Although it happened in November 2012, I still feel a sense of disappointment when I think of the failure of General David Howell Petraeus. After being caught with his pants down, Petraeus resigned his post as CIA Director, and said: “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said in his statement when he resigned. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”
The General has been in the news again this week as the F.B.I. and prosecutors at the Justice Department have recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder file felony charges against Petraeus. I believe Petraeus is guilty as charged, but it would be guilt enlarged to send the pre-eminent military officer of this generation to prison.
How much more does he need to suffer? Even Senator Feinstein, vice chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said: “This man has suffered enough in my view… it’s done, it’s over. He’s retired. He’s lost his job. How much does the government want?”
We are a people who celebrate stories of rags-to-riches, and we encourage the 98 pound weakling when he muscles up and whips the bully. It seems incongruous that we are also a people who have a tawdry and unforgiving fascination with the mighty when they have fallen.
Petraeus lost a legacy of treasure in a momentary quest for pleasure. Even though he has gone from hero to zero, his limp and shameful condition is no reason for him to be perpetually castigated.
As one of most well-known men of history, David’s adultery led to the murder of one his trusted soldiers. Pleased with his accomplishments, he let his guard down, and a brash attitude made room for a rash decision. He compromised his ethics, his morals, and he failed miserably when he lusted after Bathsheba and brought her to the palace; and like the General, this King got caught with his pants down.
King David confessed sin and God blessed him with His mercy. General David has admitted his failure, and it is time that we show him mercy as well.
David Petraeus has paid the price for his failure. He should not be damned to a public purgatory and constant scorn as the man who “kissed and told.” There should be a recognition and remembrance of his sacrifice and service to this nation.
When you think of General Petraeus and others who have stumbled and fallen, I encourage you to reflect on these words of Paul:
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived (Galatians 6:1-3 ~The Message)