I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.
This is not just true of infidelity, it’s true of virtually anything I’ve ever done in my life. I did not lose 70 pounds through strength of character, goodness or willpower. My character and will angles toward cheesecake, fried chicken and beer — in no particular order. I lost that weight by not fighting the battle on desire’s terms, but fighting before desire can take effect.
These are compacts I have made with myself and with my family. There are other compact we make with our country and society. I tend to think those compacts work best when we do not flatter ourselves, when we are fully aware of the animal in us.
Power changes people. People yell things from behind the shielding of their automobiles which they would never yell if walking down a sidewalk. This does not mean that power should be shunned; it means that we should be aware of its effects. I believe very much in self-defense, and totally understand why someone would keep a gun in the home. If I lived somewhere else, I might keep one too.
But I would not insist that I was the same person armed, with the power to take a life, that I was without it. I would insist on guard-rails.
[H/T: Reader Candles]