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FIRST-PERSON: Why do people cheat? It’s quite simple

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–History is littered with men and women, famous and obscure, who have lost loyal spouses and fabulous families all because they chose to be unfaithful. For some it was a tawdry affair, for others it was unbridled promiscuity and for still others it was a single illicit encounter. However, in every case, the outcome was costly.

One current example of a famous person who cheated on his spouse is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The celebrity-turned-politician recently admitted he fathered a child with a woman who was a part of his household staff. However, Schwarzenegger is just the latest addition to a long list of celebrities who have been unfaithful.

Social scientists have attempted to explain the reasons a person would risk family, reputation and even livelihood for a sexual liaison. Among the explanations: a sense of entitlement, a generally insatiable appetite and a grandiose ego.

Secularists have a more difficult time providing a reason a person without the trappings of wealth and fame chooses to be unfaithful. Why would a person with a caring spouse, loving family and solid job risk them for a sexual fling?

Perhaps game theory will help. It is a course of study that combines mathematics with sociology in an effort to predict human behavior, especially in respect to political, economic, and military circumstances. Might it shed some light as to why people choose to be unfaithful in marriage?

“Game theory is a fancy label for a pretty simple idea: that people do what they believe is in their best interest,” wrote Bruce Bueno de Mesquita in his book “The Predictioneer’s Game.”

Bueno de Mesquita is a professor at New York University and arguably one of today’s most successful practitioners of game theory in predicting world events. He boasts a 90 percent success rate concerning outcomes he has predicted.

Even with Bueno de Mesquita’s impressive track record, I doubt he could have predicted that successful individuals like politician John Edwards, golfer Tiger Woods or Scharzenegger would cheat on their spouses.

Game theory is based on a person making choices out of his or her best interest. Is there really any way to argue that it is in anyone’s “best” interest — long or short term — to cheat on a spouse?

Secularists and game theorists come up short in understanding why a person would be unfaithful to his or her spouse. Only the Bible holds the answer. The Scriptures teach that every person is born with a nature bent toward selfishness. This orientation is known as sin.

Sin is more than a mere theological concept. It is a living reality. While secularists try to argue against sin’s existence, it only takes the observation of a child to prove it is real and ever present.

Think about it for a moment: Does a child have to be taught to be bad? Of course, the answer is no. A child must be socialized to be good.

Every child begins to exhibit symptoms of the sin nature very early in life. A toddler is characterized by selfishness and self-will. A 2-year-old wants what he or she wants when he or she wants it. No exceptions.

Be thankful 2-year-olds are small. If they were 6-foot-3 and weighed 230 pounds, they would throw mom and dad out of the house and take over.

The only explanation for why a man or woman would jeopardize marriage and family for a salacious relationship is selfishness and self-will — in short, sin.

Sin causes a person to ignore logic and good sense. It renders a person incapable of focusing on anything but his or her self-gratification. When a man or woman is unfaithful, he or she acts like nothing more than an out-of-control toddler.

In fact, even though a glance at history confirms over and over that when the cheating is discovered, men and women continue to indulge in illicit relationships. Why? Sin.

The only explanation for such behavior is found in the Bible. It is the blatant selfishness produced by the reality of sin resident in the human heart.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs