Sex, Lies and Leadership

December 11, 2009 @ 03:22 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I have been working today on our Leading Edge Conference for next April and came across some blogs about Tiger Woods sent to me by colleagues. I was intrigued most especially by Maureen Dowd’s comments in the New York Times, December 10. Actually, the comments on her comments really fascinated me.

I have to tell you from the start that I am not up on all the details about Tiger Woods’ infidelity… my apologies. I hear there are nine women and counting, and that Tiger was neither suave nor super sneaky about getting with these women. Ms. Dowd ended her comments with, “Now all we have left to look up to is Derek Jeter.” I was tempted to go to a few sites and see if, indeed, Derek is worthy of our adulation.

But, I did not. I don’t care. I think Derek Jeter is a great baseball player and I think Tiger Woods is an outstanding golfer. He may well be the best golfer that has ever lived.

I am sad for Tiger’s wife. I hope that she drinks wine with her girlfriends and gets good and mad about it. I hope she gets a massage and lets herself weep. I think being betrayed is a very difficult experience, and I will hold her in my prayers as she and Tiger work through this.

I am just not worked up, though, about Tiger falling off some pedestal. Tiger is a man, a human being, a relatively young man who has spent much of his life in the public eye playing golf. He is not my hero, and I hope he is not yours. He is an athlete, a professional athlete, a wealthy professional athlete. He was a child, then a teen, he went to college, and he met some girls. He studied some, skipped some classes. He turned pro at 21. He lost his dad. He married his sweetheart. He had two babies. He hurt his knee. He recovered from his injury and is playing an amazing game.

I have some psychology experience and so I could risk some analysis about his life: strong parenting. Not enough freedoms. A young and growing self impinged by the golf club (see Donald Winnicott on Good Enough Care/True Self/False Self). I could tell you about how many people go underground with their sexuality because they are expected to have a certain normative image, and they live in their persona (see Carl Jung), hiding out until they get discovered.

I also have some theological training, so I am tempted to write about how and when monogamous heterosexual marriage got romanticized (it most certainly was not romanticized in ancient Judeo-Christian culture), and how unnatural monogamy is considered in many cultures. I can write to you about how marriage is a legal contract, one that should be available, by the way, to all adults. And I could say more about the religious/spiritual/theological piece of marriage that is primarily about keeping covenant or making promises, and that the best advice I give to couples when marrying them is to make a promise they can actually keep. I say, quite bluntly, don’t lie.

We are not quite sure about the promises Tiger made to Elin; we think we know, but are we actually sure? I can’t imagine, though, that there was a provision for having nine mistresses.

Here is what is most on my heart: I used to be perfect — when I was about… five years old. And now, at fifty, I am not. So, I am sad for Tiger and Elin, and I am hoping they can work things out for the sake of their children. I hope the nine or however many women there were are safe and disease free, and that they will think more carefully about whether it is worth the risk to make love to someone else’s husband — famous, infamous or otherwise.

I hope Tiger learns something from this (not just how to be better at cheating, but what is this all about)?

But, I am not judging him. I don’t care enough to judge him. When he plays again, I will watch. I will purchase whatever I was going to purchase, with or without his endorsement. He is just too ordinary in his humanity for me to judge him. He is not my hero; I don’t need another hero. We don’t need another hero, not Wheaties Box Front heroes, anyway.

We need leaders. And neither Tiger nor Derek Jeter count in that category from where I sit.

They are just professional athletes.

I want a leader in my president. I want leadership from Congress and from my state legislators. I want community organizers and clergy and lay people in the marketplace to stand up for what is right — for healthcare for all Americans; for marriage equality; for a social justice ethic that ensures that all people have safe places to live and food on the table. I want leadership in the banking industry that will decide enough is enough and give bonuses to people struggling with their mortgage payments in the form of lower interest rates and grace to keep their homes. I want REAL heroes and heroines — leadership in parents who keep on working to take care of their children and courageous same sex couples and heterosexual allies who keep pushing for marriage equality, and people who keep going to New Orleans to help rebuild that city even though it has fallen off the news radar, and folk who blog and email and inform us about atrocities in Uganda and the ways we can make a difference around the globe. I want leadership committed to anti-racism and immigration reform. I want leadership in terms of peacemaking –everywhere. And I do mean an end to war in all the theaters where it is being performed.

And besides wanting leadership, here is what else I want:

I want my husband and I to keep the promises WE made to each other (I happen to know what those were) and if we get it wrong, I want us to find a way to love each other through it, hang in and grow old (I like my husband as much as I love him). And, if we really mess it up (GOD FORBID), I want our transgressions to be private, not the stuff for the front page of People or for Maureen Dowd’s column.

And I want Tiger to save his apology for his wife.

I don’t care enough to accept it.


Tiger’s Apology:
I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.

But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don’t share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.

Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it’s difficult.

I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.
From his official website.

About This Blog

Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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