Tiger Woods didn't owe us an apology. He's an athlete, not a publicly elected official.
I'm not interested in the moral aspects of Tiger's behavior. That's for him and his wife and family to resolve and I wish them the best. What I am interested in however, is his admission that his behavior came from a sense of entitlement and his acknowledgment that he felt "the rules did not apply". Whatever his motivation, Tiger's admission struck a chord of truth worthy of examination for the rest of us.
If you and I were being completely honest, couldn't we also admit to times when we've gotten so full of ourselves, we slipped into this "the rules do not apply to me" kind of magical thinking? Who among us cannot find in our life stories, fragments, lines, paragraphs or perhaps even chapters of entitlement? My own are among my least best moments, to put it mildly.
Tiger's public apology brought to mind the myth of Icarus and his father, Daedalus, imprisoned on the Isle of Crete. Daedalus fashioned wings out of feathers and wax so they could fly away to safety, but he warned Icarus not to fly too low to the sea lest the water get his wings wet or too close to the sun lest its heat melt the wax.
Icarus, being the Puer type that he was, became intoxicated with the thrill of flying. He flew higher and higher until he flew so close to the sun, (can you guess what happens next?), the wax melted, all the feathers became detached and carried away by the wind. Icarus was left flapping his bare arms. As much as he thought the rules of gravity didn't apply, alas, they did and Icarus plunged to the sea and was killed. Bet you could see that one coming, couldn't you?
Like Icarus, Tiger, intoxicated with fame and fortune, felt he could fly as high as he wanted and that somehow the sun's heat would make an exception, or the law of gravity would be suspended because of who he was. He thought he could betray his core values, forsake the spiritual path he'd followed since birth and "follow every temptation" with impunity. Gravity is impersonal. It doesn't care who we are or how many titles we have. It just is, and we all get to deal with it.
Entitlement is a sticky trap. At its root is a narcissistic person who operates on the assumption that who they are is so special and unique, they grant themselves license, in fact believe they have the right, to do what they want, regardless of the impact. Awareness of the consequence of our choices and actions is the farthest thing from our minds when we're caught in the trap of entitlement.
Is it any wonder that those we place on the stratospheric pedestals of public adulation should come to believe they can defy gravity? But gravity will always have its way with us and the entitled ones eventually plunge to earth, like Icarus.
We can look across the landscape of contemporary life and see a battlefield strewn with the bodies of the formerly entitled and the unfortunate people they took with them. Professional athletes seem to have more than their share of representatives, but they probably don't outnumber politicians, televangelists, Hollywood celebrities, corporate executives and our favorites - financial advisers (can you say Bernie Madoff?).
In some cases, the fall looks like nothing more than a dose of public humiliation and the entitled manage to take it in stride, push it aside, fluff themselves up and keep going. Larry Craig still holds his seat in Congress. Kobe Bryant still leads the Los Angles Lakers. Mark Sanford is still the governor of South Carolina. But none of us knows the private prices they pay, especially in their relationships with people who trusted and believed in them. For them, the fat lady's song is sung outside the spotlight.
Some ignore her dulcet tones and pay the ultimate price. John Edwards tempted fate and not only ruined his career as a politician, but his 33-year marriage to Elizabeth appears to be over, his family destroyed. Ironically, Edwards' arrogance and entitlement may just end up winning a Pulitzer Prize for that icon of prurient journalism, The National Inquirer. How's that for irony?
Arrogance and entitlement, while producing temporary gratification, ultimately will serve to undo. Call it what you will: karma, the law of cause and effect, justice being served. One way or another, sooner or later, the guard at the gate will demand payment. Your first clue that payment is coming due is when you catch a note or two from the amply endowed soprano warming up in the wings. Ignore her at your own peril.
Tiger is right, he does have work to do. I hope he succeeds. I believe in second chances and besides, redemption stories are far more interesting than stories about the fall. You see one fall, you've pretty much seen them all. But the comeback is where the "juice" is. Time will tell if Tiger is up to the task.
May his Buddhist faith serve to put him on a skillful path. May he learn the lessons of humility, integrity, and responsibility and earn back his self-respect and self-trust and perhaps someday, that of his loved ones.
May he look back on this experience and say this is where he traded in his false pride and arrogance for a heart of courage, planted his feet firmly in his life and became a man of honor. As Elin observed, his true apology won't come in the words he speaks, but rather in the actions he takes over time.
May Tiger's experience be a lesson for the rest of us. Lest you or I get too smug, thinking our own behavior beyond reproach, we might just want to keep one ear attuned for the melodic tones of a zaftig female in the distance. She just might be warming up in a sand trap nearby.
Come on now, fess up. What have you learned from your own chapters of entitlement? What prices have you already paid?
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Watch out for those sand traps and blessings on the path,
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