I have done the unthinkable and betrayed the people I love the most. My secret life was discovered recently. My wife, family, and church group all know. As I write to you today, I am feeling more alone than I can ever remember. I ponder the agonizing results of my actions, knowing that I am responsible for where I am and that I don’t deserve anything. Now, a few weeks out of the house and away from all that is familiar, I am not ready for the deafening silence. The calls I make go unanswered, my phone has not rung in days, and there are no knocks on my door. I believe I have lost everyone that mattered to me—rightfully so, I guess—but as I sit here in my rented room, I wonder if I can ever be forgiven, and if I can ever forgive them for abandoning me. In the last few days, I have grown so mad at them. I know I probably should not be, after all, I am the one who did wrong. But somehow, I am as furious at those who called me their “love,” “dad,” “brother,” and “friend” as I am at myself. I shared in their lives and now in my worst they avoid, condemn, and have all but disappeared.
I know the people I have hurt could never hear all this from me, but I am growing more and more resentful every time I think of it all. I know this is a lot, and I do hope to get in to see a counselor soon, but in the interim I find that writing helps, especially if I know someone is listening who might respond and help me make some sense of all that is going on in my head and heart.
Wrong and Angry
Dear Wrong and Angry,
I am so glad you wrote. Giving printed life to our vulnerable feelings and thoughts is often one of the most constructive ways to start to sift through the rubble after the unthinkable happens. You are in a difficult spot on your journey, but let me encourage you to keep writing, because being honest about all that is going on inside of you is an essential practice when feeling out of control, and often the reward is a greater sense of internal order and grounding. But a warning: be careful about how much meaning you attribute to the negative feelings and thoughts you are having while in this transition. Feelings are not permanent fixtures– they ebb and flow—and just because you have certain thoughts, they do not always reflect the reality of what will be. Healing takes time, and sometimes progress is excruciatingly slow. Understand that it is often during our loneliest and most desolate moments like you describe that we find that we are not as alone as we thought, and that previously disregarded things in and around us count most in crafting the next chapter. You need to keep writing because your story is far from over and God is not finished.
The kind of “discovery” you, your family, and your community have just gone through is as jarring and traumatic as a tornado ripping through everything that felt safe. Although you did not give the details of what was revealed, it does seem the revelation has left everyone involved feeling deeply distrustful. When we experience a heightened sense of powerlessness in our relationships, like you describe, we are often tempted to “power-up,” becoming avoidant, blaming, and critical to protect ourselves against the realities of our pain, loss, and responsibility. Whether victim or victimizer, it is always a better path when we remember that what we are feeling, thinking, choosing, and doing now is our concern. Although someone or something else may have caused our circumstance, we always possess the freedom to choose our response. Our healing and repair can only be done by us – step by step. I think you wrote intuitively knowing that nurturing resentment is going to do you more harm. Take actions (like this letter) to daily grieve your losses honestly, but be intentional with the thoughts you nurture. Make thanksgiving and gratitude a daily rhythm and practice, and daily acknowledge your circumstance despite the pain, knowing that it is a doorway to knowing—and being known by—God in a deeper way.
Another notable thing was that you wrote hoping someone would hear and respond to you. It is not lost on me that you asked for help. Keep asking; far too many stay in the isolation of their own private worlds, fearing judgment and rejection. You have heard it said that “hurt people, hurt people”. Some hurt people learn to stop asking for help. They avoid it for a lot of reasons until it is a crisis. I wonder if this may be the case for you. It feels like a big risk to ask for help especially when it feels like you have let so many down and so many have let you down.
Friend, we all need help and deserve help, no matter how bad it has gotten. Keep asking, keep risking. Try another church for a while, seek out people who have made it through the kind of situation you are in, get regular support from a counselor during this time, and keep asking God to show you to the best resources to support you – but keep asking. We are born needing, crying, asking, and while that is meant to change over the lifespan, this very human practice is not meant to stop. We need God and we need each other to remind us there is hope.
So much more could be said, but for now, I sign off praying that God will continue to transform Wrong and Angry through His kindness and gracious comfort into Forgiven and Forgiving.
Your friend on the journey,
John Pierce been counseling and leading groups at The Barnabas Center since 1997. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from William Jennings Bryan College and a master’s degree in Biblical counseling from Colorado Christian University. John is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina (LCMHCS), a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT), and a Certified Multiple Addictions Therapist. He serves as the Clinical Director for the Center and oversees the Honors Program, a multi-faceted group-based course for men seeking sexual health, freedom from addictions, and intimacy growth. John is married to Sandy and they enjoy their three adult children and one grandchild. He loves to learn, collect quotes, and create, particularly when it involves sculpting with clay.
I am so touched by the person being willing to be vulnerable and your response to him. I ‘sunk into’ your words as they resonated with me.
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