In a world of cheap apologies, America caught a glimpse of the real costs of shame in Tiger Woods’ public apology. Instead of a tearful public display of emotion and a quick return to life as usual, the nation saw a man bowed by the weight of his transgressions, a recognition of the extent of his betrayal of those who loved him, and an acknowledgment of the absolute destruction of his image, reputation and influence.
I, for one, have had enough of faux-repentance and instant restitution. I don’t want to hear anyone else “come back” after a “quick fix” of tears and sloppy emotionalism in front of the cameras. I was moved to see a sports giant willing to come before the public in dignity to express contrition and a commitment to the hard work of restoration, especially when Tiger put his career on hold and clearly recognizes that he has to work on his own healing before he can hope to restore his marriage and family or earn back the public’s respect.
Many in the public are already demanding that Tiger’s personal life be exposed in the media. They want details about the affairs and information about whether the marriage will be restored. Tiger’s dignity in avoiding the media circus is admirable and appropriate. The public has no right to any more information than the basic facts. He cheated on his wife, violated his marriage vows and was a first-class jerk in his personal life. He has admitted all of that. He has not sought to excuse any of his behavior or deny any of the consequences. Further, he is willing to step off the celebrity golf circuit in order to pay the price of getting his life back on track. And, he is right to ask the media to quit stalking his children, wife and mother.
Tiger admitted that he had “a lot to atone for.” He said, “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable.” He talked about “bitterly disappointing” those who loved and admired him; he expressed embarrassment (imagine a public figure acknowledging that!) and said, “For all that I have done, I am so sorry.”
The world-class golfer said that his celebrity status made him think that the normal rules didn’t apply to him and that he thought only of himself. He said he was “wrong and foolish.” He vowed to never repeat his mistakes and to live a life of integrity. He told the nation’s youth that character and integrity are “what counts” and that “it is not what you achieve, but what you overcome” that is important in life.
How refreshing to see a celebrity willing to work at repairing his life. He admitted that it was hard to admit that he needed help, but that he had taken the first steps “in the right direction” by going into seclusion at a private facility out of the public eye for 45 days. He gave no timetable for returning to his golf career; instead, he acknowledged that he has a long road of healing ahead and that he was returning to seclusion for “treatment and therapy.” He made it clear that his priority is to restore balance to his “spiritual and professional life.” He also committed to working to save his marriage and family. He admitting wanting to return to golf, but he “didn’t know when it would be.” When that happens, he declared, his behavior “would be more respectful of the game.”
Tiger asked for help from “the people who believe in me” and hoped that they would “find room” in their hearts “to one day believe in me again” – a seeming admission that he would have to earn their trust by showing that he has changed.
Many in the media are criticizing Tiger and questioning his sincerity. Cynicism in the midst of all the recent public confessionals is certainly warranted, but here is a man who stayed away from the cameras and is undergoing the soul-searching treatment and therapy that is necessary for true restoration.
As a Christian, I believe that it takes more than human resolve and human solutions to heal deep problems and truly transform lives. But, it is refreshing to hear a celebrity openly say, “I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior.” And, I, for one admire the way he has handled this whole sordid mess with as much dignity and privacy as possible. I will be praying for his complete healing and for the restoration of both his personal and public life. Equally important, I am praying that Tiger’s situation will be a warning to his young fans and an example to others of the dangers of abandoning “core values” and thinking that “the rules don’t apply to me.”