The Secret Life of David Petraeus
It was a harmless dalliance far from home. Who would know? Who would care? A man has needs and you can hardly blame him for meeting them.
He was a prize, something no one else could get. Knowing him brought recognition and respect, securing his attention was a good thing so you can hardly blame a girl for using her natural endowments to get ahead in life.
Thirty-nine years is a long time no matter how you measure it, it’s a huge chunk of a person’s life. She’d moved many times, given up so much, helped him get ahead by trading off her relatives and their connections, she’d endured long separations but she’d always found a way to make things work, somehow. Who could blame her for being ticked at his stupidity and betrayal?
We demand a lot from our heroes. We expect them to be perfect and hold them in high esteem. We love the things they do and it feels good to be on their side. We celebrate their smarts so much we will overlook all kinds of faults and mistakes, they are our heroes.
Most of us never saw it coming. We thought David Petraeus was beyond reproach, too smart to act like an idiot, too advanced in career and life to become unstable, to attuned to risk and strategy to fall for a simple ruse, too trustworthy to ever let us down, too skilled to ever fail. He represented to us all that was good, had masterminded an exit from the morass of a hopeless war, and now we were secure that a good man was in the driving seat of the intelligence agency.
Oops. He was only human after all. At first no one wanted to believe what the reporters were parroting – it couldn’t be true, there had to be a better explanation, Petraeus wasn’t so stupid. Maybe it comes from watching the mercilessly repeating reports with the same pictures played over and over on the news networks, maybe it’s the growing chorus of people confirming it is true, maybe it’s just a function of time as we adapt to the news that our hero messed up.
Denial: it can’t be true!
Anger: how could he be so stupid!
Bargaining: maybe he doesn’t need to resign, there’s a way to keep him on!
Recognize the pattern of the grief cycle?
Struggle as we will, there’s no denying that our hero isn’t so smart after all. He goofed in the age-old, time weary method of thinking with the wrong part of his anatomy. And he’s stupid enough to think that it would have no consequences, no ramifications, no downside. Worse, others must have known what was going on and turned a blind eye when they should have spoken up. It’s a mess.
There was a famous king who did the same thing. He found time to play when he should have been hard at work. He saw (as she intended he would) a tempting sight that played on his mind until it took control of him. Entertain the thought and you can reap the action. He did. She did. They did. And then the consequences hit. She was pregnant and they needed to hide it. Stupid is as stupid does. The cover up finally led to murder and putting the national defenses at risk. The circle of “insiders” who knew what was happening grew but no one wanted to speak up, everyone avoided the issue in public. Started to look like they would get away with it after all, except for one teeny little thing they couldn’t work round: “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
It seems that God had an opinion about what they were doing and they had no answer for it. They had set off a course of action they could not stop. What was hidden soon got revealed. Pain and suffering resulted, the family was torn apart in jealousy, envy, and self-promotion. The nation was weakened with civil war and out-of-control factions, the famous king who had been so great in battle, fled on foot and was publicly dishonored, his wives were openly humiliated and defiled and his family was torn apart. His legacy was ruined.
There is a price attached to ignoring morality. It might be common but that doesn’t take away the price tag. Others might be doing it but that doesn’t make it right. Our sense of incredulity and outrage at David Petraeus is about the same as what the people in King David’s time felt when news of his stupidity hit the press.
What’s done can’t be undone, and the consequences will have to run their course. The price will have to be paid in full.
King David finally got a clue, he realized that he needed to please God and get past the mess. In the process he discovered and passed along to us one of the most powerful insights we can have. It matters what God thinks about us and the things we have done. But God is also interested in redemption – more than destruction. He knows we are idiots and screw up, and the best news of all, he responds to those who genuinely turn to him.
Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Remember, O Lord, what has happened to us; look and see our disgrace
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.
- Petraeus embarrassment: Serious business goes (examiner.com)
Posted on November 16, 2012, in Leadership, Relationships, Self-awareness and tagged Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, God, hidden sin, invincibility, King David, repentance, sagging morality, temptation, United States. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.