Call adultery what it is

26 05 2011

Call adultery what it is

There are times, I am aware, when thoughts rumble around just within the conscious threshold and stay there until somebody says something that brings them rushing to the surface. A little while ago I wrote about loving feet of clay, meaning being aware that we all have negative aspects of our lives but should not stop us appreciating people who usually have many sides to their lives. But that can only go so far.

It took a Times article today to bring me back to the keyboard. It was the comment, first of all, by a Times writer who shall remain nameless, about adultery. Of course this flows out of all the hubbub in the media that has been rolling around for the last week or so about super-injunctions and the things that celebs etc. want to cover up.  The comment that started me off spoke about, “the old-fashioned (to me) idea that Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fred the Shred, Andrew Marr and Ryan Giggs deserve to be exposed as betrayers, and that this betrayal somehow matters other than to the people affected by it.”

Now the argument being put forward is not a new one, that what you do in private should not affect your role in public life. I have been waiting for the last week or so for someone to comment about the things that are being covered up. If you are a child molester the courts appear, from my experience at least, to be only too happy to let the media know all about it, but when it comes to the ‘great and the good’ not being so good, suddenly various judges now feel that such things should be kept from the media. Now there is a sense that the media has brought this on themselves for both TV and press reporters often appear to lose their humanity in the cause of hounding the guilty and, (let’s not forget this) in order to sell papers or attract viewers.

But can we backtrack on ‘adultery’. It seems according to later parts in the times article I have in my sights, that because so many people are doing it, it’s all right. Listen to how he goes on: “I looked around …..  and took it as read that we now lived and let live, suspending our judgments on the foibles of others, or reserving them for criminal cases. Why wouldn’t we, being what we ourselves increasingly are? A third of marriages end in divorce; in a quarter of those break-ups adultery is cited as the reason and is, one imagines, a factor in many, many more. Motes and beams, dear friends, stones and glasshouses.”

There it is; everybody does it so don’t be nasty about others when they do it. Ethics by guilt. But, intriguingly, he later goes on to try and excuse what even he describes as bad behaviour: “Many, many people believe that if you betray your spouse, lie to them, break your vows, hide your phone, tear up your credit card receipts, book hotels under assumed names and creep around in the night, then this says something palpable about you.”

Well, actually, yes it does! A liar is a liar is a liar. If you lie to your spouse it means you are quite happy about lying and if you are a public figure, I’d rather you weren’t part of those running my country. Now that may appear rather naïve and the cynic may say that politics is all about lying. If it is, that is just a sign of how far we have sunk in our moral and ethical deliberations.

And something else: the evidence is so great today that only an idiot can argue that marital break up through infidelity hurts and harms. Talk to the abandoned wife and listen to the anguish of rejection. Talk to teachers and hear mutiple tales of children suffering through divorce. Divorce causes untold financial and emotional hardship; it is a proven fact, so let’s stop talking about it casually.

But there is a reasonableness that comes through in the writings of such people as I am quoting. Motes and beams and stones and greenhouses? In other words, if you do it, don’t throw stones at others. But I’m not doing it and if, heaven forbid, I did, then I am guilty of being utterly self-centred, indifferent about my partner’s or my children’s feelings, sufficiently callous that I won’t go for counselling to put my marriage back together and. almost certainly, a liar and a deceiver. I am, I am guilty, and if I ever do that you can say that, for that will be the truth. I may make every excuse under the sun, but for whatever reason, that is me – guilty! I gave way to temptation, focused entirely on my wants for that moment, and totally disregarded everyone else. And if I am a man in a public position, I can no longer be trusted and I ought to step down. It happens in the church and it should happen outside of it! Trust takes time to be rebuilt.

Finally, if you are a public figure, you are seen as an example. We accepted that with footballers and their behaviour on the pitch. Why have we changed and said it doesn’t matter what sort of lives these public people live off the pitch?  Sorry, one last thing. If it was a one off fling that is one thing; we all do stupid things, but if it was an ongoing affair then we have set our course and we deserve everything said about us. Own up, be a man, stop hiding from the truth. You blew it – and there are consequences. Live with them or start again. There is always hope, but sometimes that has to be dressed in courage.

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