NBC is already coming out with a special show called “The Secret Life of Tiger Woods.” Two or three of the women with whom Tiger was intimate are already on “news” shows giving interviews. And they sound so innocent. Not evil and nasty like him. Not secretive or seductive. Just sweet women minding their own business until Tiger swooped down and fooled them into having a relationship. Do I sound cynical?
Our obsession with gossip is troubling. We almost seem to think we have a “right” to know the sordid details of anyone’s private affairs. “They’re in the public eye,” one commentator justified, “and that gives the public the right to know.” We don’t think or care about the other lives affected by our pursuit of the latest, dirtiest tidbit. Standing in line at a grocery store scanning the covers of the magazines (“We’re the First to Break the Story of…”) reminds me that gossip is a business. A high-dollar business.
The biblical command to forgive is complicated by the daily deluge of dirt. The admonition to pray for those who have fallen, or to “go to your brother” if you see him at fault don’t even enter our thinking when it comes to “public” figures.
Perhaps a fallen public figure gives us a sense of betterment. Perhaps our own “private sins” are perceived as not quite as bad as theirs. So we feel better about ourselves. Because we’re “not as bad.” But if the same scrutiny placed on the private lives of the rich and famous was placed on us, who could stand? If you had all your phone records revealed, and all your internet site visits revealed, and all your angry comments made public, and all your private conversations displayed, how would you come across to strangers? Would they disdain you? Would they understand that none of that stuff was “the real you”?
Why does our opinion about another person’s failings matter? Who cares what we, or any celebrity, “thinks” about another’s fall? An interviewer asked a celebrity, “What do you think Tiger was thinking?” I just sat shaking my head. Who knows? Who cares?
I pray for Tiger’s wife and children. His family suffers, probably for a lifetime. They will never be allowed to live a “normal” life. I pray for the women he used, and who used him. They are not innocent either. But they have families. Whether they have pride in their seduction, or shame, is not the point. They are affected, and they affect all of us in some way. We become jaded. We expect less and less of those held up in esteem. We trust no one.
I pray for Tiger himself. He may have been surprised to discover what money and fame could buy. He may have lacked maturity to understand the consequences of his actions. He may have lacked a moral compass. I don’t know. I just know he still needs to find forgiveness. He still needs to find direction for the rest of his life. He is human, after all. Whatever you would need if your sins found you out, he needs, too.
It may surprise a handful of Christians that the Bible warns, “he that utters a slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18). “Slander” is the Hebrew dibbah translated “evil report, defamation, whispering.” I can’t be responsible for the programming of television shows. But I can choose what I watch. I choose not to watch the “evil report, defamation, whispering” of those who feed on gossip. They are fools.