The Bottom Line

Governor Mark Sanford is a policy wonk at heart. Having been trained in the most elite investment banks in the country, his dedication to applying solid economic theory was the bedrock of his conservatism. In short, he was always concerned with the “bottom line.”

That’s the bottom line. I’ve been unfaithful to my wife.

Sanford now has to deal with a new bottom line in his life, one not caught up in economic theory or his state’s fiscal policy, but one involving moral absolutes. This is a man who knows his Scripture, who ran–at least partially–on a family values platform, and who has now grossly transgressed both.

The question that comes to my mind now is not “What’s next for Mark Sanford?” He and his family will have to answer that. The more important question for us is: What are we doing now not to follow in his footsteps?

Last summer, I received a fellowship with a conservative legal group. As part of that fellowship, I worked for an Evangelical public policy organization. Once, when all the men were gathered, we were encouraged to guard our hearts through affirmative acts. So, that meant things like not going to lunch alone with a female colleague. It meant not spending time alone with a woman who was not your wife. It meant, as in Sanford’s case, not carrying on exclusive conversations through e-mails or letters.

At the Evangelical organization, such sentiments were included in the Employee Handbook. Male and female employees who were unmarried were not allowed to ride in cars together, even down the street for lunch. Offices all had glass doors that were not allowed to be covered, modesty in dress was required.

At the time, I thought many of these things to be rather prudish. Now I think they are essential. Men like Mark Sanford, men who seem so strong and devoted, fall every day. What are you doing, actively, today, to guard your heart?

This is a time for all of us to re-evaluate how we live our lives, how we show love to our wives, and how we guard ourselves against temptation of any kind. For Catholic men, some may justify a relationship with a woman as a casual friendship based on some common spirituality or perhaps someone in a prayer group at a parish. Yet a spiritual relationship–not to mention an emotional or physical relationship–with someone who is not your wife is out of place. No matter how “safe” the person is–like a nun hidden away in the Alps–the spiritual relationship you are called to have with your wife suffers if someone else is providing that for you.

Guarding your heart is truly a case where the best defense is a good offense. Actively guard yourself against temptation of any kind. Avoid situations that might lead to an invitation out or something else. As Sanford said, his relationship “began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do.”  Stop it before it starts. Find a group of men to keep you accountable. Be entirely open with your wife about what is going on at work, who you deal with each day. Pray for strength and guidance in dealing with temptation or difficult situations. Remain faithful, that’s the bottom line.

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