In the end, the lessons God offered Moses on Mount Sinai always prove incredibly painful to those who have to learn the hard way. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Those five words are pretty simple in their meaning, but there are few things as complicated as the life of someone who decides to disobey them.
Normally, we hesitate to opine on the sordid affairs of the rich, famous or powerful. The world at-large pays far too much attention to these stories, an attention that goes beyond the lessons from immorality and ventures far into the realm of lurid curiosity. The jokes of late-night talk show hosts fill the airwaves and the Internet. They are shared at work or on the street. Frankly, there is nothing funny about someone cheating on a spouse. From a distance, the only appropriate emotion is sadness. The closer one gets, the more emotions begin to run through varied colors that include anger, anguish and bitterness.
Recent events have led us to hope the public is getting the right message about consequences.
Tiger Woods seems to have learned about this, even though he chose to do it the hard way. In his public statement last week, he talked about the feeling that he "deserved to enjoy the temptations" that came with his incredible fame. He admitted to being unfaithful. "I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable."
Cynics scoffed at this. The Chicago Tribune said, "OK, so Tiger Woods probably didn't write those words. Did he mean them? Time will tell." Then the paper, in an editorial, proceeded to lay out the typical formula for seeking public forgiveness, which Woods seemed to have followed.
Frankly, we're not as concerned with the authorship or tone of the apology as we are with the lessons learned. Modern society glorifies celebrity. Popular television shows and movies obsess daily over sex and titillation. Seldom do they show the true extent of the consequences of such behavior. Seldom do they portray the children whose lives are torn apart, or the spouses whose self-esteem, faith and trust in other humans have been shattered.
Some people pine for celebrity because of the attention and adulation it brings, and for the license it seems to allow. But celebrities, like everyone else, are human. So are the people who love and trust them.
It's up to sponsors and fans whether Woods can restore his former place in the sports world. Those on the recent list of politicians struggling with the same hard lesson face even more difficult odds. They have to face voters, not sponsors.
But more importantly, it's up to the public whether they learn the right lessons from these public embarrassments.