Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina was recently exposed as an adulterer after returning from a tryst with his mistress in Argentina. The thoughts, words and actions of Governor Sanford contradict the words of his official spokesman.
His spokesman, Joel Sawyer said, “He is focused on being governor, on rebuilding his marriage and on building back the trust of South Carolinians.”
Focus means to diligently look at something. Sawyer lists several of the areas in which Sanford should have his eyes trained:
3. Political Relations
Sawyer even employs appropriate verbs for demonstrating the focus which should be evident in the Governor:
3. Building back
However in interviews and comments, Sanford demonstrates that his sight is not focused on this three-fold rebuilding task. He clearly still has his eye on the mistress in Argentina.
How else should we interpret his claims that the sinful relationship is a “love story” and that he could die knowing that he had met his “soulmate”? His soulmate is not his wife, but his mistress.
He also indicated that he knew the cost of his infidelity. “I am fully aware of the price,” he said. However, his sense of cost seems to be only what it would cost him. He knew that it might cost him a chance to run for President in the future. He does not seem to grasp the high price to his wife, his 4 sons, his constituents, his mistress, etc.
These statements are indicative of a selfish and misdirected focus. He is not asking what should he be or how can he rebuild his key relationships. He is lamenting the loss of his own immoral relationship and his own ambitions.
Some of his comments make him appear downright delusional. He spoke of an elderly couple sitting at a table near him and his mistress. He indicated that they could see a “spark” in his immoral relationship. I doubt that the elderly couple expressed this. Sanford is imposing his own distorting thinking on innocent people nearby. He describes this spark as “some level of that something something that I’ve never been able to put my hands on.” He can’t put his hands on it and he can’t even give it a name. In reality, he put his hands on what was forbidden and the name for it is adultery.
His most incredible statement goes like this:
God has a bigger plan. You gotta step back. We are not in charge at the end of the day. You know you didn’t mean for this to happen. You didn’t intend for it to happen. It isn’t your fault. What will be will be. It ended both with a level of peace and a degree of sadness.
So he has peace with his actions and sadness over the loss of his immorality. This really doesn’t sound like a repentant man. A man repentant will feel tossed and torn over his sin — not peace. A man repentant will feel sadness over his offense to God, his wife, his kids and his constituents — not over his loss of a mistress.
Yet his most aggregious idea is that he was helpless against the power of God moving him into adultery. Sanford has used the imagery of David in defending his remaining in office. David, however, had this mindset about God when he committed adultery,
Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
— Psalm 51:4
My advice to Governor Sanford is this:
1. Resign from being governor.
Just as I moved from the pulpit to the pew when I committed adultery, Sanford should move from the mansion to an apartment. As a public figure with a God-ordained function, he has damaged his ability to lead.
2. See your adultery and your mistress in God’s light.
He needs to have a change of mind and heart (repentance) from seeing his mistress as his soulmate and his adultery as God-ordained. He should feel sadness over his actions not the loss of those actions. Recently, my wife and I were invited to attend a celebration of her friend’s wedding anniversary. As we sat and enjoyed the conversation, in walked the woman with whom I had been adulterous more than a decade ago. I was not thrilled to see her. I was freshly aware of the folly of my sinful actions.
3. Demonstrate concern more for your wife and kids than for yourself.
You will look bad. That’s part of the deal. Stop further embarrassing your family. Shield them from as much as is possible. Sanford indicated that he would remain governor in part to show his children how to rebound. The lesson they need to learn will be taught in them seeing you repent and rebuild. That will take time.
I am grateful that God has restored my relationship to my children. It did not come quickly nor easily. I could not shatter what I had taught them over a lifetime and hope to have it rebuilt instantaneously.
I am not a South Carolinian, but they deserve better than this.