fallen from grace

We noticed. My kids noticed, too. We have multiple sports fans in the family, so while it wasn’t discussed much at first, we all were paying attention. Once again, for the first time in years, Tiger Woods was relevant. At the lesser-known Valspar Championship — one of manifold Masters warm ups — Woods is again flirting with the leaderboard. He has played some excellent golf this weekend, as once again, in a seemingly instant nostalgic return, the silent gallery swarmed around him, progressing from hole to hole.

“It was his back, right?”

True. Since April of 2015, Woods has undergone three microdiscectomy procedures and a spinal fusion to deal with a disk issue in his lower back. At one point last fall, in fact, there was ample question of whether he would ever golf again. Hence, Woods has been largely AWOL and irrelevant the last four years on the PGA tour.

“But it was more than physical, yes?”

Also true. Tiger was the top-ranked golfer in the world for 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and again for 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010; his dominance was unprecedented. That dominance was then pierced by the sudden, shocking revelation that the world’s most famous golfer — the married father of two — engaged in more than a dozen extramarital affairs. He proceeded to lose millions in endorsements, publicly apologize, reveal a sex addiction, and eventually divorce his wife.

Talk about fallen from grace.

Last week we observed something similar. Here was Kobe Bryant, accepting the Academy Award for the best animated short film, seemingly sincerely moved while publicly lauded. And yet in the current #MeToo environment, it was Bryant who in 2004 publicly acknowledged that he had an adulterous sexual encounter with a 19 year woman who “did not consent.” Kobe, too, fell from grace, also losing significant corporate endorsements and public respect.

So when one falls from grace, what does it take to be relevant and accepted once again?

Is it forgetting?

Do we just allow enough time to pass so we no longer remember the cracks in the character of the adult men and women we used to cheer on?

Do we let time go by, hopefully numbing the emotion we felt when people we loved did such dastardly things? Maybe if we forget, we never have to wrestle with some of the resulting inconvenient truths in our desired, ongoing support.

Or is it, rather, forgiving?

I recognize that forgiveness is not always a popular choice. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun, and I know we avoid it sometimes because it’s the only thing we can always hold against the person who hurt or disappointed us deeply. As one who bought both #8 and #24 Laker jerseys for one of my sons, for example, I was especially disappointed in Bryant’s behavior; I was angry I then had to have a more sensitive and sad conversation with my too young adolescent.

The key to forgiveness is the profound reality that it doesn’t allow the offender to get off the hook; it allows us to get off the hook — to no longer have to hold onto the anger and bitterness that potentially take root within ‘me.’ Let’s be honest: that looks good on no one.

As for the offender, in addition to understandable consequences for his/her behavior, he/she will still have some work to do… repentance, growth, and making amends. That is his/her responsibility.

Hence, for the person who repents — and for the person who forgives — I will enthusiastically cheer. Grace and forgiveness are always worth cheering for.

Go Tiger, go… hope you do well this weekend. And more.