There’s a story about a cowboy who told the doctor he’d never had an accident. He’d been bitten by a snake, though.

“Goodness,” said the doctor. “Wouldn’t you call that an accident?”

“Nope,” said the cowboy. “The varmint meant to do it.”

What called this story to mind is a curious article in today’s Deseret News:

Facebook is a breeding ground for accidental affairs

Lawyers are using Facebook as a source for evidence in an increasing number of divorce cases, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Of lawyers surveyed, 81 percent noted this increase.

Accidental affairs” are suspected to be the growing result of these online connections, Nancy Kalish, psychology professor at California State University told Bloomberg.

Kalish has found most Facebook cheaters did not set out to have an affair, and even sustained happy marriages before they strayed. But “our brains often romanticize the past, in ways not entirely within our conscious control,” according to Bloomberg. “Recollecting people, places and experiences can affect our neurochemistry.”

“Accidental affairs”? The term smells of the evasion of responsibility. Spraining your ankle is an accident. Having an affair is a string of careful decisions. It’s not an accident, though it might be a mistake.

I used to consort with a group of people who believed in supernatural beings, unseen agents that could influence your behaviour with their lascivious whisperings. For people who believe in such beings, the reasons we do things must be terribly mysterious! You’d never know if you really thought something, or if some succubus had implanted the idea in your brain.

And with your locus of control that far removed from yourself, it would be anyone’s guess why you do the things you do. I remember a talk by a church leader where he said that he’d never give a woman a ride home in a car. He’d go home, get his wife, and then give the woman a ride (in the car, I mean) with his wife right there. Now, props for avoiding temptation, certainly. But how did he feel about thinking that — just because of mere physical proximity — the decision to go for the gusto with this lady was no longer entirely his? How did she feel with a man who wasn’t sure he could control himself?

If someone’s flirting on Facebook, wouldn’t it be better to admit that they’re doing it because they want to? At least then they could get an honest glimpse into their own desires and their horrible marriage, and get some idea of what to do next. Instead of claiming, oh, it was an accident, I didn’t mean to. Perhaps even thinking that some external being caused the temptation. And then praying to another one to help them sort it out.

I just can’t imagine going back to thinking that way. Now that I think the responsibility for my actions is my own, my reasoning about my actions is a lot more direct and controllable. No mysterious beings. No vicarious expiation, either. Just me.