Early Sunday morning, Tiger Woods was arrested for driving under the influence. Fifteen hours later, he issued a statement in an attempt to save face. Following the incident 30 miles from his home in Jupiter, Florida, Woods said that alcohol was not involved, and that his condition resulted from “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.” I see four lessons from Tiger’s latest fall from grace.
First, let’s consider his statement. Woods said, “I understand the severity of what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions. I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.” Woods then apologized to his fans and pledged to “do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again.” He closed his statement by thanking the Jupiter Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
So what are we to make of this latest event in the life of the man who sat atop the world golf rankings longer than any player in history? On the plus side, Woods has been a great father and perhaps the most driven and successful golfer who ever picked up a set of clubs.
On the down side, Woods is an admitted sex addict who was unfaithful to his wife through the entirety of their marriage. Add to that previous DUI arrests and huge anger problems, and you have one complicated man.
Tossing the latest failure into the mix, I offer a few observations.
1. Tiger is more like us than we may like to admit.
Tiger Woods was unfaithful to his wife. So are most married men. On occasion, Tiger drinks too much. So does about half of the American population. Tiger is consumed with personal achievement. So are most of us. Tiger Woods has personal struggles. So do we all.
2. There is one big difference between Tiger Woods and most of us.
Here it is – Tiger lives his life on the public stage. I can’t imagine what this must be like. There are three groups of people. There are those who live in total anonymity. Then there are public figures who can retreat to places of anonymity when they so choose. And then there are public figures who are so well known that there is no place to hide. Tiger Woods falls into that category.
3. Life is about what happens after the fall.
Muhammad Ali, the greatest athlete who ever lived (in my humble opinion) famously said, “What matters is not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up.” Tiger Woods has been knocked down more times than any of us can possibly know. He has been knocked down by physical injuries, the loss of his best friend and dad, a failed marriage, addiction, and countless personal flaws. But in life, as with his golf game, he keeps swinging. Last week, he vowed (again) to return to the game that made him famous and wildly successful. It seems that no injury, no personal failure, and no mistake – regardless how great – can keep Tiger down. For that he deserves great credit.
4. God is about redemption.
One of the most poignant things any of us can say, when contemplating tossing rocks Tiger’s way is this – “If not for the grace of God that could be me.” Your failures are probably not Tiger’s failures. But you have failures he does not have. The closer to God I get, the further away I realize I still am. And the more I recognize my own faults, the less I see faults in others. Life is about redemption.
Tiger Woods’ life is an open book. And it is an interesting book. But make no mistake. It is a book whose final chapter has yet to be written.