It’s an open secret that we are a nation of voyeurs! We love to poke our noses into other people’s business and this fact is borne out by the popularity of reality TV. The big topic for today is the Tiger Wood’s “orchestrated” apology. I’m amazed but not surprised by the amount of vitriol that is poured out against Tiger. It’s interesting that when a popular leader or figure falls from grace, all of the things about him that people didn’t like but previously ignored, are brought to the surface and highlighted as reasons for his fall.
Tiger has been called stoic, unapproachable, unfriendly and unsmiling amongst other uncomplimentary adjectives. He’s been compared to the ever smiling, ever popular Phil Mickelson and has come up wanting. We fail to recognize that his demeanor on the golf course may simply be the way he focuses on his golf game and is thus able to be the kind of player that he is. If Phil Mickelson had been caught in similar circumstances, I imagine the public perception and response would not have been as harsh. As a Christian leader who has studied extensively in the area of the psychology of behavior, I realize that we hold people to different standards depending on our perception of them.
So here are two burning questions I’m asking this morning:
Let me take a crack at answering those two questions. To the first question, it must be said that there is a dark side to the human psyche that loves the macabre and the morbid, and especially loves the downfall of anyone that appears to have the proverbial golden spoon. Ever notice that news of the space shuttle reaching its destination doesn’t raise an eyebrow? Why? Because it isn’t newsworthy! However, the explosion of a shuttle… now that’s news worth reporting. Ever wonder why we “rubber-neck” as we drive by the scene of a fatal automobile accident? It certainly isn’t because we suspect our parents might have caused or been involved in the crash.
Yesterday Joseph Stack crashed his single-engine Piper plane into a building housing the FBI in Austin, TX after allegedly burning down his house first. As the story unfolded we discovered that he was angry about the fact that his long running battle with the IRS has basically made retirement a fantasy and colossal debt a reality in his life. Further incensed by the fact that the government (IRS) would hound small business people like him who are just trying to make a living, yet come to the aid and rescue of banks and big business, Joseph stated:
"Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?"
Joseph, 53, leaves behind a distraught wife and a scarred daughter who will always have to battle her own demons, wondering why he took his own life and left her fatherless. Alas, Joseph’s story is probably known by significantly fewer people than know Tiger’s. A broken family and the untimely death of a dad and an innocent worker who just happened to be where the plane crashed, is relegated to the small print on most online news websites while “Tiger’s apology” is front and center stage. Why? Because Joseph represents Middle-America. His story is our story and so it holds no interest for us. Tiger however, lives in a world that we can only dream of and watch on reality TV. His story holds tremendous fascination for us and so we want more and more of the sordid details. That way we can compare our lives to Tiger’s and not come up short in our own minds. “After all,” we opine,” he’s as human and fallible as we are”. “In fact,” we tell ourselves, “I’m better than him because I would never do what he’s done.”
In an ideal world, Joseph’s family would be front and center on the news today. We’d be praying for and seeking answers to making life more equitable and fair for everyone. We’d be exploring in greater detail the efficacy of a government that bails out entitled, pompous, and glorified, self-styled royalty, who spend millions of dollars a year on bonuses and private jets from the very tax-payer funds that are used to bail them out of impending bankruptcy. In an ideal world, we’d let Tiger, Elin and the rest of their family work out the details on their long and difficult road back to healing and wholeness. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t make people’s personal business our business. But that’s in an ideal world!
As for the second question, it’s human nature to want to make people pay for their perceived transgressions against us. Married couples do it. Friends do it. Employer’s and employees do it. Every one does it. Tiger apologized to a plethora of people. He took sole responsibility for his choices. He outlined his new priorities in light of his failure. He talked about ongoing therapy. He apologized again! He called his actions foolish and entitled. But that’s not enough. Talking heads say he was insincere because he read a scripted apology. What? He had thirteen minutes of crucial detail he didn’t want to forget, what’s wrong with reading it and why does reading suddenly make it insincere? I know pastors who write out their entire sermons after much heartfelt preparation. They read much of it and deliver it as best as they can without making it sound scripted. Does this negate the sincerity of their message?
Stephen A. Smith (as arrogant a man as you’ll ever find, and I’m confident he has his own major issues), declared that Tiger was a fake. He categorically stated that he was insincere and didn’t mean a word he said. His reasoning? Because no one can go from having that many extra-marital relationships to having no extra-marital relationships. Well thanks Stephen A. for that rousing declaration delivered with gusto and authority. Pray tell, how do you know that and what makes you such an expert in the field of sexual addiction? Is it personal experience, or is it copious study and training in this area of specialization? No, seriously Stephen A., I’d like to know!
It seems that until we feel like we’ve made Tiger pay for his sins, and suffer at least as much as we perceive he should, there is no forgiveness forthcoming. That’s why when we are angry with people, a simple apology does not seem to satisfy. We perceive that they have hurt us much more than their simple apology can erase, and so we levy greater judgment and speculate as to the veracity of their apology and their motives. But to the one who has been forgiven of much, extending forgiveness to others becomes second nature.
It’s time to leave Tiger alone. What a person sows is what they’ll reap. We're not responsible for, nor do we have to monitor Tiger’s “harvest,” it’s plain for all to see: He’s fighting for the very survival of his marriage, his dignity, his finances, his sexual and emotional health, and his professional future. Now it really is time for us to leave the Wood’s family alone and let them get on with their process. Why do I care so much about this? Well I guess this strikes close to home for me because a few short years ago a good friend of mine suffered a similar fate in ministry. While it is true that he must bear the consequences of his actions and choices, I just don’t think that it’s yours or my responsibility to mete out those consequences. Life has a funny way of ensuring that we do reap what we sow. Just my two cents.