Disclaimer: Observations on Tiger Woods’ Statement

I’m not here to dissect his statement yesterday. Many have ripped it to shreds as nothing more than a PR move which contained no sincerity. Others have called it the greatest celebrity apology in memory.

My point in discussing this is not to weigh in on that argument. But before we start I will say that I was mildly impressed, although perhaps happily surprised is a more accurate manner of saying it. I’m not going to pronounce him genuine or not, as even Tiger pointed out (and I’ll mention briefly) the verdict on that question is not something any of us can throw the anvil down upon at this time. If he changes, then it would seem he was genuinely sorry. If he doesn’t, then it would indicate that he wasn’t. That we’ll let authors debate in the decades to come. Either way he said more than I expected. I was anticipating one of those general apologies (see: Giambi, Jason) where the superstar says he’s sorry without ever actually saying what he’s sorry for. Tiger was clear that he had “cheated” on his wife.

With all that behind us I had several thoughts as I listened and pondered it later. None of them really are a commentary on Tiger. Just parallels I saw in culture and Christianity. Here they are:

1. He specifically mentioned his need to “atone for” the things he has done. I’m no expert on Buddhism, but I don’t believe there is a concept of atonement in that religion (if I’m wrong, I’d love for someone smarter than me to point that out…feel free to comment). Whether there is or not, it’s interesting that this idea of “paying for one’s wrongs,” which is at the foundation of orthodox Christian belief, finds its way into our culture. One might argue that we are hardwired to feel the need for such atonement, because Christians, non-Christians, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists commonly use this type of terminology.

2. Tiger said that he felt like he was “entitled.” I heard one commentator say, “Yeah, when you feel sunburned it’s because you are.” Like it or not, Tiger has been “entitled” to a lot of things over the years, and feeling entitled to things is rarely profitable. But he feels that way largely because our society has made him feel that way. We treat athletes and celebrities like gods. Think about it, our culture quite literally worships them. Tiger is to blame for where his sense of entitlement took him. But this is a good example of how “cultural sins” deeply affect “personal sins.”

3. He spoke of keeping his spiritual life and professional life in “balance.” This is common phraseology in American religiosity and American Christianity. The premise is that you have your compartmentalized little lives – personal, family, social, professional, and yes, spiritual – and the pinnacle of success is keeping all these little compartments in balance.

But true Christianity cannot be a compartment. It cannot be one of many things kept in balance. It is all-encompassing, it rules your life. There is no such thing as “balancing” your spiritual life with your personal or professional one.

4. Lastly, Tiger said something profoundly wise (relaying words he attributed to his wife). “As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time.” Biblical repentance is not simply a confession. It is not only a stance of the heart. It is a changed life. That is true repentance.

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