7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair (Repost)

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

It seems every day we hear of another big name celebrity, politician or pastor that has fallen into the temptation of lust and had an affair. I think it is dangerous for any leader to assume this could never happen to him or her. Speaking as a man, (I can’t speak as a woman), I understand that temptation is very real. When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair.

There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart:

I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife (or mother). I always take someone along to lunch meetings and I make sure others are in the office when I meet with women. Also, I never exercise with other women. (If you need explanation, then you’ve never been a guy going to a gym where girls are in workout clothes. Trust me!) I realize this is not popular in these days where men and women are searching for equality in the workplace. Honestly, some women never understand this. I had one woman tell me recently that I “think too highly of myself”, but my family is too important to me not to take this precaution.

I try not to conduct very personal or intimate conversations with women. I am careful not to compliment women on her appearance, unless I feel she needs the encouragement and her husband or my wife is in the conversation. If a woman is in tears I am careful about prolonging the conversation. When emotions are flowing, people get vulnerable. There are women on our staff and in our church equal or more capable than me to deal with these type conversations.

When talking to couples I focus my visual connection mostly on the man and not his wife. It’s not that I don’t talk to the wife, but I try to place my eyes more in the direction of the man. This is a discipline I have had to practice. Sometimes I see couples from our church in the community and I often don’t recognize the woman when she is not with her husband. This is not that I don’t care about the woman (or that I’d rather look at a man!), but this is necessary in order to protect my heart and mind from wandering. (Did you ever read 2 Samuel 11?)

I try not to stare at women. When an attractive woman catches my eye, I try to quickly bounce my attention elsewhere. Yes, I notice a pretty woman in the room…often. God made some beautiful women. I just know my heart and mind too well to allow myself to stare. Trust me…I can’t.

I spend lots of time with my wife. The best defense is a good offense. The most certain way to protect my heart is to strengthen my marriage. Cheryl and I spend most of our leisure time together.

I try to always remember my boys. My boys are two of my very best friends, and thankfully, as for right now, they still have tremendous respect for me as a dad and man. I would never want to disappoint them by being unfaithful to my wife.

I love my church. I would never want to injure the work God is doing at Grace Community Church. If I were ever tempted to sin against God in this way, I would hope my love for the church would draw me back.

Do my rules offend you? What are you doing to protect your heart?

You might also want to read 7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair (Repost)

  1. Hi Ron!

    I loved this post. I feel like a lot of people are taking one little point of this and blowing it way out of proportion, and that's unfortunate. I don't see you saying that no relationship can be had, only that it has to be an appropriate one. It's unfortunate that people are so negative when it's clear that everything you're doing is so you can follow God's will. If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, right?

    I think that something people forget is that marriage isn't perfect 100% of the time. It's those times between when your marriage is a little rocky that you are most vulnerable to going to far. People should remember: affair's don't start because your husband/wife saw someone and they just couldn't keep their hands off of one another. A lot of affairs start slow – probably a lot like the relationship you have with your spouse. It's building that friendship first, then it turning into more. Even if you are 100% sure that "I will NOT let this turn into an affair", I can tell you this: The moment you believe your marriage is affair proof is the moment when you are most susceptible to an affair.

    Well done, taking steps daily to protect your marriage.

  2. I do have to be on the offense. Too much time defending myself would hold me back from any spiritual progress i.e. 1 Peter 1:13-16.

  3. Dear Ron,
    I'm a male that by God's grace is serving as a single and haven't falled into this moral pit. When you say that you don't exercise with women, do you mean that
    A) you don't take a gal-friend with you to the gym (that has both men and women), or
    B) you only exercise in a men's-only gym?

    • I exercise in gyms with male and females. I don't ” workout” with a female. They aren't my training partners. If its a group setting that might be different but not just another female and me.

      • Thanks, Ron. Last time I was a gym, I saw a male helping a female with squats and his hands were in places that would get him a slap in the face, in other contexts.

  4. This attitude puts a woman with no men in her life (widowed) in the position of having no
    Christian interaction with men.The night I called the pastor to tell him my husband had died I had to leave a message with his wife. (The only time I ever called a pastor at home.) I couldn't get help with my young teenage sons issues, advice I needed from men. I could only talk to other women, not couples. That is so affair proof that I became completely isolated, and left that church. This was a "normal" evangelical church, not Shaker type cult.

  5. Romano & John,

    Actually, my husband and I happen to be the exact opposite of the "norm". I am the extremely visual person and so, yes, I do understand the "male perspective". Just because I find men physically attractive does not mean that it's okay for me to avoid them as merely sexual temptation. Men are not merely sexual creatures. Women are not merely sexual creatures. The "we are wired differently" can be an excuse to view women as less than we are, as well as assume that women do not have similar struggles. I don't believe the answer is to avoid each other and expect our spouses to provide everything we need in from a relationship. Healthy friendships with others of both sexes is just that- healthy. Jesus was supposed to have been tempted just as we are and yet we don't see him avoiding women or focusing on the men. In fact, we see the opposite.

    And if you'd read my comment again, I do agree that certain situations are to be avoided because they do encourage vulnerability and temptation, I'm not saying don't be smart. Being aware of the potential for these things and setting boundaries is a good thing! Avoiding the opposite sex, focusing on their husbands rather than seeing them as individuals, and viewing women as temptations to be avoided- this is the issue.

  6. It's been my experience (as a man and as someone who informally counsels both men and women) that men are visually stimulated and women tend to be emotionally stimulated. It is very natural that most of the men understand this post and agree, while most women feel that these types of measures are overkill. If you notice, Ron tries to excuse himself from sessions where a woman is in tears – precisely because this is when SHE becomes more vulnerable to temptation. Understanding that he, himself, (and most men) are tempted by the visual beauty of a woman – and taking steps to avoid that – is a very sound practice. Is it fair? Certainly not. But nothing is fair about this broken world and men and women are simply wired differently.

  7. THANKS FOR THIS ARTICLE!! Ignore the Nay-Sayers. You don’t serve them, you’re not married to them and they won’t be there to help you if you do fall…So ignore them! I practice many of the same precautions!! Again…Thanks!

  8. I guess I missed something somewhere, but I didn’t find anything in this post offensive. Your honest perspective and approach is strategically designed to thwart ANY type of potential problem that could arise. Some people haven’t experienced the subtle ways in which the heart must be protected and thank God for their purity. However, there are less pure situations that occur, and the bet defense- like you said- is offense and strategy. Be blessed in your wise preparation, and may God continue to give you insight and strength to stand against the wiles if he evil one

  9. I do agree with the author. I think he's writing from a man's perspective, which no woman can ever understand. He's writing for fellow men. As a male counselor, I do understand what he's talking about and I do agree with him.
    Women: don't be offended. He's not saying "women = lust"; he's not even talking about women, but abou his own desires and feelings, and his (our) sinful nature, from which we all must guard ourselves.

  10. I don't see why looking at a woman's face should cause you to stumble. You're only making her feel like she's invisible and doesn't matter. I agree with the other comments. It's dehumanizing.
    Maybe you should think about only taking these extra careful steps in cases where you've felt tempted but not in general.

  11. I agree with some of the comments posted above, about how these instructions put women who are not my wife into a box of "people to be generally avoided". I also worry that living in a constant state of avoidance/protecting yourself and your marriage, is not far off from living in fear, and is a crippled way to live. Are we not free in Christ? Not free to stare and lust and have affairs, but free to minister freely. I struggle with most of the temptations you've mentioned, but I would be very discouraged if my Christian walk is all about living in a box (even if that box is with with my wife) where I am restricted and forbidden to minister in certain ways.

  12. I understand your perspective and intentions, but in reading this, as a woman, I started feeling like a pariah. Like I am inherently evil. LIke I should be wearing a burka. Another thought for you.

    I am Christian and believe in good boundaries between men and women and that women should dress modestly. Reading your article though made me feel all the things I listed above, and that can't be good. Maybe you should think about this a little more and revisit it.

  13. Yes, actually these rules do offend me. I am married to a pastor and he does follow the first rule because counseling type appointments have a built in vulnerability. And obviously spending time with your wife and remembering your kids and your church is great. But the rest of these, as well as the tone of the post, do make it seem as though women are merely sexual creatures to be avoided. (Or that we shouldn't exist apart from our husbands.) We are much more than that.

    With a perspective like this, you are missing out on all that the church family has to offer. The sister, brother, father, mother relationships can be lacking for many people and God can provide those through the church. We need non-sexual relationships with the opposite sex as well as a good marriage. You've seemed to boil it down to women = lust. Women = forbidden. That seems to be a scarier (and less fulfilling) viewpoint. The forbidden is always more desirable.

    Just another perspective.