Thursday, June 09, 2011

An Opportunity for Men

The tawdry news that we have been subjected to this week of U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner’s twittered explicit photographs seems to be just the latest in a steady stream of high-profile men being exposed as philanderers and cheats. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and John Kerry’s mistresses and illegitimate children to IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Khan’s alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid, it has not been a good couple of weeks for men in the news. Time Magazine’s May 30 cover story was titled, “Sex, Lies, Arrogance: What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs?” I was glad they added the modifying adjective “powerful.”

Following are some thoughts I have about all this:
1. Many, many married men practice monogamy and place a high value on marital faithfulness. It is easy to lose sight of that because it doesn’t make news or water-cooler conversations. As the old journalistic maxim goes, “Dog bites man” isn’t news. “Man bites dog” is news. The exceptions capture our attention, not the norms.

2. Power and fame almost inevitably cultivate in people a sense of entitlement. Tiger Woods acknowledged after his indiscretions, “I thought the rules didn’t apply to me.” The aforementioned Time magazine article cites a soon-to-be-published study in Psychological Science which found that the higher men – or women – rose in a business hierarchy, the more likely they were to consider or commit adultery. “With power comes both opportunity and confidence,” the authors argue, “and with confidence comes a sense of entitlement.” Be very careful about getting full of yourself. As the apostle Paul puts it, “Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” (I Cor. 10:12, The Message)

3. Few males are raised to be gentlemen. By “gentlemen” I mean men who respect women and consider a disciplined and moral life to be a worthy goal. This must start in the home, from fathers. A good question for every father to ask himself is, “How do I speak about women and how do I treat women in my son’s presence?” Obviously, this should begin with how he treats and speaks about his son’s mother.

4. Christian men have a powerful opportunity to witness to our faith in Christ by our marital faithfulness and by how we speak about and treat women. In a culture that is increasingly crude and suggestive regarding women (and sadly many women accept this), a Christian gentleman will be the proverbial and scriptural “shining light.” He will be a lion among hyenas, a thoroughbred among donkeys.

Next week I will talk about ways to guard against adultery and infidelity. Alas, the news in my little circle lately has been full of ministers failing morally. At a recent conference, one noted church consultant said he is seeing it more than ever. Interestingly, he said he is seeing it in the churches of Christ among elders too, who in the last decade have begun spending more time counseling and visiting with church members. He said there is a fine line between confidentiality and intimacy, and many ministers and church leaders have not been coached on how to navigate it.

Adultery and moral failings leave a trail of pain, confusion and anger that spreads outward like a boat’s wake. The consequences are enormous. If there is one thing that we remember from these news stories, let that be it.


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