know it goes against everything you feel you need to do to survive the hurt, but it’s the only thing that will work. It’s the only thing that will save you. Forgive. Let go. Let go of your hatred and your bitterness because when you’re holding on to those things, you have no room in your life for love, joy, peace, or hope; and I know you don’t want to live that way.
You don’t have to do it all at once. Even the tiniest step toward releasing your anger toward your family, no matter how much kicking and screaming comes with that tiny step, even the smallest flinch toward letting go of bitterness and opening up to love will be all it takes to be able to then take another tiny step. It will take time. That’s okay. You don’t even have to be able to imagine not hating your father. That’s okay too. God can make mountains move with even the smallest faith, and he is with us every step.
The Bible makes it clear that forgiving others is absolutely necessary for life. Consider Jesus’ words in Mark chapter 11:
“Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”
Your hatred and unforgiveness are killing you from the inside out. Your father is dead. What good does hating him do? It only keeps the pain of his betrayal fresh in your heart. Your little brother or sister is innocent. (S)he did not choose to be brought into this world through infidelity. (S)he is innocent. You have no right to be angry with her or him. Your father’s unfaithfulness to your mother (and you) is unfair to you. No doubt! But it is also unfair to this little one. Your family is right to receive this child, to provide unconditional love and care.
Your family is wrong to pretend that your father’s unfaithfulness is a non-issue. It is wrong for them to have ignored it. But they did and now your father is no longer here to lovingly rebuke in the hopes that he would repent, so in the case of your father it is now a non-issue. Furthermore, your family is partially wrong to say you should just “get over it.” They’re wrong to try to sweep your hurt and pain under the same rug with your father’s infidelity. But by the fact you’ve written me this letter, it is clear you wish to somehow get beyond it. You can only do that by letting go of hate and giving in to love. You cannot control your family. You cannot force them to start taking extramarital escapades seriously. But you don’t have to let not being able to control them control you!
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians,
…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
We are reminded in New Testament instructions to Christians that God has forgiven us in Christ:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3
This is hard. You might say it is too hard. But God will help you. And others can help you too. I know counseling can be expensive (though it isn’t always, particularly at Christian institutions) but it is an investment buying back your life! a move to grab hold of and deal with your anger before it takes hold of you and chokes all the life out of you. You are in danger of losing your life to anger, unforgiveness, and hardheartedness; but you have a choice. You don’t have to become a bitter, hardhearted, angry woman for the rest of your life. You can choose to get your life back! You can choose life! But it will be painful. It will be a sort of death. You will have to let go of the things that you feel like you can control, that you feel you have the right to—anger, bitterness, hatred—before you can grab hold of life—love, forgiveness, peace.
Karyn, you are a strong, beautiful woman, a child of God. Embrace him and let go of everything else.
The love Christ has for you he has poured into my heart. With that love I write this letter in response to your pain and heartache of the betrayal you’ve experienced in hope that this may be the beginning of Love’s healing power in your life.