Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

Ask Dr. David: Overcoming Guilt from Past Infidelity

  • Dr. David B. Hawkins Contributing Writer
  • 2006 2 Sep
Ask Dr. David: Overcoming Guilt from Past Infidelity

Dear Dr. David:

A number of years ago, before I was saved, I committed adultery with a guy and this played a role in leading to our divorce. My children, who were eight and ten years of age at the time, learned about the affair and have since confronted me about it. I am happily remarried but am plagued by guilt, and my children are angry with me. They wonder how I can counsel them on purity when I was not pure in my marriage to their father. I have confessed my sin, turned away from it and know God has forgiven me. I still, however, feel guilty and embarrassed and deeply ashamed. I feel like King David after his terrible sin with Bathsheba, when he said "My sin is ever before me ." Please help me know what I can tell my children, and how do I overcome my guilt?
~ Guilty


Dear Guilty:

First, there is no hiding from the fact that you are guilty—you know that, God knows that and it sounds like your children know it. You are part of the human race that knows the power of sin in our lives: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3: 23, 24) While we have all sinned, this verse doesn’t stop there. We have also been justified by Christ.

This is good news. Even though you have sinned, and that is in your past, you have confessed it and turned away from it. I sense you now live a life of purity. Your sins have been covered by Christ’s death, and He has redeemed and justified you. This is a truth we must all cling to.

Second, it seems that sin always leaves a scar. We can know forgiveness and freedom, but there seems to be reminders at times of our wrongfulness. Your children know about your past and you will need to decide how much is appropriate to tell them. While they don’t need to know everything, they are old enough to know some things. Use discretion in what you share, but most important, you still can hold a standard of purity for them. You need not compromise simply because you were not perfect in your past. The scriptures also tell us "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8: 1) You need no longer feel shame for your past.

Finally, let me offer a few practical suggestions for dealing with false guilt—those self-condemning feelings that linger inappropriately. It may help to talk out your feelings with a Christian counselor. Sometimes sharing our painful past with a caring listener, who will help us discern truth from lies, can help us move beyond our old wounds. Bathing yourself in the Word, our greatest source of truth, and receiving prayer for recovery can also be very freeing.

Dr. David:

I am a single, Christian woman, active in my church and love the Lord. I am waiting for God to send a man into my life, but this hasn’t happened. There is a man in our church that I am interested in, but I am not sure if it is appropriate for me to approach him. I am kind of old fashioned and wish he would approach me, but he hasn’t done that. Do you think I should approach him, or wait until God sends him to me.  I have been face to face with him, but I didn't say anything to him at that time.  What should I do? ~ Still Waiting

Dear Waiting:

There is a joke that says if we are single and waiting for a man to come to our door, it will probably be the UPS driver or mailman, and chances are they’ll be married.

Seriously, why are you waiting to approach this man? While I have no idea if he is interested in you, how can you possibly know unless you make an overture to him, showing your interest? I am not suggesting you flaunt your interest, or be overly aggressive in your approach, but am suggesting you express friendliness to him and see how he responds.

Too often we are tentative in our communication with others. We think they can read our minds, when that is not the case. For all we know, he is doing the same awkward dance, wondering how to approach you.

There is another danger. If we live in our fantasies, we live in a distorted world. We can either build things up inappropriately, or distort the situation in a negative direction. While you have this man built up to be "all that, and more," you may be disappointed when you learn more about him. He may also be all that and a bag of Snickers too. Take a chance and strike up a conversation with him, and let us know how it turns out.

Dear Dr. David:

I am an older woman who has suffered from chronic depression. Depression runs in my family and we take medications for it, which helps. Often my pastor will say that medication is dangerous and we should be depending on God, not pills. I agree with him, but if I stop taking them I will be right back to being depressed all the time. What should I do as a Christian? ~ Confused

Dear Confused:

There are, sadly, many Christians who are confused on this matter. We are certainly counseled to "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6: 33) However, I see nothing in scripture that indicates we should not use other methods of professional assistance, used wisely.

There are many studies that clearly indicate there are biochemical elements to depression, and antidepressants are effective in restoring proper brain chemistry. Those that have biochemical aspects to their depression are well-advised to consult their physician who is authorized to prescribe such medications. Studies strongly indicate that a combination of antidepressants and counseling is effective in alleviating much depression.

Does this mean we should not also seek God’s help with our problems? Absolutely not. The Psalmist, David, relied heavily on the Lord during his many difficulties. Medications should not be our only means of alleviating physiological and emotional distress. We must also be responsible in exploring solutions found in a proper diet, exercise, a healthy sleep regimen, support groups and counseling, as well as feeding on the Word of God as a source of nutrition for our souls.  

Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family?  Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at

David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including   Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage,  Saying It So He'll Listen, and  When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book is titled When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.