That’s what I’ve found myself wanting to yell at a character in the novel I’m reading.
Scene: conversation between Theo and Grace. Background information: Grace is married to Robbie. Theo is a long-term friend of Grace and Robbie. A very close friend. And Theo has very recently seduced Grace. They’re now meeting again for the first time since they slept together, and Theo says:
I love you, Grace.
and I love Robbie.
Which is when I wanted to yell at him: you’re using the word love but no, that’s not what love means, it’s not what love looks like, it’s not how you behave when you love someone.
When you love someone, you want what’s best for them. When you love someone, you make sacrifices for them. When you love someone, you don’t just grab what you want and say: can’t help it, this desire is so strong that I can’t control myself – if you say you can’t, I will yell: yes, you can, you just choose not to.
Look, I’m no stranger to strong sexual attraction and in my misspent twenties and thirties I did my fair share of sleeping with people I shouldn’t have. But as an adult it was my choice. I take responsibility for the mistakes I made, for the wrong things I’ve done. I know that in all those situations, I could have chosen to stop, to walk away, to say no – sure, it’s not easy but if you recognise that it would be wrong then you can choose not to do it.
Imagine if someone told you that he raped a child because he felt such a strong sexual attraction and just couldn’t help it – none of us would buy that line, would we? But when it’s us who feel a strong desire for another person, and that person shows signs that it’s mutual, then even if we know it’s wrong, we tell ourselves: I can’t help it.
And when we know it’s wrong because this person is married to someone else, we tell ourselves: but it’s true love…
No, that’s not what true love looks like. True love means you put your own wants aside for the sake of the person you love, you do what’s best for them and not what fits your selfish desires. And if you feel such a strong sexual attraction for someone and they’re married to someone else, then you either control yourself or, if you feel you can’t trust yourself in their company then you get up and go – remove yourself from the situation rather than stick around and cause damage to this person’s marriage.
If you love someone you don’t ruin their marriage.
And in this case it’s even worse, because he’s claiming to love her and to also love her husband – in the context it’s clear that he means he loves her husband as a friend but he lusts after her, so really what he’s saying is: I like you both very much, I care about you both but I feel a really strong desire for you – and if he stopped at that point I wouldn’t be yelling, because having those feelings is not in itself wrong, the question is what you do about it. You have a choice. And the right choice, the truly loving choice, would be to say to yourself: I care about them both, I have a strong desire for her, so I should get out of their lives before I ruin their marriage.
Theo makes the wrong choice. He says he loves them both, and proves this to be false by continuing his adulterous affair with her.
Don’t be Theo.
(Don’t be Grace either, for that matter. I’ve just been focusing on Theo because of that stuff he said.)
P.S. If you have done something like this, please don’t feel you have to live with the guilt forever – I’ve received God’s forgiveness and so can you! Through Jesus the door is open to all of us, to repent and put our faith in his atoning sacrifice and have our sins forgiven. But you do need to repent – that means acknowledging that what you’ve done was wrong, and choosing to turn away from that way of life and to live God’s way from now on, with his help.