adultery: a sin or a mistake?


A friend recently asked me to define "sin." It’s kind of a loaded question, even if it is simple. The word sin, to me, is akin to "bad." And by definition it implies there’s also a good, a proper, a "right" way to do things. Sin implies judgment and has some definite ties to regret. The thing about regrets, I think we’re supposed to have them. They’re catalysts for change.

What’s a sin to me? Line dancing. The discontinuation of L’Oreal’s anti-frizz gel. Not believing in someone. Squelching someone’s dream. Air guitar. Hair spray and bangs. Camel toe. Molesting a child. Abusing a child. Telling a child they can’t become something. Knowing the truth but keeping silent when confronted. Sun-In.Yeah, yeah, and murder, I suppose.

I don’t believe adultery is a sin, by the way. I think it’s a mistake. I think people need more courage to face things they don’t want to face, to confront when it’s easier to avoid. Then no one would have to sneak around–they could live their most authentic lives, and live through the consequences of their actions. It might be ironic, for me, of all people to say so, but I believe cheating is something you can forgive, as long as you know, or come to know, within the deepest part of you, that it won’t happen again. And if it does, it would be a sin to stay. Fool me twice and all that.

A YEAR AGO: Austin Stalking: Stacey Glynn
4 YEARS AGO: The Spy Who Loved Me
5 YEARS AGO: My Tragic Flaw



  1. I wish you could just stop these random lists of yours… to put "The discontinuation of L'Oreal's anti-frizz gel" right there into the same list as "Molesting a child" or "Abusing a child" just isn´t funny or creative or whatever it´s meant to be.

    It just makes me sick.

  2. I think adultery is a sin because it is a lie, a broken promise, simple as that. In your wedding vows, you promise to be faithful to someone, to respect and honor them. I realize this might seem naive or over-simplified, but to me it's no different than verbal or physical abuse in a relationship. Sure you can choose to forgive it – some people will forgive anything, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a sin. In fact, it pretty much confirms that it was. You made a choice that now requires you to ask forgiveness: if that's not a sin, what is?

  3. Why do you continue to read to blog? Don't you have enough outlets for judgement and self-righeousness at home?

  4. I've never said an unkind word and I like your writing even if I don't always understand it but I agree with Ali E., putting "molesting a child" on the same list with stuff as ridiculous as camel toe and hair spray is sick.

  5. "You made a choice that now requires you to ask forgiveness: if that's not a sin, what is?" Does that mean every time you seek forgiveness you've committed a sin? That doesn't seem like logic you can apply to each time you want someone's forgiveness.

    If I hurt a friend, unintentionally, and then ask her forgiveness, I don't think (nor do I think you think) I'd committed a sin. Even if I had made a choice that required me to seek forgiveness.

  6. Now that I got that off my chest, I'll add to the discussion of sin. For Christians, sin is defined as anything that falls short of the glory of God. I'm not pushing beliefs on any one here, just stating their definition. So, if you were to look at it with that in mind, yes adultery is a sin.

    But defining it as a sin doesn't mean that it isn't forgivable. All things are forgivable. Even if it's only forgiveness for the sake of allowing yourself closure.

    As a victim of the most atrocious sin you have listed up there, I firmly believe that sometimes forgiveness is only about closure and it does not mean allowing that person to hurt you again.

  7. Thou shall not commit adultery, 7th Commandment. I agree it's a sin. I get the point of your post, but think you could have accomplished same without that reference…just sayin :)

  8. I guess I could modify "choice" to "intentional act", but I think it still counts. I'm not exactly religious, so I think of "sin" in looser terms than other people might: not necessarily a sin against God, but a sin against any ideal. So, I'd say if the act was intentional, even if the consequences were not, then yes, it qualifies. (Feel free to ignore this as pure nonsense. I'm in the middle of getting my PhD, so I love little metaphysical exercises like this… and also procrastinating when I should be doing literature review.)

  9. Thank you for this. I needed to hear someone else agree with me, on the fact that it is forgiveable. I believe it is, and you can move forward.

  10. I believe that "sin" is a creation of the church; as an agnostic, I believe in right and wrong, but I don't believe in sin. It's a concept, like "blessed" and "saved," nothing more.

  11. From Bertrand Russell's essay on agnosticism –

    "The Agnostic is not quite so certain as some Christians are as to what is good and what is evil. He does not hold, as most Christians in the past held, that people who disagree with the government on abstruse points of theology ought to suffer a painful death. He is against persecution, and rather chary of moral condemnation.

    As for `sin', he thinks it not a useful notion. He admits, of course, that some kinds of conduct are desirable and some undesirable, but he holds that the punishment of undesirable kinds is only to be commended when it is deterrent or reformatory, not when it is inflicted because it is thought a good thing on its own account that the wicked should suffer. It was this belief in vindictive punishment that made men accept Hell. This is part of the harm done by the notion of `sin'. "

  12. Does adultery actually have to fall into one of those two categories? I personally think it is neither a sin nor a mistake — I don’t think it is nearly as black & white as that. I think it is simply — like most things in life — a choice that one can make, and that doesn’t mean it’s a horrible choice or a mistaken choice. I realize I am in the minority when it comes to this subject, as I am someone who does not really believe in monogamy (not as in I don’t believe that other people don’t want it or need it for whatever reasons, just that I do not want it or need it in my own life). I think a lot of people who end up living in monogamous relationships for whatever reasons — because they don’t realize there are alternatives, because they feel that is what one is supposed to do, because they are lonely, because…whatever the reason — eventually find themselves desiring or emotionally connecting with or just wanting to screw at least one other person. In an ideal world, this would be easier to talk about and allow without a lot of strange (to me, because I am not wired for jealousy in this way) jealousies and friction and confusion. But, this is not an ideal world, and so for a lot of people the outcome ends up being adultery, in one form or another. I think it’s unfortunate that, in general, the only options tend to be “Sublimate your feelings and desires” or “Sneak around behind the back of someone you love”. But I also don’t really fault anyone for choosing the latter if those are the only two viable options.

  13. I understand some people do not want monogamy in their relationships. That is their choice. However, if you decide to get married in a Christian ceremony you are agreeing to “forsake all others.” And if you are having a Christian ceremony…you are hopefully Christian and believe in what the Bible says…and adultery is a sin.

    That being said there are no unforgivable sins (in the United Methodist Church) except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. So yes it is a mistake that can be forgiven if honest forgiveness is requested. But it is not a simple issue. And it is an incredibly personal issue.

    I for one have a hard time with cheating because of the permanent damage it can do to a relationship. And although I think it can be forgiven it is an uphill battle with trust.

  14. Your words struck a chord within me. “I think people need more courage to face things they don’t want to face, to confront when it’s easier to avoid. Then no one would have to sneak around–they could live their most authentic lives, and live through the consequences of their actions.”
    I don’t live my authenic life out of fear of change. I’m working on it though. It’s hard.

  15. I don’t understand why you would say camel toe is a sin, but adultery is a mistake? Assumedly camel toe is usually unintentional but adultery is an intentional betrayal. As usual, your analysis is really just you trying to be cute rather than actually grappling with difficult issues.

  16. I actually loved this…I think the people who are commenting you, whose panties are in a ruffle (or whose g-strings are up their asses) over the whole adultery vs. camel toe thing aren’t seeing the bigger picture: we’re so quick, as human beings, to put every action or incident between two people into a box. “SIN” vs. “FORGIVABLE.” Who’s to say that adultery is a sin versus a mistake? Who makes that determination or judgment call? And who are we to judge? Who are you to judge ME? I think if you’re in a relationship, and your husband or wife is cheating, maybe both parties need to question WHY they feel compelled to cheat, and if they’re cheating with ONE person, WHY they feel so drawn to that other person. What is it about the other person that keeps bringing them back, time and time again? Is it passion? Is it physical? Is it just lust? Or is it love? Regardless, the point is, who’s to say that having camel toe is any more or any less sinful than cheating on your husband or wife? At the end of the day, is it really your place to slam down the gavel, and make that judgment call? Probably not…

  17. Ok, I am not getting into this debate, it’s too complicated, but I will say, AMEN SISTER to this:

    “The discontinuation of L’Oreal’s anti-frizz gel”.

    I am a HUGE fan of of their curly gel and the anti-frizz gel, I would freak if they stopped making it!

    I will continue to pray for the great hair products of our generation!

    All best and btw, your hair looks great!!!

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