Herman Cain has once again been accused . . . this time of having an extra-marital affair.
He has denied it. The media is a flurry with the revelation, the denial, and all that it means.
Some say the United States is more puritan than Europe, so we don't give leeway to our politicians like the European countries. Some, like Cain's attorney, Len Wood, say that "This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults -- a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public"* And some say privacy for a presidential contender is a thing of the past. I understand and take seriously the very delicate issue of people's privacy. But I'm going to set that aspect on the back burner for today, and address another issue, a deeper issue, an issue that people seem to be missing completely.
Unfaithfulness. Yes, that's what I said, unfaithfulness! I'm not talking about it from a religious perspective. Nor from a place of judgment. And not from a place of values, either. I'm talking about unfaithfulness from a place of having worked with people on issues of faithfulness and unfaithfulness for years. And on a broader, deeper spectrum than marriage and extra-marital affairs. But that's a perfect place to start.
Now, we all know that both men and women have been unfaithful. But for the sake of grammatical efficiency and because it is Herman Cain who has brought this to light, I am going to speak mostly about "a man."
When two people join with each other in marriage, they each make a commitment to the other.
In some form or other, they each commit to be faithful to the other. Even the simplest marriage vows imply faithfulness. For example: "I take you to be my wife/husband. To have and to hold, from this day forth, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part." Some actually state it: "I pledge my faithfulness to you"; or "I promise to be true to you."
When one of the partners is unfaithful, that partner has not only been unfaithful... that partner has broken a commitment. That person has broken his word. And this is a bigger deal than most people can even imagine! First, if a person has broken his commitment, his word, how can any of his other commitments be trusted? How can his commitment to speak the truth be trusted? How can his commitment to care about anybody's well-being be trusted? How can his commitment to truly go through the good times and the painful times be trusted? How can anybody (himself included) ever trust his word again, or any commitment he makes again... unless he does the inner work to heal not only the sexual infidelity, but also the wound to his ability to commit fully and follow through on his commitment fully.
These questions are not limited to a person's marriage. These questions would apply everywhere in his life. . . even in his campaign for the presidency. And if he won the election, certainly to his term as president. Look at the oath of office (emphasis mine.)
I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States**
If a man has broken his commitment to be faithful to his spouse, and hasn't done the healing needed to prevent betrayal of word and commitment elsewhere... why would we believe he would be true to his commitment to his office and his constitution, and his country?
If you would compartmentalize his marriage breach and believe he could keep his political commitment, then you don't know what commitment is.
The essence, in brief:
A commitment is the investment of 100% of your energies -- mind, body, heart, and soul -- to whatever you've committed yourself to. It could be a huge task or project, like the Presidency, or like your own growth to fulfill your potential. Or it could be a smaller task like doing your chores around the house or writing an article. The key is . . . if you don't fully commit, the results of your only-partial commitment will reflect your lack of whole-hearted commitment. Not realizing the outcome is a consequence of your partial commitment, you will either push, grab, and try to force the results you want, or you will withdraw into failure . . . in both cases with lots and lots of feelings you may think you understand, but really don't. How could you understand your feelings if instead of realizing the cause of the problem is your lack of full commitment (in which faithfulness is inherent), and instead of taking the responsibility for resolving the problem by doing your inner work with your relationship with commitment . . . you look for and find something to blame.
This rupture of the integrity of commitments is not just something in politicians. It is something we all need to deal with as part of our humanity. If we don't . . . we may not only take license to break our own commitments, but we may also collude with others to break theirs.
A big clue about commitments: Once we have committed to something, whatever is in us that needs to be healed in order to take the next step in fulfilling that commitment will surface.
Most people think of that as an obstacle, or a sign that means we should never have committed. And then they break their commitment. But what it truly means is: whatever has surfaced is something in you that has been called out into the open for healing . . . by your very act of committing.
© Judith Barr, 2011
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