Tuesday, February 18, 2014

When Breaking Hearts Collide

    In the past two years, a handful of people have asked me for advice on how to recover from the dreadful impact of an affair.  I am always hesitant to provide practical advice, because what brings victory to one couple may spell disaster for the next.  Each situation is different and every relationship contains its own nuances and variables.  There is no formula for success, but there are certainly some over-arching concepts that I believe benefit every person who faces this type of crisis.

   If I had to impart one piece of advice to a person who's been wronged in such a lasting manner, it would be this:       be vulnerable.  This is a tall order, to be sure, but it is the clearest path of reconciliation. Let me explain.

   We understand that repentance blooms best from a truly broken heart. I submit to you, in the confidence of my own experience, that forgiveness is best transmitted between two broken hearts, that of the wronged party and that of the transgressor.  It is the one in error who bears the burden of being humbled by their guilt; it is the unfortunate task of the victim to expose themselves to future betrayal if they wish to mend the relationship.

   This is not meant to downplay the wronged spouse's pain and torment. In fact, I believe that this single step is probably the most difficult of them all in the recovery process. Being vulnerable means opening yourself up to further sorrow, but it also allows two wounded hearts to align as redemption takes place.  The only other response to profound transgression is to become calloused and detached, and this is a grave outcome.

  Hannah has performed an unspeakable feat of bravery by allowing me to remain in her life, because this means she is affording me the chance to transform our future or ruin our lives.  Her vulnerability is an enormous risk, and it is absolutely crucial to our healing process. It is the catalyst to our relationship's renewal.  If she did not allow her heart to break in humble vulnerability, I would be nothing more than a deeply sorry man, clamoring on about my own shame in vain.  Her vulnerability gives my guilt meaning.

   If you believe the Bible, we see this same notion reflected in God's love for us.  God, compelled by His desire for reconciliation, sacrifices His own son to make a path for us.  He wanted us before we wanted Him.  He exposed Himself to rejection through the gospel story. When we think of salvation, we often consider the broken nature of the sinner, but we frequently miss the broken nature of the savior.

   Transformative repentance requires the alignment of two breaking hearts. This is much more grand than the simple notion of being really sorry. When repentance leads to profound change, it requires the deep and lasting efforts of both people involved. As I mentioned before, the alternative response to vulnerability is callousness, coldness, and defensive distance. This heart posture is dangerous for the individual and the relationship as a whole, and I believe it is a sign of potential ruin.

   In my next post, I will discuss the dangers of harboring a heart that has become too hardened to allow forgiveness.  If you want to keep up with my updates, you can subscribe to my blog on the right side using your email(just updates... no spam, I swear!).  Let me know your thoughts on this matter of vulnerability and brokenness, and check back for the next part of this discussion.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, and we urge you to contact us if you need help with the recovery process. We offer support services in-person and via Skype/Facetime. Above all, know that you are not alone.

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