For as long as this has been playing out in public, I've resisted writing about Tiger Woods et al. So I’m not absolutely sure why I decided to watch him deliver his public statement this morning about his epic infidelity. And as I clicked CNN’s online link, I felt pretty much like a voyeur. Why the hell was I doing this? And why did it bring me to real, true, heart-tears? Rhetorical.
By the time you read here, you’ll have seen clips and transcripts of Tiger’s remarks, likely countless times. You'll read about the evident discomfort of those assembled in the room where he delivered his first public remarks. And you’ll have seen those remarks sliced, diced, dissected, inspected, corrected, critiqued and otherwise examined. I have chosen to disregard the aftermath and focus on what I saw, what I felt as I watched. I am entirely too susceptible to aftermath, I’ve learned. Read on.
I think what Tiger Woods said this morning was powerful. And it seemed to me authentic. I’ve spent my life observing philanderers, as you have. High profile and low profile. At a distance and closer to home. Prince Charles, for example. Newt Gingrich. Mark Sanford. The list is long and each transgression left incredible pain in its wake, I suspect.
My sense of what Tiger Woods said today is that he has moved beyond being sorry because he was outed and therefore humiliated in a massively public way. It felt (hardly a journalistic value) as though he was not posturing. As though he is experiencing genuine anguish about others beyond his admittedly deeply flawed and selfish self. Others that include those known to him intimately, and also the rest of his arguably former fans and admirers.
I've observed the devastation of infidelity – serial and singular. It has the potential to utterly destroy – not only relationships but the trusting core of individuals. That is no small thing. Sadly, it is the “gift” that keeps on giving.
What is most amazing to me is watching all of this play out on the public stage. Friends who have experienced anything even remotely like this have been devastated, and steeped in shame and humiliation even in the absence of front-page hoopla. To one degree or another, they have literally had to fight for their lives. It is not a pretty thing to watch. And to see it become media fodder and joke material must ramp up the pain to a fare-thee-well. Uffdah.
I think Tiger Woods’ tomcat behavior was appalling. How I, how we, came to know about it is equally appalling, IMO. And what we’ve done with that knowledge more appalling still. Do I trust him? No, not really. Is that justified? Probably. Does he owe me, owe most of us, anything? No, he doesn’t. But he did this major public mea culpa anyway. Frankly, I think that took courage. He humbled himself in what seemed a genuine way.
I hope my read on him is accurate, and I do wish that amazing athlete the will and the grace to redeem himself, not to the public, but to those who truly matter most in his life.
(Cross-posted on The Seminal.)