A patient walked into an orthopedic surgeon’s office and complained that his right leg, knee, various joints in his hips and foot were causing him a great deal of pain. The doctor did a clinical examination and ordered an MRI.
After getting the results, he made an appointment to tell the patient his conclusions. He said, “There is no evidence of any significant problem. But, what you have to realize, sir, is that you’re 84 years old, and our bodies weren’t made to last that long. With the sizable increase in life span, our bodies tend to wear out. Similar to any piece of machinery that’s been overused, it doesn’t operate quite as well. What more can you expect?”
The man said, “Well, I have a left leg that’s also 84 years old, and it doesn’t give me any trouble at all. So, I expect my right leg to operate in a similar fashion.”
The doctor’s explanation wasn’t necessarily invalid. In fact, there is a great deal of truth to what he said, but it doesn’t fully explain the reason for the problem, or contribute to its cure.
I tell you this story because there is an epidemic flourishing in our country. It’s not necessarily a new disease; it has been around for a considerable length of time but, what with the Internet and social networking, awareness of this problem has come to the forefront. The diagnosis is professional suicide by sexual behavior.
To date, it hasn’t been included in any professional diagnostic manual, but it should be, unless we are content to continue accepting simplistic explanations, such as corrupt moral values, lack of religious commitment or emotionally poor judgment, particularly evident in men.
I can’t quarrel with those descriptions, but they’re no different from the earlier explanation stating that the patient’s pain in his right leg resulted because he was 84 years old. To accept these statements is to fall short drastically with regard to understanding and treating the problem.
Let me provide you with just a short list of some prominent individuals who could be diagnosed with this problem. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Gary Hart, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and, more recently, Jesse Jackson, James McGreevey, Ted Haggard, Gary Condit, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Vider and the quintessential poster child for this disease, Anthony Weiner. These men are, however, only the tip of the iceberg.
Thus, you can understand why I refer to this problem as an epidemic, which needs to be understood and dealt with in a far more professional manner than heretofore. Accusations from the pulpit and condemnation, from a moral point of view, aren’t the answer. Every one of these individuals had numerous socially redeeming qualities. They also knew the consequences of their actions. Therefore, they weren’t crazy or psychotic. Nor were they dumb, by any stretch of the imagination. Several even criticized others for the same behavior they, themselves, engaged in.
Dealing with this problem, solely on the basis of an addiction, isn’t the answer, either. First, because treatment for addictions doesn’t necessarily take into consideration the Judeo-Christian values and promises made to us as children, that later lead us on a futile chase to find self-satisfaction and emotional fulfillment through primarily external actions and accomplishments.
We were told, early in life, that if we follow a certain set of socially and politically correct behaviors, that we will be rewarded, feel worthwhile and be a winner. That path consisted of countless rules as meaningless as, “brush your teeth, wash behind your ears, bathe, go to school, study and achieve”; to broader admonitions to be conscientious, honest, moral, respect your parents, get a graduate degree, make money, buy bigger cars, bigger houses, better clothes and more ornate jewelry – all of which supposedly were going to make you more acceptable, lovable and worthwhile.
Second, no different than any other addiction, the behavior, though a problem in itself, is only a symptom. The source of the problem lies elsewhere. Note, that every person on the list was a highly driven, motivated, intelligent, successful individual. Each knew right from wrong. Yet, despite all that they knew, they risked jeopardizing their entire life’s accomplishment for a meaningless sexual involvement that was almost certain to be discovered.
The question that needs answering is: Why? I believe that each of them came from a home where the covert message they received was, “You’re not good enough. To be good enough, to be worthwhile, to be nurtured and loved, you have to succeed at the highest level.” And, they did. But, afterward, most of them wound up feeling they had been duped. They followed the rules and instructions they had been given as children, and they were supposed to feel OK as a result of the success they experienced. But, after they got there, when they reached the top of the mountain, they still felt insufficient, lacking, not good enough.
As a result, they turned toward a sexual involvement to give them the sense of adequacy and feeling that somebody cared who didn’t have to, because they weren’t married to them. The irony is, that experience no more filled the emotional hole inside them than following the rules had.
You may find it difficult to believe this notion, because most people expect that anyone with that much intelligence, education, success and public recognition wouldn’t need to have their ego boosted. The sadness is, it’s that very misconception that initially contributed to both their success and their eventual sexual entanglements.
I further suspect that, in many instances, even their wives didn’t realize how needy, dependent and hungry for love they were. On the one hand, because the wives were blinded by the halos that surrounded them and, on the other, because their husbands could ill afford, emotionally, to risk showing who they were, even to their spouses.
The end result: They lived a lie. They looked for artificial means of feeling good about themselves and never realized that the only path to accepting self is to be and show who you are to the world and hope that you’ll be accepted for the person you are.