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Tiger Woods, C.S. Lewis, & The Faux Moralists Among Us

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The only thing worse than Tiger Woods' bad behavior with icky women is the faux outrage led by a) women who never understood men to begin with and b) their willing accomplices amongst the male species who feign outrage like Captain Renault in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

What is admittedly hard to understand is why Tiger would cheat on such a beautiful woman with such a cast of losers, but even that can be explained by the male penchant for choosing quantity over quality in any number of things.

Ironically though, I find that it's the moralists among us with the most accurate understanding of human nature who are the least surprised by this kind of behavior. For twenty years now we've had our senses assaulted by unfaithful public figures-from religious leaders like Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker and Jesse Jackson to political leaders like Gary Hart, Bill Clinton and Mark Sanford and now Tiger Woods and just as Americans in 1980 began to question whether one man could handle the presidency after four failed ones, we're all left wondering if any public figure can stand in the glare of the spotlight and avoid skankish behavior.

My favorite moralist, C.S. Lewis, wouldn't have been surprised by any of this--he once wrote that if we men followed our natural inclinations we could easily populate small villages--for Lewis asserted that chastity was simply impossible without special help from God. I'm sure there are atheists and agnostics among us who would disagree with that assertion and though I don't have a position on that, I've always appreciated Lewis' insights:

"We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity - like perfect charity - will not be obtained by any merely human efforts," he wrote.

"You must ask for God's help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage or truthfulness or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection."

I don't think Tiger Woods believes in the God C.S. Lewis did, but whether he's having plastic surgery in Arizona or still frolicking somewhere with Rachel Uchitel, I hope he'll remember Lewis' words and ignore all the fake moralists among us who pretend that given his circumstances they wouldn't have been tempted to do the same thing and instead focus on picking himself up, trying to make things right with his wife and becoming a different kind of person in the future.

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