Fidelity

What human relationships need, all human relationships not just marital ones, is faithfulness. If this seems vague outside the context of marriage, there is a promising way of making it more specific: encouragement of ordinary and not so ordinary truthfulness to one another. If people stopped using big and little deceptions as an appropriate oil for the wheels of relationship, they and their spouses, children, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, could live in a less uncertain and inhospitable world. The ethics of personal life, sooner or later, is about integrity and its application to people's variegated callings (Bok 1978; Oppenheimer 1990:22-4).

Marriage has a particular faithfulness: 'forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her—keep thee only unto him—so long as ye both shall live'. This lifelong requirement evidently goes beyond the evolutionary imperative to provide security for offspring. Childless people, whether heterosexual or homosexual, may claim exemption: at the price of missing one of the most life-enhancing forms of fulfilment available to human beings. For vows to fail means tragedy, because the loss of a great good is a great loss. To belong to one another for life is to have time and space to tend and reap a harvest of trust, with the live hope of bringing to fruition happiness, vitality, generosity, effectiveness and wisdom. Taking each other for granted is faith, not exploitation. What spouses promise is not to make a strange unnatural sacrifice of their freedom. On the contrary, they promise one another a firm base from which to meet the rest of the world. All manner of fidelities can be built upon the fidelity of marriage (ibid.: ch. 3)

Again, it is important not to prove too much. Marriage is not the only form of faithfulness upon which human beings can build their lives. Celibacy, when it is positive vocation not negative renunciation, is precisely a form of fidelity. The claims of faithfulness upon human beings are wider than either marriage or celibacy: as wide as the claims of generosity and on the same basis, that human beings are so made that faithfulness and generosity are the raw material of their flourishing and fulfilment.

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