QUESTION: When one sees a person cheating on their spouse, is it their obligation to tell or just keep quiet? I was in a sector of Los Angeles where I seldom go except I was meeting a client for lunch. I was shocked to see my neighbor with a man I didn’t recognize. They were sitting in a back corner of the restaurant. Fortunately, she did not see me – or at least I didn’t think she did. I wasn’t making things up in my mind because they were holding hands, and he kissed her a couple of times. I was sitting in the front of the restaurant, which had a large dining area. I purposely sat with my back to them and could barely make it through the meal without giving away my feelings to my client. What do you suggest I do?
– Crazed Neighbor
Dear Crazed Neighbor,
This is a sticky wicket! I’m sure there are many opinions regarding this, from “Mind your own beeswax,” to “Call ‘Cheaters’” (the reality show). Personally, I’d prefer knowing than to be a cuckold. It’s like being told there’s toilet-paper hanging out your pants: embarrassing, but certainly appreciated. This issue is significantly larger, but I’m sure there’d be thankfulness that years ahead aren’t wasted on spousal adultery.
The Bible is often quoted in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 saying, “Mind your own business,” but that verse simply means that you do what needs doing, and you refrain from idleness or gossip. Generally speaking, “picking the speck out of another’s eye” is the busybody’s domain, but with real misconduct, I wouldn’t quote that passage for silence. Often Scripture suggests “warning” as a positive. If there’s a ditch, or a bridge collapse, warning would-be victims is correct even when opinions aren’t requested. Proverbs 27:6 reads, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” Sometimes we must speak up no matter the reception because truth needs to be said, and it will, eventually, be appreciated.
I worry about you, though. If these neighbors are best friends, I’d approach the cheater first and apprise her of my knowledge. If you’re just the sort who only chitchats with Mr. Neighbor and doesn’t know him intimately, you might make your usual salutation and apprise him that you saw “them” at that restaurant the other evening. You didn’t see him, particularly, but his wife and the other fellow; you were on your way out the door and it looked “serious” so you just left without saying “hello.” That’d be enough to pull everything out in the open for them. That’s when you let the chips lie and console yourself that you’ve done everything possible.
I’m sorry we live in a world where “I do” sometimes means, “Unless I don’t.” Unfortunately (or fortunately) we live in a world of observers, so we must do right, whether seen or unseen, just as God sees everything (1Jo 3:20).
Rev. Bryan Griem
Dear Crazed Neighbor,
Needless to say, this is very distressing to you. You are to be commended for maintaining your composure, witnessing the shocking and disturbing situation you did.
There is no simple or singular answer to your opening question. It is not a matter of an obligation as much as a matter of caring for another. If you are a person of prayer, your first act of caring could be to pray consistently for the lady, her husband and their marriage. You could also ask God for His guidance as to what your next step should be, or if you are to do anything at all.
One factor to be considered is your relationship with your neighbor. How well do you know her? Do you ever share things at a deeper level with each other? Has she ever shared anything with you about any difficulties or tension in her marital relationship? Your depth of friendship will have a direct bearing on what you share or if you share what you saw.
If you have a close and honest friendship with her, you might be able to initiate a conversation about her relationship with her husband. Depending on the openness of your conversation and her responses, you might share what you saw at the restaurant. You could very honestly and sincerely express your concern for her and her wellbeing having seen what you did. Becoming involved in an extra-marital relationship invariably becomes very destructive to her husband, herself, her marriage and potentially the other man. You could encourage her to get help, such as going for counseling or meeting with a pastor.
Any conversation with your neighbor should be prayerfully considered as it could, potentially, cause a rift between you if she isn’t receptive to your concerns. Your timing and wisdom will be key in this situation. I trust your sense of direction in this matter will become very clear to you and, if you choose to talk to your neighbor, the timing will be right and her response will be favorable.
QUESTION: I was given a couple of very nice, expensive gifts during this past holiday season. One of the items I can use, a pair of leather designer gloves, makes me nervous to use them because I know how much they cost. The other is a wallet, again from a well-known company, that I don’t need at all; in fact I have one I purchased that I haven’t used yet. I’m torn between taking the wallet back or keeping it, but I don’t want to insult the good intentions of my friend who was so excited when he gave it to me.
What does one do in these situations? I didn’t speak up when I opened the gifts because I didn’t want to dampen the holiday spirit.
– Confused Friend (who would rather not receive expensive gifts)
Dear Confused Friend,
When someone thinks enough of another person to give a gift, the act of giving itself is where my attention would be drawn. The cost or the brand of the item or whether or not I could use it immediately, or use at all, really isn’t the point of the giving. Giving is symbolic of your importance in your friend’s life; your gracious receiving acknowledges the message of that act. To focus mostly on the cost and the brand I think is missing something all together bigger. My emphasis would be on the fact that someone thought enough of “me” to do this very thing. This makes the gifts special no matter what. Having no immediate need of the wallet isn’t relevant; it’s easy enough to put away and wait until the other wallets wear out.
I’m glad you followed your instincts not to dampen spirits as timing is everything. The holidays are past; now is a better time to express with appreciation of his thoughtfulness that you are uncomfortable receiving expensive gifts. You accepted them weeks ago; I personally would not return them now. If you suspect the gifts were given to encourage a sense of being beholden to “him,” whereby accepting could cause confusion in the relationship, that is another story. Your question didn’t indicate that; you mentioned he had “good intentions” in his giving. It may simply be that your friend does not have the attachments to cost or money that you’ve expressed, and it may not have entered his mind that you might take issue with it.
I would enjoy the gifts, bask in the connection made with another person who thinks you’re special. Once your boundaries are set with him, I doubt you’ll be faced with this situation again.
Happy New Year!
Dear Confused Friend,
I suspect that your confusion may have something to do with a lack of self-appreciation. You’re receiving nice gifts for the holidays because your friends like you and value your friendship. That’s a very good thing! You should not be looking at the cost of these gifts as an inhibitor; rather you should perhaps understand that the value of the items you received is only realized when you utilize and make the best of them as your friend intended.
The holiday season is all about wonderful magic, ceremony and splendor. However there is also a darker side to this time of year that often brings to the forefront dormant issues that we would rather not address. Family arguments, misunderstood friendships, hurt feelings and other problems often surface during this season and can create and atmosphere that is very un-holiday-like.
You should feel lucky that your only dilemma is whether you should use an expensive gift or not. Count your blessings, open the gifts, use and enjoy them and feel lucky that you have people around you who care about you and want you to have only the best of what life has to offer.