Question:

I went looking for answers on the web because I too had committed adultery, but it was many years ago when I was young. I was a virgin at the time – very naive about matters in regards to men and women.  I was born into a strict Italian home with a harsh Dad whom I knew loved me and a gentle loving Mum.  I was an obedient child and was punished if I did not do things exactly like Dad wanted which made me more timid and gave me low self-worth.  I developed the habit of looking to others for approval and love which I wasn’t aware of until when much older through making many painful mistakes.  I know mistakes are good for us because these are the way we can learn. There was no sex education as a child or on how to deal with people who were manipulative.  My parents did not speak of the “bad” that could happen if one got involved with the “wrong” types.  So I saw all as beautiful and to be trusted, and I loved them no matter who they were.  I always made excuses, looking past negatives and only believed that loving others was what God wanted.  Now I am wiser with years of heartache learning the hard way that one has to listen to the Spirit and if there is pain  - beware and withdraw!  Do not keep company with those who live ungodly lives.  And I have also learned that it is only God we can fully trust first and then husband, family and true friends, but always putting God before all.

At the time I was a lonely person who suddenly felt that she had a purpose and this was to bring souls to Christ.  Then I met this man at work, he was far older than I, over twice my age - I saw him as safe.  He approached me and told me he loved me.  I immediately told him that I don’t get involved with married men.  I saw how down he was and felt obligated to help him; me, an unexperienced person in every way!  I thought Jesus had put him in my path to bring him to God.  He had marriage problems and wanted me to comfort him and be his friend.  I felt pressure to do this and I agonized over this for months still trying to be supportive.  I finally asked myself what would Jesus do and my naive response was “be kind and loving towards him” and so I put myself in a painful position for my God, which I know now was harmful and God would never expect this of me.  I wasn’t even aware of the sin of adultery.  Being a lonely person with no real friend I felt good that at least someone loved me, wanted to be my friend and was doing good.  As time wore on I tried to stop this man from seeking me out as I wanted to be left alone, but he wouldn’t and I was unable to escape because I loved my work.  I didn’t know about having choice, ignorant of certain Scriptures,  assertion, my rights, etc. that is heard everywhere today.  Hard to believe, but it happens when you are too sheltered from life.  The Catholic upbringing I had failed me miserably.

I gradually accepted more that it was God’s will this man was in my life and that I had to help him and became emotionally attached and confused at the same time.  I couldn’t speak to my parents because of fear of being punished as well as the priests and nuns who were also rigid and unapproachable.  I was alone throughout the entire experience which lasted several agonizing years.  Of course things got out of hand, and we became sexual with each other, but with me always saying "no" to sex.  Eventually he gently forced himself on me and me being worn out, let him do what he wanted.  Sex happened twice.  I felt helpless. I eventually found a way to escape by taking time off work and being away from him, and found strength and wisdom to stop all contact.  I have asked God’s forgiveness many times, but I still feel ashamed of myself.  I know we are all sinners but I feel this is the worst sin I could have committed.  It is totally against what I believe and my values and principles.  I punish myself for being so gullible and weak.  How can I forgive myself? I know God has forgiven me and has shown me His blessings by sending me my husband. It is ridiculous that I still agonize over it after all these years.  Forgiveness was not present in my childhood as my Dad was a very unforgiving man and the Italian culture and people around me were also like this.  So I have not learned the ability of forgiving myself, rather being hard on myself and seeing myself as having committed the unforgivable sin.  If I am to look at it all this in a positive light, I am a wiser, more compassionate and a less judgemental person today and grateful for a wonderful marriage. 

I would truly appreciate any kind wise words you can offer me to help me.  My poor husband has also had enough. My apologies for going into detail, but it is important for me to tell someone about it.

Many thanks and awaiting your reply.


Answer:

It appears that in many ways you still have some growing up to do. God doesn't rate sins as people like to do. Sin is breaking God's Laws (I John 4:3), it doesn't matter which laws or in what way they are broken. You had sinned in the past, that is merely a fact and makes you no different than every other person in the world (Romans 3:23). But it appears you can't accept the fact that you have the potential to sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). You are beating yourself up over the fact that you thought you would not sin and you gave in anyway.

One of the things I noticed in your note is that you are working hard at telling yourself that you didn't know better. That eases the pain of facing the fact that you sinned in the past. The problem is that you did know better. It leaks out throughout your note. You told the man that you don't get involved with married men. Thus you indicate that you knew it was wrong on some level. What happened is that you let Satan deceive you into ignoring your conscience. As he kept propositioning you, you responded with "no," which again says you knew what he was asking of you was wrong. But you didn't have the strength of character to match your words to action at that time.

Won't it be better to face the fact that years ago you were naive, weak-willed, and too eager to please people, instead of pleasing God? Isn't it a fact that you've grown. You're wiser today, and know that God comes first -- period. You still have some work to do in developing a backbone, but you are better today than you were years ago. As Paul told the Corinthians, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (I Corinthians 16:13).

This living in fear of the past doesn't profit you, your husband, or your family. It undermines your faith because you are putting yourself above God. How? Notice that you said you know God has forgiven you, but you can't forgive yourself. So who are you letting rule in your life?

You have a story that can teach others. You know from personal experience that all of God's word needs to be taught, even the embarrassing parts, because young people need to arm themselves against Satan's schemes. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:10-11). You know what happens when someone tries to fight partly armored.  While you don't have to share the embarrassing details from your own life, you can be a voice to say to tell others that if God saw fit to mention them in His word, then there is a reason we need to pass them on to our children and that you know it is true from your own past. They need to know both what is wrong and why it is wrong.

Thank you very much for your wise counsel and for being honest with me. Yes, I do have some growing up to do and you have shown me areas that I need to mature in.  I will continue to ponder on your words with an open heart to God.  I am truly grateful for the time and effort you have gone to, to instruct me as you have. It has helped me greatly.  You are an answer to prayer and a blessing. Your congregation is also blessed for having you.

A problem I have is that I take my eyes off our Lord, then lose His peace, and am prey to Satan. He then rules me with fear by bringing up the past and causing me to feel guilt for something I have already repented from my heart and have been forgiven forever by God. Jesus has shown me repeatedly that my fears, worries, etc. are for nothing. Everything always works out for the best. I need His strength for more faith and trust in His unconditional love, His total forgiveness which is forever, and His wonderful plan for me.

Wishing God’s richest blessings for you, your family and your congregation.  You will all be in my prayers.