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A Tiger By the Tail

Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren

The well crafted confession heard round the world:

I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don’t share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.

Prior to a week ago, the  most apt word to describe Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was “exceptional”.

I have to confess that I used to think watching other people play golf was as exciting as watching apples turn brown.

But Tiger Woods changed all that.

More than just a golfer, he was an athlete.

Like Michael Jordan in basketball, seeing what Woods could do with a golf ball would more often than not leave me dumbstruck.

Tiger has been so dominant, I used to feel sorry for Phil Mickelson.

In any other era, “Mickey” would have been the stuff of legend.

But in contrast to the exploits of Woods, Mickelson will be consigned the role of “Greatest Also-Ran of All Time”.

Woods has not only able to win consistently and convincingly, but also with a seamless sense of grace.

Even more significantly, he seemed able to do something even more amazing than holing out a 140 yard approach shot.

He had the ability to deftly, even effortlessly,  manage the media.

But as events over the past week have played out, the tables have suddenly and radically turned.

And we have seen that even an icon like Tiger Woods is no exception to an ironic rule of life.

Tiger pursued fame, only to find out that after awhile, fame began to pursue him.

And when you no longer control fame, you find fame controls you.

And so you live in a guard gated community with extremely high walls that keep intruders at bay.

A trip to the convenience market for a package of Doritos can’t happen without being accompanied by a state of the art security force.

If someone asks, “What d’ya think of the weather?”, your response has to be cleared with public relations experts.

One day the Tiger Woods of this world wake up and discover they are living in the midst of an ironic reality -Fame promised freedom, but ultimately fame took all the freedom away.

And that reality can get extremely claustrophobic.

There are times I believe that the seemingly reckless behavior of public figures who are certainly smart enough to realize that they can and eventually will get caught in their excesses, can be an attempt at escape.

I knew a very high-profile pastor who went down the same road.

When a series of clumsily executed excesses came to light causing him to lose his position and his reputation, he seemed more relieved than repentant.

Sure his life was a shambles.

Sure his family was devastated.

Sure his credibility was shot.

Sure the faith that those who followed him as a spiritual leader was shaken to the core.

But at least he didn’t have to bear up under the 800 pound mantle of public perception of perfection any longer.

Now I know that those who are busy trying to make a name for themselves might look at Tiger Woods’ personal struggles as the proverbial “problem to have”.

But there is an old proverb that goes, “There are two great tragedies in life – Not getting what you want, and getting it.”

Tiger Woods seems to have received a heaping helping of both.

But there is an alternative.

There is a way to pursue an excellent life, without being trapped by the after effects of excellence.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

When we decide that our goal in life isn’t wealth or power or fame, but to enjoy each day as an opportunity to receive and relate the love of God, we find a freedom that fame alone cannot provide.

With no need to consciously or unconsciously seek escape from a fame fueled monster we have created.

As a fairly famous man named the apostle Paul once observed:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6)

Let’s hope that in the aftermath of this disaster Tiger Woods and his family find the peace that faith, rather than fame and fortune can bring.

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