This is Day 20 in the series “31 Days: What You Should Know Before An Affair“
Before an affair, you need to know there will be guilt and there will be shame.
And suffocating shame.
For me, guilt was most abundant when I was living a double life. I would escape the reality of my everyday life and dive into the world of my affair. It was an affair I was not only having with another person, but with my own desires.
Making just enough space for the affair, worked temporarily, until I crashed back into my actual life and looked into the faces of those whom I was betraying. Guilt followed me like a heavy fog. And it piled on me like a heavy load of bricks. Its presence and weight were excruciating.
Over time I learned to manage and compartmentalize the weight of this guilt. I distanced myself from God, and also stalled my interaction with others, withdrawing from my relationships. I didn’t want to lie or mislead. I hated the dishonesty, and wished it wasn’t necessary. I learned, though, that the less I engaged in relationship, the less I had to lie. And so that’s what I did.
The problem was, my very life was a lie. And even with the heavy guilt, it was distressing to figure out how to stop. I knew what I was choosing was bad, and with each load of guilt I grew more motivated to find a way for the truckloads to stop.
Guilt says I did something bad, and is protective and adaptive.
Shame says I am bad, and is dangerous and destructive.
Guilt holds us up to who we want to be.
Shame says we’re not good enough as we are.
~Dr. Brené Brown
While my guilt was heaviest in the secrecy of my double life, shame lingered for years beyond the guilt, as I tried to recover, heal, and reconcile my life. Shame consistently waltzed in and out of my life, and even still has been known to visit me every now and again.
For me, shame is triggered anytime I go to that place in my heart that tells me that I don’t deserve to be loved because of what I’ve done, or that I don’t deserve to belong because of my failure. Shame makes me question my relationships with others and my relationship with God, and is a cruel voice of judgment and condemnation. It is complex and twisted—smart and unrelenting—and it was my reliable companion after failure.
The journey I’ve travelled with guilt and shame is one I’d never wish you to take.
Can you get through the trip? Yes.
Is is easy to navigate? Not at all.
When it comes to a journey with guilt and shame, its a long and strenuous trip for which you can not prepare—strenuous climbs, hard twists, hairpin turns, muddy swamps, and thinning air. It can be windy and freezing, or scorchingly hot, but whatever you find, it is anything but breezy and comfortable. And along the way there is a generous amount of embarrassment and pain, despair and loss.
Abundant guilt and lingering shame are certainly not unique to the failure of an affair. But I will promise you, guilt and shame permeate the experience of an affair, not only during it, but long after as well.
While guilt can be productive and adaptive in helping us stop our poor choices and choose better ones, God has offered to remove our guilt from us. He offers us forgiveness and grace. And His love absolves our guilt.
While shame is destructive and tells us we’re not good enough, God says we are. He offers to rescue us from our failure Himself.
He has chosen us to become His.
He chooses to forgive our sin,
And promises to heal the self-inflicted wounds of our hearts.
God is crazy about us.
He has declared for once and all time that we are forgiven, and that we already belong.
May we know today that no matter our choices, no matter the abundance of the guilt or how long the shame has been lingering, we have great hope for our guilty and shamed hearts, all because of Christ.
How has guilt been a positive force of change in your life?
What do you do when shame lingers?
Read Day 21 HERE
Throughout this series, if you have a question or a struggle and want me to address it or write on it in this series, please send me an email (jacque at jacquewatkins dot com) or a voicemail (green button on right sidebar) and I will do my best to incorporate it into this series. It will make me so happy to have feedback from you and to write what it is you might need. I can’t wait to hear from you.