No doubt the general and his lover had hoped, like so many involved in such affairs, that theirs would remain a private matter, only between the two of them, and that no one else would know, or be hurt. Petraeus wouldn't be the first, and he surely won't be the last, who fails to appreciate the whole interconnected web of family and friends, duties and joys, that each of us constructs over a lifetime. And that by jeopardizing just one strand of that tangled web, we jeopardize the whole.
None of us lives alone, yet too often men pretend they can betray just one connection, ever so discreetly, and the whole web, at home and at work, in public and in private, will remain intact, unaffected. It doesn't. Betrayal ripples. Everything is affected. Everybody is hurt, disappointed. Especially the man at the center of this web of interconnections he has taken so lightly.
It's an old story with an old moral: Even the best of men may prove only a man. The country would gladly forgive the general's indiscretion. His place in American military history and his lasting influence over the country's military strategy will remain assured. But can the general forgive himself? That is his next great challenge, and one he'll have to work out by and with himself.
Forgiveness cannot change what has happened in the past, but it does enhance the future. With gratitude for all the things David Petraeus has done for his country, it will wish him well.
TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES