Dear Dr. Bill,
As a Christian, how do I deal with my ex-husband in an appropriate way? He was unfaithful many times during our 9 year marriage and he continues to be dishonest with me and our two young daughters. I have a lot of anger and resentment toward him, but I also know I need to treat him with dignity for our girl’s sake. What should I do?
It’s natural for you to feel hurt and angry about your husband’s past betrayal and his current deception. It’s what you do with that hurt and anger that is the key issue.
Ask yourself what your resentment and bitterness is doing to you personally and how it impacting your daughters. Some people hold on to bitterness because it gives them a sense of power over the person who hurt them. When a former spouse has wronged us, hanging on to resentment can allow us to feel that we are morally superior to them —but in the end it only ends up poisoning our lives and harming our kids.
You asked what a Christian should do in this situation. First, set up emotional and practical boundaries with your ex. To the extent that it is possible, don’t allow him to have any power over you or to continue to harm you and your daughters.
At the same time, God calls us to a higher standard when it comes to forgiveness. He tells us that vengeance and judgment belong to Him, not us. He calls us to give up our desire to hurt those who have hurt us, following the example of our Lord and Savior.
When Jesus was on the cross, he could have easily called down a thousand angels to destroy those who were persecuting him. But instead, he chose to forgive them with his last breath.
Let me recommend a book that you may find helpful. It’s entitled “When You’ve Been Wronged: Moving From Bitterness to Forgiveness.” The author is Erwin Lutzer, the senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.
Thanks for writing Anna. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.