"Why did he transgress?" The world is shaking its head in disbelief and sadness that someone as idolized as Tiger Woods has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar. The higher their pedestal the harder their fall. This is the way it has always been. And now Tiger himself has been caught by the tail.
Those wanting to wring Tiger’s neck because of his “transgressions” are missing the point. Tiger is us. He has been an amazing example of our human potential to bring to fruition the immense talent we each have. And suddenly he has become the latest high profile example that immense talent does not exempt us from developing right relationship with our animal urges.
Urges are human. They can neither be created nor destroyed. They are part of our wiring as the animals that we are. In this age of political correctness we try to pretend that we don’t have animal wiring. But, as Tiger has demonstrated, pretending won’t make our animal urges go away.
Transgression means indulging an urge in ways that create negative consequences for others or ourselves. We can use Tiger’s transgressions either as an opportunity to become swept up in the latest gossip about him, or as a wakeup call to correct our own transgressions.
Why do we transgress? Because we have not developed right relationship with our animal urges. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put it well decades ago when asked about whether he had ever cheated on his wife. He said he had not and then added that what he did have was lust in his heart.
The plain and simple plain truth about the Tiger in all of us is that there are only three things we can do with our oh-so-human urges:
- Hide them – Repress or deny an urge without regard for the damage this does to others, society or self (rebellion against our animal urges)
- Indulge them – Irresponsibly express an urge without regard for the damage this does to others, society, or self (rebellion against attempts to repress or deny our animal urges)
- Channel them – Give an urge forms of expression that elevate others, society and self
Hiding a human urge creates an equal and opposite reaction to that repression: irresponsible indulgence. Most people are in a constant juggling act between hiding and indulging their urges. In honor of Tiger, I’ll limit my illustrations of this juggling act to the area of sexual escapades. (If you want a list of the urges we all have, Google “Seven Deadly Sins” for starters.)
- Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was elected largely because he was a tough prosecutor of corruption including prostitution. He was then forced to resign when his decade-long sexual relationship with a high priced call girl were exposed.
- South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford built his political career on being a devout Christian with traditional conservative political values. This married father of four then proceeded to have an international affair with a woman from Argentina. His wife Jenny has begun divorce proceedings.
- Who can forget televangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s fall from grace after this morality-thumping preacher’s own sexual escapades came to light? His popular and prosperous television ministry vanished overnight.
- And of course there is the pedophile priest scandal that rocked the Catholic church as a consequence of a long-ago Pope having been seduced into the trap of trying to repress the human sexual urge.
There is of course an endless list of politicians, clergy, entertainers, athletes, teachers, business leaders, and everyday people, who have become trapped in this “Repressing-Indulging-Hiding” dynamic with our human urges. We try to repress an urge, which often causes us to secretly indulge it, which then try to keep secret.
This is one of two simple predictable prescriptions for integrity deficits in all their many forms. The other is to repress an urge, and instead of indulging it making ourselves inwardly ill because of having repressed it, and then keeping the reason we have become ill a secret from ourselves. But, this must wait to be an article in itself.
How many times, and in how many ways, have you and I transgressed? Religion and government have traditionally taken the role of repressing human urges in the name of morality or maintain civil order. The business world uses manipulative advertising to divert our human desires into their financial gains (for more about this, watch the TV series Mad Men and the BBC series “The Century of the Self”).
In contrast, how many of us have been taught how to develop right relationship with our urges and desires so that we don’t fall into the “Repressing-Indulging-Hiding” trap that Tiger has become the latest poster child for? The most famous father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, called the alternative to this trap “sublimation:” channeling our potentially dangerous animal impulses in safe ways.
But, sublimation is a pale substitute for the real gift our urges hold for us. Our urges are, in reality, a form of deep inner communication that lets us know when we are ignoring our deepest most passionate authentic self. When we ignore this, our desires leak out in twisted ways that ultimately cost us dearly. This is psychological and spiritual immaturity, plain and simple. Maturity means developing conscious relationship with our urges, desires and passions, and learning how to channel them in ways that elevate ourselves, others, and society.
This way of dealing with our urges is the only way out of the “Repressing-Indulging-Hiding trap” that continues to sabotage our own sustainable happiness as individuals, and to tear apart our fabric as a society. Transgression is one of the main ways that the integrity deficits we all have express themselves. Falling prey to the “Repressing-Indulging-Hiding” trap always leads to the downfall of our integrity.
Don’t let yourself fall into the sand trap that swallowed Tiger. Master the art of directing your urges in fulfilling and productive ways through the six-award-winning book “The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships and Our World,” and its companion, “The New IQ Integrity Makeover Workbook.”
During this second decade of the 21st century, give the gift that can help those you love and work with avoid this trap: The New IQ book and workbook (this link gives you the package discount).
© 2009 Integrity Revolution, LLC & Dr. David Gruder