ROLAND WARREN: Consequences of lust are real

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POP’S CULTURE COLUMN:

When I was a kid, I enjoyed watching a funny and popular TV show called “Truth or Consequences,” hosted by Bob Barker.

On the show, people had to answer ridiculous, and often impossible, trivia questions correctly before “Beulah the Buzzer” went off. If the contestant couldn’t complete the “truth” portion, there would be “consequences,” usually a funny and embarrassing stunt. Interestingly, a popular consequence was a surprise reunion with a loved one, a deployed service member, or a long-lost friend.

My how things have changed.

Several months ago, Fox debuted a new reality game show called “The Moment of Truth” with great fanfare. A new season has just begun.

The show’s premise and objective is fairly straightforward — answer 21 questions correctly and win $500,000. This is reality TV, however, so of course there is a twist. Several days before the show airs, the contestants, while attached to lie detectors, answer 50 to 75 tailored and personal questions, which are derived from previous interviews with family and friends. To win the $500,000, you have to be willing to truthfully answer 21 questions — in front of a live studio audience and millions of viewers.

Now, these questions aren’t the kid’s-play “truth or dare” type. They are very personal and private. For example, as her husband sat in the audience, one woman admitted to having extramarital sex and that she wished she had married her ex-boyfriend.

Not surprisingly, the fallout from these kinds of “truths” has been real, and there were reports of broken relationships.

I could not help but note the irony that when “The Moment of Truth” was debuting, the news and “truth of the moment” was former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer admitting to having a tryst with a high-priced prostitute. As the Spitzer story began to unfold, it paralleled the pattern of questioning on “The Moment of Truth.” Like many of the show’s contestants, Mr. Spitzer chose to “drop out” to spare his state, his family and himself more embarrassment.

When the Spitzer story broke, the media focused almost exclusively on how this situation would affect him politically. However, I was more concerned about the parenting than the politics, especially as a father. Like the game-show contestants, Mr. Spitzer’s ordeal was not over when the glare of the cameras and the press of the microphones was gone. Indeed, I suspect this situation continues to cause much pain for Mr. Spitzer, his wife, and, especially, for his three teenage daughters.

It has been said that wise men learn from their mistakes, but that the wisest learn from the mistakes of others. There are lessons aplenty here for husbands and fathers.

First, the contestants’ and Mr. Spitzer’s moments of truth are proceeded by minutes, hours, days or years of lies that they have told to others and, most dangerously, to themselves. Deception is real, and like an eroding beach, a person’s character and moral standards often erode undetected over time as the steady waves of bad decisions and personal compromises wash away one’s most cherished values.

Fathers must remember that we are called to be the guardians of the values of the next generation. Therefore, we must be constantly vigilant to ensure that we are consistently modeling the values that are in the best interest of our community, our family and, most importantly, our children.

Second, actions — all actions — have consequences. But the problem is that although we can control our actions, we can’t control the consequences of our actions, especially when one has envisioned a different set of consequences or has not considered the consequences at all. Unfortunately, this truism is hard to learn and even harder to accept. For example, consider the MySpace comments of one “Moment of Truth” participant who wrote: “This whole experience was a mistake. … I haven’t been this sick ever in my life. It wasn’t my intention to go out and ruin a marriage.”

Finally, lust is a quaint word you don’t hear much these days. But fathers and husbands would do well to remember that lust is a dangerous and consuming vice - whether it’s lust for money, as in the case of the reality show contestants, or lust fulfilled with money, as in Mr. Spitzer’s case. After all, lust was not dubbed one of the seven deadly sins for nothing. Indeed, it is one of the most skillful, jealous and pernicious vices because it is adept at making us believe that what we have to gain by pursuing it is always worth more than what we have to lose. And that is not the truth.

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