The Honorable Thing

David Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director aroused the attention of many.  A report on NBC Nightly News November 10 reported some felt President Obama should have let Mr. Petraeus stay.  They quoted an anonymous person who said, “It wasn’t the best behavior, obviously, but there was nothing criminal.  He is a man of great talent.”  How short sighted that is.

Petraeus women

Would it have been better for the country, the Petraeus family, or both if the President had refused his resignation?  Obviously, David felt it was better for neither.  Might it have been selfish for the President to reject the tendering of his resignation?  Is it possible David recognized the relationship with his wife was his most important priority?

Second, the formal general may not have committed a crime, but what he did clearly was unethical.  Ethics are the “critical, structured examination of how people & institutions should behave”.  Society, a large group of people, determines what is in the best interest of said society in ethics.  The majority join hearts and hands to encourage actions that bring the best results for the most people.  From time to time what is okay, legal or even best for one individual is detrimental to the larger society.  A historical review may show unethical behavior may not cause a big problem now, but like a bullet from a misshapen barrel hits farther from the mark with widening distance, but as time grows so does the problem created by a particular action.

Consider the sweet old lady at the lawyer’s office for legal advice. After answering her questions, the lawyer asked to be paid $2,000 for service rendered. The skinny little lady wanted to pay the lawyer at once and looked in her purse for the $2,000. When she handed over the money, she said, “Well, that is quite a lot of money when you are living on social security.” The lawyer smiled a little awkwardly as he took the money. When he counted it, he saw that there was $1,000 too much. Ethics and morals went rushing through his head. It was a tough situation. Should he keep the money . . . or share it with his boss.

One action on occasion is not likely to cause society to crumble.  However, if many acted in the same manner often, trust would be eroded leading to more laws, more regulation, and more conflict with the end result being the disintegration of a society built on the premise that generally people are trustworthy.

Ethics is known as a system of moral values also.  Because morals relate to the principles of right and wrong in behavior and their concept taught as a standard of right behavior, they inevitably point to ethics and become the building blocks for it.

So, how is one to know what is right and wrong?  History, geography and personal experience all point to the god of the Old and New Testament as the standard and disseminator of right behavior.  One of Jesus’ original inner circle recorded Jesus saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The wisdom literature of the Bible bears witness that God makes known to every human “the path of life” and “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.”

It was the honorable thing for David Petraeus to resign. It was the best course of action for himself, his wife and his country.  He knew better than many the intrinsic value of trust and integrity.  He needs time to heal the rupture his actions have created and restore the relationship with his wife broken alongside his word to make her his one and only in body, heart, and soul. How could the public trust one known to break his word to those closest and dearest to him?

To look the other way as long as our own best interests are being served is to be hit in the back of the head by the boomerang of selfishness and greed.  Such a boomerang, if allowed to continue flying, will lead to a concussion then fragmentation of the skull and society.

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