Tag Archives: affairs

Infidelity: personality or opportunity?

On the way to work today I heard a radio personality muse about the rampant sexual infidelity among politicians and sports figures. They talked about how people (i.e., men as the stereotype goes)  in power have much more opportunity for sexual acting out because they have more women offering themselves to them. Probably true…

But, is it that they have more opportunity (and thus more chance to give in to temptation) or is it because they have a personality that sets themselves up for infidelity? And would  you have a different answer if we were talking about bribe taking or other financial temptations instead of sexual indiscretion?

I think they are the same AND I think every has opportunity (some more than others). What matters is one’s perceptions of self and others. While personality plays a part of our self awareness, the drive to win, be the best, to get the prize, listening only to one’s fans, the sense that you are better than others also is formed from self-talk. Thus, opportunity makes it possible but failure to be self-critical is the key feature that makes opportunity become reality.


Filed under Cognitive biases, ethics, personality, Psychology, Sex

How to fail after hitting it big

Had an interesting talk with my boys about how money and fame does not protect from one’s sins being found out–whether in this life or the next. We were talking about faithfulness and keeping promises and how it feels when someone violates that covenant, and how much more it hurts when that violation goes public.

Right after that, my friend Doug forwarded me a Christianity Today article on the recipe for failing. It is written by Gordon McDonald and is directed at church leaders, especially those who lead big churches. But, you could apply it to your own life. Read the story here, but in short, here is recipe:

1. “Hubris, born of success.” It is interesting how we allow success to lead to pride. Moses told the Israelites that when they got into the promised land and received houses and gardens they didn’t build, they should not become arrogant and say, “look at what I have” and thus forget the Lord.

2. “Undisciplined pursuit of more.” Whether we have little or lots, we always want more. And we find all sorts of creative ways to make our pursuit right and good.

3. “Denial of risk and peril.” The more we succeed the more temptation to give in to brazenness.

4. “Grasping for salvation.” I think this works for successful people as well as those who feel desperate to succeed (after all, you can never rest on your laurels). We look for the silver bullet, the hail Mary, the lotto ticket to the next level of fame.

5. “Capitulation to irrelevance or death.” Once you go too far, you know you can’t recover so you just keep going. Why is it that we find it so hard to repent, to admit, to acknowledge our sins? Because we cannot give up our pride. We sometimes choose character death rather than admit, to stop. I think this is also why people commit hid and runs. We know we will get caught but we keep trying to run because admitting seems like death (when it often contains redemption possibilities).

Notice that the real recipe needs only one ingredient–deception of self and other.

Lord, save us from our prideful, self-deceiving selves.

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Filed under adultery, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, church and culture, deception, Repentance, self-deception

Just don’t blow it

Having spoken last week on the topics of trauma and pastoral sexual abuse (and the resulting conversations with attendees at both sessions), I keep thinking this thought: Just don’t blow it.

Let me explain. Both sessions are filled with examples of Christian leaders abusing vulnerable people. It is common that attendees want to come up and chat with me about something similar that has happened to them or a loved one. During my trauma session, an individual commented to the whole group about a recent serious (and very public) allegation about a camp counselor and a decade of abuse to young boys. What would I tell these boys who were (allegedly) abused by someone they should have trusted?

Even when the problem is not abuse but moral failings, I note the massive, rippling fallout (fear, anger, anxiety, crushing heartbreak) in those in the know.

After the second session I got to go have a wonderful dinner with my wife. During it I was having double consciousness. I was with her and enjoying her company but having intruding thoughts about my own capacity to fail her, my kids, my parents, my colleagues, my students, etc. These vignettes I heard of “blowing it” can’t be all stupid of course. They too must have known how much destruction their choices would bring. I cannot rest on the fact that since I’m in the know, it won’t happen to me. Why? Because we are all prone to forget.

So, I spoke to myself, Just don’t blow it Phil. Remember that glowing face of your wife in the dinner light.

I’ll need a bit more than that I suppose…regular reminders and lots of prayer! It is easy to be ensnared and deceived by desires for comfort, glory, etc.

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Filed under Abuse, adultery, christian counseling, Christianity, self-deception

Inside adulterous love: “It’s all about me!”

There’s no denying that forbidden love lust generates massive pleasure–even if it leads to equally massive despair, guilt, and/or destruction. If it didn’t, few would allow an affair to develop and continue risking all that is dear to them (respect, trust, family, friends, even job). Like heroin, the pleasure within adultery screams to be experienced again. Often those caught up in this kind of pleasure feel they have found their soul mate, their completion as a person. But let’s take a look at this “love” for a moment and the lies told.

1. “You complete me.” Sounds like it is a compliment to the other, right? Nope. It is all about how the speaker feels. That is the focus. Very self-indulgent.

2. “I can’t wait to be with you again.” Again, the focus is on what you do to me.

3. “You get me.” Ditto #1 and 2.

The funny thing is, if you were to remove the “love” phrases being bantied back and forth in an affair from their context, you see how self-focused the expressions of pleasure and satisfaction are despite the pretense of care for the other. But both parties delude themselves that it is real love as long as the “drug” lasts. As long as both feel that the other exists to bring them pleasure it feels like mutual love.


Filed under adultery, deception, love, Relationships, self-deception, Sex

Risk factors for pastoral infidelity

Today, I listened to a CD of Dave Carder at last year’s AACC convention. He is the author of Torn Asunder, a book about affairs. I’ve not seen his newest book, just out in April, is entitled Close Calls. Both available on Amazon.

He presented a talk entitled, “Emerging Trends in Pastoral Infidelity.” He summarized data gleaned from 5 studies between 1987-1998. He continues to collect information that will be out this year.

Here’s some surprises in his data and risk factors:

1. suspected rate of sexual impropriety: about 40% (though this is perceived because of underreporting. Actual reporting number is 21%, though 15% admitted to lying on the surveys)
2. pastors affair partners are now more likely to be outside the church
3. 90% of pastors report being blindsided by the affair–they didn’t see it coming
4. The vast majority of improprieties are never discovered
5. Risk factors increase with:

  • History of sexual molestation, family history of infidelity, adolescent promiscuity, learning disabilities/ADHD, female friends with private conversations, conjoint ministry with opposite sex, lingering outside of ministry to share personal matters
  • Lower age in conversion to Christianity increases risks
  • Higher education increases risks as does increased bible education
  • both ministry exhausted and ministry connected pastors 

Any of these surprise you?


Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, church and culture, Evangelicals, pastors and pastoring, Sex