David Petraeus and Tiger Woods were two of the most revered and respected apex predators in the masculine pecking order. Both breathed the rare air of cult status in the most coveted zones of male glory: battle and sport. They were disciplined warriors who possessed the spoils of manhood while simultaneously achieving “role model” status bequeathed to those who are professionally transcendent. Both were also known best for wearing the color green. The four-star general who hunted America’s enemies in Afghanistan suited up in green fatigues and the four-time Masters Champion dawned the iconic green jacket at Augusta National sealing his own mythic status. Their icon status and aura created a perception that they were also morally sound, emotionally mature and relationally committed to their families. Men and women, young and old, presidents and endorsers alike swallowed these two personas until one day both men lost their cultural “anointing” thanks to spicy and public revelations of sexual indiscretions. Their falls from grace were painful sucker punches to their admirers and to a nation that covets its’ national treasures.
The news outlets acted like a pack of wild hyenas with a fresh kill, eating the flesh off the story as fast as possible without much energy or thought going toward the very real moral and emotional conflicts resonating within these sad events. Predictably, journalists set to work dissecting the events, profiling the mistresses, and providing plate after plate of consumable journalistic gossip. This dance of detailing the logistics of immorality while never commenting on the actual moral angles of the story is the oxymoronic state of our news community. So what we got with the Woods and Petraeus affairs were the juicy details and “twinky” analysis bereft of any useable intellectual nutrition or meaningful insight from very painful stories about men. God forbid we hold up a mirror and actually learn from the mistakes we make as men so that we can identify the landmines and affirm the healthier patterns actually practiced by good men.
Suggestion: why don’t we stop shaking our heads at men and start exploring the powerful dynamics in these stories that are common to all men? Why not talk about the very real psychological, moral, and spiritual dynamics at the root of these lapses versus just “tabloiding” the symptoms for advertising bucks and social media buzz?
Okay, why not.
Inner Obsessions, Fantasies, and Thoughts Tell Our Real Stories
Our shock and surprise when a person we thought we knew gets caught doing something we thought they would never do is the first indicator we are prone to measure the wrong things. I have stopped counting the number of men perceived as leaders, role models, and mentors who get served up in the news cycle as sexually untrustworthy, deviant, undisciplined, or a mixture of all three. The curse of the public figure is that he has a swarm of media hyenas salivating over a good public image going morally and sexually south. Think Tiger. Think Weiner. Think Petraeus. Think Clinton. Think post humus Kennedy. All of them had a thought life racing around on the inside while their public personas, popularity, and the paparazzi swirled around their outsides. The dots outlining their “good-bad splits” were never connected and no one was asking them any questions about their inner life. Too much power and pedestal going on to do that. Too much private obsession of our own going on to feel justified in asking. Too many core aspects of a man’s life going unexamined and unchallenged.
The overwhelming evidence suggests that men are like icebergs, only presenting the tip of who we really are to our social networks while the substance of our true selves remains hidden below the waterline. The growing, multi-billion dollar, and ever expanding porn universe should be our first indicator that all is not well behind the public images and behaviors of men. For even the most religiously and spiritually motivated over 70 percent are more than sippers and dabblers of porn (Source: PK Study of men attending conferences). Over half of 5,000 pastors surveyed had consumed pornography within the last 3 months (Source: Pastors.com Study). The domino effect flowing out of the unseen, unexamined, inner obsessions of men eventually and inevitably tsunami their outer lives. The private fantasies will become public, the insides will be acted out on the outsides, and beliefs will always manifest in behaviors. The blast zone is far reaching. The inner obsessions and fantasies of men wind up incinerating marriages, confusing children prematurely, and contributing to overall masculine fatalism in women. When the good guys among us are slugging it out to be mentally clean and spiritually filled get lumped in with the bad guys.
Mark has been a Christian for three years. His story is short and sweet. His faith began when a co-worker invited him to a concert sponsored by his church. The music was awesome and allowed him to relax in a church environment in a way he didn’t think was possible. His soul was being touched and when the singer opened his mouth about Christ it was like an episode
of Lost. A flash forward envisioned a relationship with Christ forever. A flash backwards brought up painful and regrettable choices that could now be dealt with definitively. A flash sideways projected a lifestyle that could be better than the one he now lived. It all added up and he went “all in” for Jesus that night. When I met him at a men’s conference a few years later I chalked him up as a dedicated, growing man of God. That’s why the next chapter of the story confused me.