A word about adultery
I've been thinking a lot over the past day about why I have such intensely strong emotional reactions to news about adultery, comparable to my fierce reactions to news about child abuse. It's perhaps a bit odd, because I grew up in a family in which no one committed adultery, and no children were abused (a friend of mine, though, suffered through his father's abandoning his mother and him when he was a boy, and is far more emotional on the topic than I am). The best explanation I can come up with is that I am a papa bear about my wife and kids. I really am. I would give up my life without a second thought for any of them, and I struggle every day to be worthy of them. If my wife ever committed adultery, under most circumstances (i.e., true contrition and repentance), I would hasten to forgive her, not only because I love her that strongly, but also because I would see it as my duty, in love, to do whatever I could to make our marriage whole again, for the sake of the children. That said, I honestly don't know if I could live with myself if I were unfaithful to my wife, nor do I imagine myself capable of receiving her forgiveness. I know that is disordered, but were I to betray her, I'd also be betraying my children, and the thought that I had done such a thing to my wife and kids is one of the worst things I can imagine.
So, while I admit I reacted hotly and wrongly to the Sanford situation, declaring him to be unworthy of his wife and kids (something I can't know and oughtn't to have said), what that tells me is I need to be more prudent about posting my first reactions to these things, and ought to work towards being more merciful to those who have fallen. That said, I really don't feel the least compelled to give up my high view of marriage and family. We live in a time and place in which the integrity of the family is under constant assault, not least by an egotistical culture that exalts sexual pleasure and self-fulfillment, and casts aside ideals of fidelity and self-sacrifice for the greater good. That's not me, and God forbid I should accomodate myself to that. I want my sons to grow up knowing that it is both good and honorable to see women as worthy of utmost respect, and the women they pledge fidelity to before God in the sacrament of marriage to be worth dying for, which is to say, worth living fully for. I want my sons to carry in their hearts a natural repugnance at the thought of infidelity, not so much because it offends God (though it does), but because it is a defilement of a covenant made in love. And I want my daughter to think and feel the same way about marriage -- that it requires sacrifice of one's selfish passions, and the transformation of them into active love for one's spouse and children -- and not to settle for a man who has a lesser view.
I was a little kid, I had a close friend whose parents were divorced. His father lived far away, and he saw the man maybe once a year. I don't recall that he ever complained, but whenever I'd visit him -- and I was over there a lot -- his father was conspicuous in his absence. I have no idea who was right and who was wrong in his parents' split, which occurred before I knew him, nor did I ever give any thought to the matter. What I did think about, and think about a lot, was that felt absence in that home, and what it was like for my friend and his brothers growing up in that way -- which in my childhood, in my part of the world, was still fairly uncommon. It is much, much more common today, as you know.
don't suppose I have anything profound to say, other than to add that I hate, I mean I really hate, this culture we've created of adult selfishness at the expense of children. I was talking on the phone last night to a friend about, of all things, Michael Jackson, and how his father destroyed his son's life with his ambitions. We got to talking about how so many people with kids these days don't seem to understand the awesome responsibility they have to provide for those children's spiritual and emotional welfare -- she has four kids, all small -- and how important it is to get it straight in your head from the beginning that once you marry, and especially once you marry and have children, your life is no longer your own.
don't live in that kind of culture. We live in a culture of throwaway commitment to marriage, in which adults rationalize to themselves that the kids will be okay, and in fact better off if they, the unhappily marrieds, go their own way. I should say here that I believe some marriages really are irretrievably broken, and that some families are better off breaking apart, especially if there is physical or emotional abuse present. But breaking a family through infidelity and divorce is a deep wound, and always an occasion of the most profound sorrow. That's not how it is with us these days. To quote C.S. Lewis on our moral state, "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful."
I can't get straight in my head, when it comes to marital infidelity, especially when children are involved, is the difference between mercy and cheap grace.
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Once in true love we cannot stop loving (Priest Andrew Lorgus)
Everything that God allows to happen to us has some meaning (Evmeniy (Peristyi), Abbot)