Yesterday Tiger Woods won his first big PGA golf tournament, since November 2009, when his life and game deteriorated in a wrenching public scandal. Much press coverage was extended on the run-up to this victory and many sports commentators voiced many opinions on his abilities, his future and his character.
This happens a lot when a public figure, whether in sports or politics or religion, have what is perceived as a moral or ethical failure. We wring our hands and gnash our teeth over their indiscretions and often feel betrayed that our “heroes” have let us down.

What we have found this morning is how quickly people place their judgments about what they hear on the radio or watch on the news or read in the paper or on the internet. And we wonder – Is that right? Is that fair? – both to the public figure and to us.

Is it right to place public figures on such high pedestals? Do they have the responsibility, just because they are famous or powerful or supremely talented, to also live up to a high moral standard? Is it right of us to demand that they live their private lives in an ethically blameless way?

Are these figures not human beings, too? Don’t they have the same vulnerabilities and shortcomings and temptations as anyone else? A politician who has an affair. A pastor who embezzles church money. A professional athlete who leaves a team for the lure of a fat, lucrative contract with another. Each of them are perceived as failing their constituents, their congregation and their fans. And in many ways, they have.

But … do we place too many unrealistic expectations on them – expectations that we do not always live up to oursleves? Do we demand that these human beings live in a way that we ourselves are not willing or able to? Do we create heroes out of the wrong people, whom we only know superficially? Do we set them and us up for certain let downs and disappointments?

We want to be clear that we are not saying that people in public or leadership roles do not have responsibilities to set good examples and to live ethical and moral lives. They do. But so do all of us. It is important that we do not create double standards – where we expect more of others than we expect from ourselves. The fact is, we have been and are in very public leadership roles as pastors and counselors. We know that people look to us to guide and direct and set good examples. We also know what it feels like to be judged. And it happens to all of us – often unfairly – all the time.
And it is why we know that we so vitally need one another – to hold one another accountable to do the right thing, to share our vulnerabilities in order to gain perspective, to be open about our temptations in order to gain strength in our weakness, to express our proneness to judgment in order to regain a sense of grace.
It is this grace that all of us need to find and develop more and more. It is this grace that we must apply to others – for public figures and in personal relationships. It is this grace that we need also to offer to ourselves.
Tiger Woods needs it. Politicians need it. Pastors need it. You need it. All of us do.


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