The internet was abuzz yesterday after Jewel Harris, wife of NBA star JR. Smith, took to Instagram with a prayer. It wasn’t just any prayer. In it, she seemingly confirms the rumors of her husband’s infidelity with actress Candice Patton. As the three of them became a trending topic, a 25-second clip of Harris’ prayer circulated across social media. In it, Harris calls Patton by her first name and prays that God would heal her brokenness.
Jewel Harris prayed for the healing of her husband’s alleged mistress.
Watching the clip of a brokenhearted Harris stopped me dead in my tracks. While the outside world would love to make a mockery of her publicly responding to the allegations with prayer, very few will honor the pain that comes with that decision. She created a life with someone who betrayed her. Whether people think they’d react differently, we don’t get to critique how people respond to the trauma they’re experiencing.
But more than that, watching the clip was difficult on a personal level. The truth is if she were someone else asking God to heal her husband’s mistress, Candice, she would have been talking about me. I have been the other woman who brought pain into the life of a woman who simply wanted to live happily ever after with a man she’d pledged her life and gave children.
I watched Harris’ prayer in its entirety and sat with all the ways her ten-minute conversation with God made me uncomfortable. As women of faith, we’re taught to take everything to God. Religious messages teach married women it’s their responsibility, through prayer, to fix marriages they didn’t break and cover men who have left them vulnerable to all forms of harm. The only reason Jewel Harris went to Instagram with her pain is because her husband cheated and insensitive people kept sending her “proof” of her husband’s infidelity. JR has since responded to the now-viral video, claiming they have been separated for months. Still, this doesn’t change his status as a married man. And now, it’s not JR’s unwillingness to remain faithful that’s in question. Instead, his wife is reduced to attention-seeking as she does the very thing we’ve all been taught to do: pray for our enemies.
Yet, Harris’ prayer hit different because it could have been me. I painfully watched this wife and mother of four ask God to give “Candice” grace and mercy to heal whatever broken places led her to seek a relationship with a married man. Years of therapy and my own quiet time with God created space for me to identify and heal those places. I was, indeed, broken and saw myself as insufficient. There is very little empathy for the other woman. Despite why we find ourselves in these relationships, many believe we deserve humiliation and scorn. Many felt Harris’ prayer wasn’t about exposing Smith as it was about exposing Patton. Still, whatever her motives, women who engage in relationships with married men have to be honest about the depths of insecurity and lack of self-love present that leads us to believe that being loved in secret is sufficient and whole.
For some, these clandestine affairs culminated in the blissful life they secretly dreamed was possible. I wasn’t one of them. Humiliated, I watched as he left his wife and me, then married one of the three women he was dating months after finalizing his divorce. As I sat in my own despair, I couldn’t help but hear the words my mother said to me when she learned of our relationship: “you can’t build a life of happiness on someone else’s misery.” Some mistresses-turned-wives have experienced, firsthand, the betrayal of infidelity. And, as expected, people have very little sympathy for them. While understandable, their actions only work to reinforce the truth that women will always suffer more for a man’s failure to be good than he ever will.
I’m not the woman I was when I started that relationship years ago and I am grateful for that. Never again will I have such a low view of myself and what I deserve. God has forgiven me and, most importantly, I have forgiven myself. While I’ve never had direct contact with the woman whose marriage I disrespected, I hope she has found a way to forgive me, as well. Even if she doesn’t (and that is perfectly fine, too), I hope that others can see that true change and transformation are possible. There is grace for the side chick.
Harris’ brokenness and tearful confession has to be a call for those of us who find or have found ourselves in these situations to care for our sisters sometimes much more than their husbands ever will. If it is true–and it is–that nobody cares for Black women like other Black women, that means the other woman bears responsibility. In a world that beats Black women down daily, we cannot bring more destruction into their lives because of our selfishness, arrogance and deep insecurities. Love doesn’t make you do that. Nothing should make that more clear than a wife asking God to help you stop hurting her.
I don’t know what’s in store for J.R. Smith and Jewel Harris. I suspect he will rebound, as men always do. We live in a world where men are able to create all kinds of narratives to justify their foolishness and the world will believe them. For Jewel and wives who are dealing with their husbands’ infidelity, I hope they are met with more compassion than critique for however they choose to navigate their heartbreak. For women loving men who are not theirs to love, I hope they were made just as uncomfortable as I was. Hopefully, in that discomfort, they will find the courage to be a better person for their sisters and for themselves.
When faced with the pain of her husband’s betrayal daily, Jewel Harris could have done so much more than pray–and she would have been well within her rights to do so. But she prayed and, from a hard place, asked God for grace and strength. It’s my hope that every sister, whether she is the wife or the other woman, finds just that.