There was a fantastic article written by John Seel for Cardus Daily as a reflection upon what leads to adultery and what married couples can do to safeguard their exclusive commitment to each other. For the full article check out this link
I am aware that there is more that I can and should be doing in this regard. Petraeus’ failure, like that of King David’s, is a bracing reminder of the importance to attend to little things—to the first things of the heart. Here are some lessons we might reflect on.
- Guard the heart at all cost. Puritan John Flavel writes, “What the heart is to the body, that the soul is to the man; and what health is the heart, that holiness is to the soul. The state of the whole body depends upon the soundness and vigor of the heart, and the everlasting state of the whole man upon the good or ill condition of the soul.” Sadly, Flavel concluded, “If the keeping of the heart be the great work of a Christian, then there are but few real Christians in the world.”
- Affairs are incremental. Few jump from hello to bed. Rather it is a long pattern of fleeting glances, distorted emotions, publicly justifiable little choices, inappropriate texts and emails that corrode boundaries and wait for an opportune moment. It has been wisely noted that the true betrayal is not with whom you lie with but whom you lie to. The lies in a myriad of forms always start long before the sexual infidelity.
- Blurring of boundaries is always first—and emotional boundaries before physical ones. Few in today’s world set appropriate boundaries around their marriages. The reason Billy Graham never had a sniff of a sexual scandal is that he never was in a room or car alone with a woman without first getting permission of his spouse. It may seem draconian to some, but it is a wise policy. The goal in marital boundaries is to create conditions in the marriage so that the spouse never has to even feel the potential for a problem.
- Hubris or self-pity can be a cause for alarm because they serve as a self-justification for poor choices. It’s true of eating too much, drinking too much, or trashing marital boundaries—they all weaken our resistance. At times such as this, we do well to have a circle of accountability. When we feel either highly successful or particularly bad about ourselves, we are prone to moral failure.
- Secrets and anonymity serve no one any good. Psychologically, we become our secrets. We do well to hide our good deeds and confess our failings, but our tendency is to do the reverse. There are obviously professions where secrets are a part of the job—head of the CIA is certainly one. This needs to be acknowledged as intrinsically detrimental to marriage. The habit of secrets is a habit of subtle betrayal. We need transparency, accountability, and community—all of which, by the way, are weakened via cyberspace.
- Our weaknesses will be tested. It’s hard to be judgmental when we have not been in the specific set of circumstances as those who have failed. We’ve not had the celebrity status and power of a four-star general. We’ve not had the cover of secrecy of leading the Central Intelligence Agency. We’ve not had the fawning flattery of a gifted biographer. Add it up and one is quick to say, “There but by God’s grace go I.” That said, we’re promised in Scripture that the foundations of our life will be tested—the storms will come and the floodwaters will rise. If our trust is in our relationships, health, finances, power, or fame, these will all be challenged in time. Whether our lives have been built on rock or sand will be inevitably exposed. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:27).