We know little about the afterlife. So, as the aging process pushes us toward our final exit, we seek ways to deal with unresolved issues—including those of infidelity and betrayal—in the scriptures and beliefs of our faith. George Carlin once observed, “I thought about how people seem to read the Bible a lot more as they get older; then I understood that they were preparing for their final exam. This is a humorous but urgent insight for seniors dealing with guilt in the fall of their lives.
The closer we get to the finish line of our earthly existence, the more inclined we are to ponder the big question: After death, what? This apprehension is especially true for members of religious communities who believe in the Last Judgment! Therefore, our choices have consequences. Believers are either bound to a glorious land that eclipses the sun, or to that bloody land that burns like the sun. How to avoid the second option may be to keep some seniors awake at night.
An important final exam question might be, “What if I failed to make amends to those I cherish publicly, but have betrayed in private, do I confess?” This fear can motivate an adulterer to tell their partner everything, causing irreparable harm if there is no time to make amends.
Instead, consider an alternative mindful strategy, informed by skilled therapists, counselors, and spiritual healers. Asking for forgiveness just to get out of trouble can do more harm than good. Step 9 of the manual of Alcoholics Anonymous warns: “Make amends to such people as much as possible, except when doing so may harm them or others.” Avoid confessing just to get rid of your guilt. Driven by a desire to feel good, may have drawn you into deceptive affairs or behavior in the first place. Making amends requires more than expressing regret.
In an Affair Recovery blog post titled Making amends versus apologizing, Elizabeth wrote, “When it comes to the pain of infidelity, the words ‘I’m sorry’ must be downright insulting to a betrayed spouse. . As it should be, because it is not enough. The truth is, that will never be enough to undo the damage done by broken marital vows and the deception that comes with infidelity. She adds, “Making amends is a way of life, not a one-time choice. This is the beginning of becoming a new person. It will require that we not just rehearse the change we are trying to make on any given day, but rather engage in a process of letting our hearts turn and seeing our spouse with new eyes.
If you got involved in what Toby Green calls a “fancy affair and you want your marriage to work, resist your husband’s admission. … Why throw a hand grenade into marriage? In these cases, I would be inclined to keep my mouth shut. And if your guilt helps reinforce your commitment to him, then consider it positive.
If you are a believer, confess to God. Pray and ask for forgiveness. It’s never too late to be right with God. There is no need to renounce peace or bear unnecessary pain. The classic hymn urges us to “bring everything to God in prayer”. Reading Tammy Nelson’s book, “When You’re the Cheating One: Ten Things You Need to Know,” will also add value.
On your deathbed, resist the urge to get a cheap measure of guilt-free euphoria by ruining the peace of mind of those who love you and try to plan the best way to celebrate your life. The explosion of the hand grenade of your inopportune confession will leave a lasting wound in the lives of family members. Their grief and bereavement will likely turn into anger. Getting the other person out of your deception and betrayal isn’t cool either. Don’t do it unless you have time to make amends.
Doing restitution is different from trying to get a free card out of hell through a senseless act of remorse. Keep your mouth shut. It’s good that you want to rest in peace. But it is more important this time that you allow your spouse to live in peace.