I was overwhelmed by my guilt and shame after revealing my affair to my wife. At times, I thought I would never get out from under the weight of the huge mistake I had made. Especially in the beginning of our healing, I wondered if I would be tainted by the label of “cheater” for the rest of my life.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you’re going to want to read on, because I am going to lay out many of the key points that helped me get over the guilt and shame of my affair.
Confession and Change
The first step towards healing is acknowledging the wrongdoing. Listen, you can’t move forward in your marriage without first coming clean–completely. If you haven’t confessed your affair yet, please grab my Confession Guide–it will walk you through the steps to confessing your affair.
Confession is not only an admission of guilt but should also include a sincere expression of repentance. You want to share how you have wronged your spouse and your desire to change. Your confession will not lead to healing for your marriage if you don’t also plan to end your affair and completely commit to your marriage.
While it’s important to confess the affair to your spouse, you need to honestly confess your infidelity to God first. The Bible emphasizes the importance of confessing our sins to God and seeking forgiveness. God is the one who will facilitate and guide your marriage healing.
Confession allows for a genuine connection with God and your spouse, paving the way for healing.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
If you want to be freed from your guilt and shame, you need to take responsibility for your actions. Own your mistakes. Now is not the time for blaming. In fact, turning the focus on your spouse rather than taking responsibility will only prolong your deep feelings of guilt and shame.
When I finally owned up to my deception and betrayal, a weight was lifted from me. Even though my confession and acceptance of the responsibility of my actions caused severe pain for my wife, it also revealed to her I was willing to be completely vulnerable with her. Owning my poor choices completely helped to move us forward.
Accepting responsibility demonstrates a true desire for transformation and rebuilding trust.
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Romans 14:12 (NIV)
Asking for forgiveness isn’t easy. But forgiveness is a fundamental principle for believers. Just as God forgives our sins, we are called to extend forgiveness to others.
Honestly, I don’t see how people can actually be freed from their guilt and shame without a relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t until I experienced His forgiveness that I felt genuinely freed of the deep shame I carried about my affair.
Once I realized that Jesus had died on cross for me, for my sin, for this particular sin of deception even–then the weight of my own guilt lifted.
And experiencing God’s forgiveness for me made it much easier for me to ask for my wife’s forgiveness.
Seeking forgiveness from your spouse is a humbling process that involves sincere remorse and a commitment to change. But God gives us the strength to do it. Asking for forgiveness is more than “I’m sorry.” It becomes a way of life that frees us from guilt and shame.
Forgiveness is a powerful catalyst for healing and restoration.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Renewing the Mind
Overcoming guilt and shame requires a transformation of the mind. The messaging of the world we live in often speaks directly against God’s messaging for us. The world’s messages we consume can keep us weighed down with guilt and shame.
One example of this messaging is the statement “Once a cheater, always a cheater.”
In God’s Word, this is simply not true. In fact, many of the heroes of the faith were once cheaters, murderers and liars. But God used them for His glory! He redeemed them and made them new.
When you renew your mind by focusing on the truth of God’s Word rather than the lies of the world, you will be freed from the chains of guilt and shame. Dwell on the promises of God.
Transforming your thought patterns is essential for lasting healing.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Building Trust Through Actions
If you want to get rid of the awful feelings of guilt and shame after a time of deception, begin to add trustworthy behavior in your life. It’s natural to feel guilty after doing something wrong. It’s also natural to feel good when doing something right.
Trust is fragile but can be rebuilt through consistent, favorable behavior over time.
I’m not saying that your guilt will be removed by your actions. Ultimately, the freedom from guilt is directly related to your relationship with God. But, the Bible teaches that faith without works is dead. In the context of healing after infidelity, this means actively demonstrating your commitment to change through actions, not just words.
So, back up your words of confession, repentance, and request for forgiveness with trustworthy actions. You will be amazed at how faith in action will crush the burden of guilt and shame.
Rebuilding trust requires consistent, favorable behavior over time.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
James 2:14 (NIV)
Counsel and Support
When I was feeling overwhelmed with guilt and shame, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t good at guiding myself out of that darkness. Often, I would wallow in my shame, or feel overcome with grief because of what I had done. I needed help.
Seeking biblical or pastoral counseling is a wise step in the journey of recovery. My wife and I sought help from multiple sources. The key is to get help from people who believe what you believe.
Most of the principles I have shared with you in this article were pointed out to me by a like-minded believing person or resource that follows God’s Word as our perfect guide in times of trouble.
The Bible encourages seeking counsel from those with wisdom and experience. Please don’t try to heal from infidelity alone. Don’t try to strong-arm your way out of guilt and shame. A compassionate counselor or coach can provide guidance and support for both you and your spouse.
A like-minded guide offers valuable insights and tools for navigating the complexities of healing.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22 (NIV)
Recovering from an affair is a challenging but transformative journey. By embracing the biblical principles of confession, repentance, responsibility, forgiveness, mind renewal, and trustworthy actions, you can find the path to healing.
Remember, God’s grace is boundless, and with faith and commitment, it is possible to overcome guilt and shame, restoring love and trust in the aftermath of infidelity.