On a friend's article
How have you been? I hope all is well with you. I miss our class so much!
Your recent piece in “FOURTyFIED” (yes, of course, I’m a follower) caught my attention and got me thinking—especially about your question at the end, on who has more integrity among those who stay single, those who divorce their wives or those who have extramarital affairs. I hope you don’t mind me sharing some thoughts that, I have to declare straightaway, neither come from an expert on such matters nor someone who has “moral authority.”
If by integrity we mean having sound “moral” or “ethical” principles, or in short, being fair and honest, we certainly cannot call the man who cheats on his wife or partner as having integrity. Now this does not necessarily mean that such a man is “bad” or “evil” (as Nietzsche says we live in a time beyond both good and evil); let’s say that at the very least cheaters are just weak: weak to avoid temptations and unable to keep it in their pants, or, what perhaps may be more serious and at the root of the aforementioned symptoms, weak to hold onto one’s word, decision, or promise.
Wanting to have the best of both worlds, those who carry on affairs end up living in neither, remaining stuck in the limbo of indecision. In this sense, he who cheats need not willingly or intentionally want to become dishonest—though he is, objectively, by the actions he carries out, no doubt—but his lack of integrity comes from the weakness of being unable to come to a decision that settles everything. And, as your friend correctly said, everything is a matter of decision. This then disqualifies the cheater from having integrity because of his indecision.
So how about those who decide to stay single, and those who decide to divorce for “valid” reasons, because that supposedly would be more honest than cheating?
On the latter, you can easily suspect that such a man is rationalizing. That it is better to “cut clean and cut your losses” by divorce amounts to saying that since I won’t be able to love you for long, I won’t love you at all; or since I would most likely cheat on you, I won’t ask for a commitment; or since I won’t be able to keep a promise, I won’t promise anymore. I’m sorry but this seems like faulty logic—a violation not against the logic of the mind (or reason) but of the heart (or love).
Not to be idealistic or “mushy” (I’m young, or so I believe, so pardon this again), but this precisely is the wager of love: that I really do not know what will happen in the future—we may find out that we are exact opposites or have “innumerable differences” (but loving a copy of yourself amounts to loving yourself—narcissism—and would really be boring)—but, and this is the point, I decide now and for all times that I will love you and hence be honest with you and keep my promise.
The paradox of love is that it is both certain and uncertain; it does not hold the future in its hands but it already stakes it and offers it through a resounding decision, as in a vow which two people in marriage say to each other or which the religious dedicate to God (no difference here).
Of course, we may misjudge things and do find out later on that some of our decisions were really mistakes (we rushed things, didn’t know she was engaged or psychotic, etc.) but this does not diminish one’s ability to love faithfully and honestly—with integrity.
In the end, perhaps the one who divorces is no different from the cheater; he cheats himself of a possible love by being unable to decide to love faithfully again.
About those who stay single? If they remain single by choice (for whatever reason), then we finally have here someone who has made a decision and is able to hold onto it. But need he be called a man of integrity? Not necessarily. For his decision comes from apathy.
And I do not know who is sorriest—the indecisive but passionate cheater, the mistaken divorcer who just hasn’t forgiven himself, or the indifferent though supposedly happy single man.
All the best to you and take care.
Very Much Single,