Feb 272018 5 Responses

Should an Affair Cost Your Job?

It’s in the headlines nearly every month. As I write, the question is about the mayor of a major US city and the Governor of a mid-western state. Both proclaimed the importance of family values. Both have had affairs exposed and are fighting to keep their jobs.

Should they stay or should they go?

Some make a valid point–sex is private. Whom one sleeps with–even if they aren’t actually sleeping–is no one’s business, so their public life shouldn’t be influenced by private mistakes. (See: Let’s Make This Abundantly Clear)

Others make an equally important point–our lives can’t be neatly divided. We are whole people. Private things influence public things and vice-versa. While we deserve some privacy, we shouldn’t expect everyone to ignore our private choices when they have public consequences.

Should an affair cost your job?


In most situations, it should not. With nearly every person I come in contact with on a regular basis, their marital status is not my concern. If the person delivering my mail has an affair on her husband, it’s not my business. If my doctor is sleeping with someone other than his wife, it shouldn’t influence his ability to tell if I have the flu. If my child’s elementary school teacher makes poor relationship choices, it shouldn’t cost her a job teaching my kids. In nearly every scenario, an affair should not cost a person their job.

But there are exceptions. (See: Beware of the Crossfit Affair)

If I have an affair, it should cost me my job…both of them. As a writer on Christian marriage, my book contracts have clauses about moral behavior. If I choose activities which contradict what my writings encourage, those contracts should be nullified. As a pastor, I’m not expected to be perfect, but there are some very consequential lines which can never be crossed. An affair wouldn’t mean I could never preach again, but it should cost me my current position as a pastor and require a healthy period of time to make changes so it doesn’t happen again.

In cases of leadership, national security, and religion, private choices should have public consequences. The mayor caught having an affair should resign. The governor exposed for an inappropriate relationship should do the same. Political officials are more than just decision-makers on taxes and laws. They carry a moral responsibility and when they fail to live up to their own vows, it should cost them their job.

The first time I remember voting for someone from a differing political party was when a Senator was up for re-election. I liked him and agreed with most of his policies. However, while in Washington he left his wife and married one of his staff members. While we all make mistakes, his choices disqualified him from leadership. I’d rather vote for someone I disagree with on policy but appreciate their moral character than to vote for someone whose ideals we have in common but whose moral choices are wrong.

Leadership demands a higher standard. Adultery among military leaders can’t be accepted for fear of blackmail and the need to protect national secrets. Yet it shouldn’t be tolerated among other leaders whose position carries with it a rightful expectation of being a role model.

Obviously, there are some grey areas. Should a college coach be fired if an affair is exposed? Some disagreement could occur. I would generally say no unless the relationship is with a student or staff member. Should the CEO of a Fortune 500 company lose their job? Probably not unless there are extenuating circumstances. What about an affair which isn’t ongoing, but was for years earlier? Discernment is necessary for each situation.

But some situations don’t need discernment. When President Clinton’s affair was exposed, he shouldn’t have been impeached because he immediately should have resigned. For the mayor and governor who have been exposed, both should quit for the well-being of the citizens and the nobility of their calling. (See: You Will Have an Affair If…)

For most, the consequences of adultery will be enough that jobs shouldn’t be in jeopardy. However, some positions bring with them expectations of moral excellence. In those professions, an affair shouldn’t end lives, but it should cost the participants their jobs. Presidents, governors, mayors, generals, and pastors must understand the seriousness of their jobs. Just as their spouses support them through tough times, they must remain faithful to their spouses no matter the circumstances.

5 Responses to Should an Affair Cost Your Job?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.