The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Do I Call Out My Friend's Adultery?

“Is it wrong of me to call out a friend who has been cheating on his wife, who is also my dear friend? I am very angry about his behavior, which he does not seem to regret, but others tell me it is none of my business.”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

/The Rapidian

B. asks, “Is it wrong of me to call out a friend who has been cheating on his wife, who is also my dear friend? I am very angry about his behavior, which he does not seem to regret, but others tell me it is none of my business.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“I have often had deep appreciation for my best friend for calling me back to my best self and asking me to think about my behavior and how that may be affecting others. I think a true and good friend has earned that right and responsibility. The key is to put your anger and judgment aside and speak to your friend who may have lost his way.”

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

“In all my relationships I seek to conduct myself to a higher plane of loyalty, dignity, and discipline. I believe this would compel me to honor such friend by confronting him with the truth, no matter how ugly that truth may be. Even if he chooses not to end his affair, you’ve done the right thing. The fact that you are angry about his behavior tells me you have a responsibility—out of your love for him—to confront him with his lack of loyalty towards his wife. If he is your friend then it is your business. That’s what I would expect from a good friend!”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Your friend is in violation of one of the commandments, and you know this. Both this friend and his wife are people important to you. I wonder if your question refers to a public acknowledgement or a private discussion?

“I posit you not only have the right but also the obligation to confront your friend, PRIVATELY! You are not obligated to tell anyone else, including his wife even though she is also your friend. Further, you are not obligated to tell anyone that you mentioned this to the offending party.

“If I were in your shoes, I would tell him privately that I am aware of his relationship with this other person and that I cannot approve of what he is doing because of the spiritual harm it is doing to him, to me, to the other person, to his wife, and to others. I do so fully ready to lose a friendship, knowing that secrets are harder to live with than truth.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Two aspects of your question disturb me. First, you say you are very angry, and that is dangerous. ‘The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God’(James 1:20). You must put off your anger, and get to a place where you can speak and act in love, with compassion. Second, you have been very foolish to consult with others before you say what may need to be said to your friend and his wife. 

“You would have a better chance of ‘gaining your brother’ had you obeyed Christ’s directive, ‘Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone’ (Matthew 18:15). If you value both friendships involved, you should find the right time and place to speak with the errant husband. For the sake of one friend, you must deal honestly and faithfully with the other. If your anger gets the better of you, and you choose to ‘make a scene,’ you may lose both friendships. It may help to remember that you, too, are vulnerable to sexual temptations, and you depend on God’s grace to resist them (Galatians 6:1).”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“I’m sorry you’re in this predicament. But this is no different from any other circumstance when we find that our values are different from friends or family. It’s even more challenging when you know and care for the object of his betrayal. So yes, this is your business. While I wouldn’t go so far as to insert myself into the situation by informing his wife, it would be a noble effort on your part to confront him. It sounds like this affair is not much of a secret within your circle. If there was solidarity amongst you all on this issue it’s possible he would rethink his behavior if he felt that he might lose significant friendships over this. But from how I read your letter it appears that this is not the case. Regardless, a conversation needs to happen.”

My response:

Leviticus 10:17 teaches, “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.” Set aside your anger and tell him, with love, directly what you are concerned about. Don’t let your feeling fester any longer, lest they turn into hatred.

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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