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Tiger in the confessional

February 20, 2010
The queue recedes quicker than you hoped for, but you're ready. You clutch a folded list to ensure you don't forget the painfully exhumed results of a thorough examination of conscience, not that you can very well read it in the dark of the confessional. When your turn comes, you pull back the heavy, velvet curtain and rest on the cushioned kneeler.
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned...”
As you recount your errors, the priest punctuates each item with an mmm hmm to assure you he's listening. With each transgression, you swallow your pride and omit the extenuating circumstances—yes, you were provoked, it wasn't your fault alone, but that's not what this is about today. You've made a good confession.
“Well...” the priest responds, “you said the right things. It was well-scripted, to be sure, but I rather doubt this will rehabilitate your image in the Father's eyes.”
“People hardly change overnight. Good optics, that's all.”
That scenario played out in my head after I watched Tiger Woods bare his soul during a press conference yesterday. The fallen golfer apologized, first and foremost, to his wife and family--the principal, humiliated victims of his indiscretions. While he fiercely defended their privacy, as a husband and father should, he acknowledged that his own actions had created their nightmare.
The prepared statement confirmed the expectations of the cable news commentators. Before Woods appeared at the podium, one public relations expert predicted that his stained reputation was permanent, no matter how he repented. No more multimillion dollar endorsements. An early return to golf, she warned, would irreparably harm the PGA. It was simply assumed, after all, that this was about the money. Would anyone believe otherwise?
I shared this skeptical view, too, as I turned off the TV. But then I wondered: this past Wednesday, would this same cynical commentator have dismissed my own ashen sign of contrition?
It does matter that our neighbours, family members, and priests know that our repentance is real. During Lent, especially, we must affirm that the Father can hold a mirror to our dysfunctional hearts, then recast them into His own. So, today, imitating God's unwavering faith in us, I must also believe in the sincerity of Tiger Woods.

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