Integrity for Life

Integrity for Life

My son, keep your father’s commands…

Bind them on your heart forever…

keeping you from the immoral woman,
from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes,

for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
and the adulteress preys upon your very life.

Proverbs 6: 20-21, 24-26

If you read Proverbs chapters 4-6 you will see that the setting is a father’s advice to his son and that one of the major themes is staying away like the plague from sex outside of the protection of marriage.  He also gives advice to stay out of debt, to not be lazy, staying away from friends who are a bad influence, and to stay away from the BIG SIX: lying, pride, violence, planning evil in your heart (OUCH!), being quick to do evil, a false witness, and causing dissension.  I guess there’s seven.  Sorry.  Proverbs is funny that way.  He’ll say there’s 3 things that…and then he changes his mind and says, no 4.  It’s poetic license.  Maybe there is six: he mentions lying twice.  He mentions planning evil as one and doing evil as another.  I suppose those are different.  Probably if you didn’t plan evil you wouldn’t do it.  I look at the list of the BIG SIX and I think, with my 4 kids, that, as a father, I told them not to do all the things on the list, but I don’t remember telling them not plan to do evil.  I remember spanking them once in awhile for doing evil.  Maybe we should have had a few talks about planning evil!

But my point from linking the above verses together is the notion that dad’s advice, (in this context, King Solomon), to his son (not sure which one.  He had a ton.) was to keep dad’s advice forever.  I presume that means at least as long as you live.  And then he talks about avoiding an adulterous woman.  As I’ve said in an earlier blog, I’ve read Proverbs daily (there’s 31 chapters; it’s easy to read a chapter corresponding to the day of the month) off and on my whole life.  I started around age 19.  It’s been a faithful companion.  But is it still all relevant?  Do I need advice to stay away from affairs and prostitutes and illicit sex or pride and lying and planning or doing evil or being a busy body when I’m 57?  Or 72?  Or 85 for that matter?  I’m guessing I’ll never grow too old for a sound kick in the pants.

Hang in there with me.  I’m getting to my point:  I deal with affair cases frequently in my work and, curiously, affairs have no age barrier.  Don’t be too proud for this warning, buddy.  I kid you not: I’ve had several cases of wives feeling violated by their husband’s wandering eyes and flirtatious mouths in their retirement community.  I’ve also had men of retirement age still struggling with pornography and chatting with other women on dating sites, several for whom it led to criminal behavior.  Dang.  How’d you like that from your grandpa?  In my counseling practice sexual indiscretions from females have stopped around the early 50’s.  That’s not to say women struggle less in the later years.  Maybe they are more discrete?  In any case, the women who shared with me their hurt around their husbands’ dinking around it the retirement community certainly saw these other women are real threats and their husbands’ actions are real violations.  I agreed with them.

Please don’t laugh.  I certainly didn’t write this as a joke.  Temptation is real at any age.  We are always vulnerable.  You need to be on your guard.  Integrity is needed at every age.  I’m of the opinion anyone can have an affair…or worse.  This kind of advice never goes out of style.

Lord, protect me from being an Ol’ Geezer.  Dang.

Integrity for Life

Far, Far Away

In yesterday’s blog I discussed briefly the concept of guarding your heart and how important that is to keep our marriages intact.  Affairs come in many stripes, but for married people they nearly always involve emotional connection.  Married people know you aren’t going to be sexual with someone unless you like them.  You might be attracted to someone, but if he opens his mouth and he is a jerk, you wouldn’t give him the time of day.  Of the affair cases I’ve seen, all but a handful started through the doorway of emotions.

This is a hard boundary to keep in our day of wanton disregard for anything that smacks of protocol.  Casualness is in.  Couple that with the cultural encouragement to do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want and you have a recipe ripe for affairs.

I suggest to couples that they need to “affair proof” their marriages.  One of the main ideas (I call them “Ground Rules”) is to:

never discuss your problems, especially problems with your spouse, with someone of the opposite sex.

The opposite is also in play:

be very careful if someone of the opposite sex wants to talk to you about his or her relationship problems.

The red flag needs to go up in a situation like that.  It’s time to call home.  As our Proverb for today says:

“keep to a path far from her.”

The “her” in the verse above is an adulteress.  But it could just as easily been an adulterer.  If you take out your Bible and read the whole of chapter 5, don’t be alarmed that the passage is discussing the temptation being female.  It’s difficult to write about couples and spouses and partners and husbands and wives and he/she.  The writer of Proverbs is smarter than me and just keeps it simple.  He writes to his son about the temptation his son will face.  So the temptation is female.   He could have written to his daughter and then the temptations would be male.  But the principles here are meant to be universal.  So if you are female and reading this in your mind’s eye you say to yourself:

“keep to a path far from him.”

The reason the red flag needs to go up if you open up too much to someone of the opposite sex or someone of the opposite sex opens up to you (see how hard it is to write in both genders?) is because boundaries are being crossed.  It’s none of the other person’s business.  You have issues at home?   You need to talk to your spouse.  You can’t talk to your spouse?  Then together see a counselor or your pastor who can help you learn to talk with each other.  But DO NOT open up to that cute guy or gal at work who seems SO NICE.  KEEP TO A PATH FAR FROM HIM!  OR HER!  If you are willing to break this important emotional boundary it will only be matter of time before other boundaries will be going down.  Your job is to guard you heart.  If you don’t guard your heart, your body is right behind.

Some jobs make it really difficult to keep this Ground Rule.  Emergency techs, firemen, police officers, and military are particularly at risk.  Here are people of both genders in close quarters for hours on end of boredom followed by intense rush of excitement.  Camaraderie is paramount to effectiveness, safety and mutual trust.  They depend upon each other for their very lives. They are told in their training they are family and have to trust each other so relationships are encouraged as a matter of survival.  How are they NOT supposed to talk about some personal things in between their very heavy and scary responsibility?

The only way is to guard your heart.  And tell your spouse when boundaries are getting too close.  And then recommit to keep an emotional path far from his/her door.

Integrity for Life

Guard Your Heart

This verse is the cornerstone of my philosophy of helping couples deal with affair and pornography issues.  It’s amazing that even after Former President Bill Clinton’s embarrassing display of what the definition of “is” is that so many people have embraced his philosophy that an affair is only an affair if someone has intercourse.  This is ludicrous.  The people who justify this, of course, are the spouses who are crossing boundaries.  The spouses who remain faithful have a completely different view.

When sexual boundaries have been violated in marriage and couples come to me for help, I talk with them about their promise to each other when they each said “having thee only.”  The idea of “having” here is not that your spouse is your property.  It is the concept, instead, that your spouse is enough for you.  You don’t need anyone else.  If you want certain chaos in your life, just add one more.  If you think it’s fine, you can bet your children and your faithful spouse at home won’t.  And please don’t call it persecution.  Give me a break.  It’s called sin and selfishness and if they are your brothers, hurt and craziness and despair and shame will be your cousins.

If you read the chapter in Proverbs above you will see the previous verses before verse 23 address the importance of seeking wisdom and making it a part of your life.

“Keep my commandments and you will live.” vs. 4

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. vs. 7

“Esteem her (wisdom) and she will exalt you.” vs. 8

It continues like this verse after verse extolling the advantages of wisdom.  And then we have verse 23 that finally gives us a dose of what wisdom really is.  The foundation of wisdom is….(drum roll please…) … guarding your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

I make no claims to know what that means, but if the human “heart” is the “wellspring of life” it must be pretty tender and if we are to “guard” it, it must be worth protecting.  The following verse (24) gives us a clue: “put away perversity from your mouth” and in verse 27 we are told to “keep your foot from evil” and then to illustrate what evil is chapter 5 and 6 talk mostly about avoiding sexual activities outside of marriage of whatever stripe.

But Solomon, our guide in Proverbs, is not trying to be a naysayer and take our fun away.  He’s trying to spare us trouble.  He says we are to “be captivated” by the love of your wife and to “rejoice in the wife of your youth.”  In this is honor and blessing.  You want trouble?  You want misery?  You want to ruin your life?  Then dink around outside your marriage.  Here’s a few choice words he uses to describe the result (in chapters 5 and 6):

“bitter as gall”
“sharp as a double-edged sword”
“feet go down to death”
“steps lead to the grave”
“no thought to the way of life”
“paths are crooked”
“give your strength to others”
“strangers feast on your wealth”
“at the end of your life you will groan”
“brink of utter ruin”
“ensnare him”
“cords of his sin hold him fast”
“he will die for lack of discipline”
“led astray by his own great folly”
“reduces you to a loaf of bread”
“preys upon your very life”
“destroys himself”
“no one who touches her (prostitute) will go unpunished”
“blows and disgrace are his lot”
“shame will never be wiped away”

Unfortunately, most of the people who see me on these issues have already crossed the boundaries and the list above starts to happen to them and they want some help putting their lives back in order.  It isn’t easy.  But I say it’s impossible unless they learn to guard their heart.  It starts there.  It’s worth protecting.