This is an updated version of a previous post.
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 have never been very good at speaking as a woman), I understand that temptation is very real these days. 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 before the time of failure.
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. I also know — first hand — and I teach pastors frequently — that positions of authority and leadership gain special attention in the area of temptation.
For those reasons, I have placed some rules in my life to protect my heart. Does everyone agree with or understand them? No. Am I more concerned about finishing well than making sure everyone loves my approach? Yes!
Here are 7 ways I’m attempting to protect my heart from an affair:
I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife — or maybe my mother or sister. The key word in that sentence is alone. I do meet with women, but I always take someone along to lunch meetings with a female. I make sure others are in the office when I meet with women. And — very important — 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 with some people. Honestly, some women never understand this. I have had women tell me 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. This doesn’t mean I don’t discuss serious issues with women — I do, but I am careful in this area not to get into the more personal areas of a woman’s life. There are women on our staff and in our church equal or more capable than me to deal with these type conversations. And, I do not to compliment women on their appearance. The exception would be if 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 until others are brought into the conversation. The principle here is that when emotions are flowing, people get vulnerable.
I limit online communication with women. This is grown in importance in recent years. The rise of Facebook and other social media — and texting — has made it easier to interact with people. I try not to cross lines with women in this area. People share private information with pastors and online seems to make that even easier. I give my wife access to my computer and phone and I share with her any conversations that if she read them on her own my seem too intimate.
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. That’s a reflex. Easy to do. God made some beautiful women. I just know my heart and mind well enough to not allow myself to stare. Trust me. I shouldn’t. I can’t. Have you ever read 2 Samuel 11?)
I hear and understand the debate that a woman should not have to worry what she wears as much as a man should worry about where he looks. Okay, I understand — so this is my response.
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 believe that fact alone should keep me from wrongdoing.
I love my church. I would never want to injure the work God is doing at Immanuel. 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