Barney Fife, a beloved but exasperating character on the old “The Andy Griffith Show,” was often as full of himself as he was with half-baked ideas. But he was well-intentioned, and at least occasionally he offered some pretty good advice.

Seems Opie, Sheriff Andy Taylor’s young son, was under the influence of a new boy in town and about to head down the wrong path. True to form, Barney stepped in.

You’ve just got to “nip it in the bud,” he said to Andy. To emphasize his point, he repeated “nip it” numerous times in the course of the conversation, his voice growing increasingly shrill each time.

The phrase became one of those television classics, although the meaning behind it is nothing new.

Mark Twain said it like this: “It’s easier to stay out than get out.”

And Robert Frost advised, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.”

“It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follows it,” Benjamin Franklin warned.

For Opie, the choice involved going along with his friends and giving in to a bully who wanted them to do something wrong. For us, the choices are often wrapped as enticing and pleasurable packages, especially when they relate to infidelity.

Minefields in marital fidelity are everywhere, but especially in the workplace and on the Internet, according to Shirley Glass, a Baltimore psychologist.

“For sure technology has contributed to infidelity,” says Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle. “The fact that with cars and planes you can be in another city, there are cell phones as opposed to work and home phones, and with the Internet you can find people without moving out—it creates an environment where extramarital affairs are possible.” (See “One Love? In the Face of Exciting Options, Monogamy Continues to Be in Style” at

Knowing where the minefields exist is the first step in avoiding them. Listening to Barney, who echoes The Proverbs, is the next: Nip it in the bud. Stop it before it ever starts. Avoid putting yourself at risk. Run from situations where it might happen.

Further, The Proverbs say, pay attention to those who’ve learned the fidelity lessons the hard way. Develop the ability to stop and think about consequences before you ever take an action.

“We usually know what we can do,” Thomas a Kempis said, “but temptation shows us who we are.”

We are wise when we both commit to fidelity and guard against infidelity.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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