Beware of Melting Butter

When yet another politician bit the dust not long ago, I couldn’t help but think of Henry Kissinger’s all-too-true observation that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” I don’t have a lot to say about Governor Mark Sanford’s situation, except that I think the whole thing is very sad. I don’t know Sanford personally, but he always came across as a sincere individual who was genuinely dedicated to his job.

To his credit – unlike a number of politicians who preceded him on the Infidelity Path – Sanford did not try to deny his affair when confronted with it (though he did keep it under wraps for at least a year). He also impressed me by not humiliating his wife further by having her stand dutifully by his side at his mea culpa press conference – ala Eliot Spitzer, Jim McGreevey, David Vitter, et al. Attention politicians with uncontrollable libidos: When you’re caught, act like a man and stand before the public alone!

On the negative side, had I been Governor Sanford’s advisor, I would have told him not to drone on and on about his relationship with “the other woman.” Apologies, yes. Details about how innocently it all began, no. For his sake, I hope he keeps further specifics to himself.

More than 20 years ago in Dallas, I recall having a related discussion with motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. Zig made the point that most extramarital affairs begin innocently. He said what men (and women) need to do is have the self-discipline not to get into situations where innocence has an opportunity to heat up.

The example he used was that of a boss who invites his secretary to lunch. Big mistake. “At some point,” he said, “they reach for the butter at the same time and their hands accidentally touch.” (My translation: Melted butter.)

During that same trip to Dallas, I watched Zig lecture a church full of pastors on the same subject. He advised them, “When you counsel a female member of your congregation, for goodness sakes do it with your office door open.“(My translation: Avoid melting the butter.)

Since then, of course, all hell has broken loose in the U.S. and we’ve devolved into an anything-goes society. Take a good look at what’s being aired on TV these days, and you’ll see what I mean. Not only have the shows become increasingly slimy, many of the commercials, are, to put it politely, sexually explicit.

The madness of prime-time TV aside, when you get down to it, having an extramarital affair is no different than getting yourself into any other kind of trouble – embezzlement, DUI murder, obstruction of justice… you name it. Yes, human beings are weak. It’s hard to avoid temptation – hard, but certainly not impossible. Put simply: When the snake starts talking to you, don’t take the shiny red apple. Walk away.

Having said this, I believe that all mature adults realize that good people sometimes do bad things. Which means it’s wise to think about our own embarrassing missteps before joining a feeding frenzy every time we see blood in the water. As Ayn Rand said, “Judge and prepare to be judged.” (Remember, Mark Sanford voted for the impeachment of cigar-trickster Bill Clinton – and offered a number of moralistic comments to boot.)

My guess is that Mark Sanford is a decent human being who yielded to temptation and fell in love with another woman. You may not want to hear it, but as Ayn Rand explained, it is indeed possible to be in love with two women – or two men – at the same time. Common sense compels us to accept this reality.

Only when we acknowledge our own frailty are we able to develop a strong enough mental state to avoid getting ourselves into tempting situations in the first place. But even if you achieve an A+ in that effort, you will still have a goodly number of “sins” listed in your Book of Life when you move on to the next leg of your Eternal Journey.

We’re all imperfect… which is why we all have to be vigilant when it comes to not getting ourselves into compromising situations.

[Ed. Note: The prevalence of high-profile affairs is just one indication that the United States is on the wrong path – morally as well as economically. To learn how to survive and prosper during the turbulent years ahead, check out Robert Ringer’s powerful audio series Succeeding in a World of Chaos. And be sure to sign up for a FREE subscription to his one-of-a-kind e-letter A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World.]