On Friday, Tiger Woods gave his long-awaited public apology about his numerous affairs and the harm he caused his family, his fans and others.
Was he sincere?
I really don’t know. I usually have a pretty good sense of when someone is being genuine and sincere. But in watching Tiger make his statements, I wasn’t sure. It was certainly well written. He seemed to say all the right things. I think he wanted to be sincere. And maybe he was—and is.
But Bill Clinton looked sincere when he denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky. And John Edwards looked convincing when he claimed his love child really WASN’T his child. And we wanted to believe Richard Nixon when he said, “I’m not a crook.”
But as we found out later, they were lies.
We’ve all been lied to at one time or another. And no matter how good our “bull detector” is, sometimes we believe someone because we are convinced that what they’re saying is the truth, and it’s not.
In the world of so-called success gurus and business leaders, there are many who claim to have all the answers. But I see far more hype than substance. When someone works so hard to get me to believe them, I wonder why and I begin to doubt them. And it certainly muddies the water for those who are committed to honesty and integrity in business.
Ultimately, Tiger Woods will be judged by how congruent his actions are with the words he spoke at his press conference. But right now we have only his words.
Don’t get me wrong, I think words are important. What someone says or writes has weight, for sure. But if there’s incongruity, if they don’t walk their talk, if they can’t stand and deliver, their words not only ring hollow, they betray and deceive.
I think Edgar Guest summed it up quite well in his poem, “Sermons We See”.
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it if you’ll let me see it done.
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true;
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
I think most people will forgive Tiger for his dalliances. But if he isn’t sincere in his apology and his future actions betray his words, I think people will be far less forgiving.
For most of us, Tiger Woods’ confession and apology has little effect upon us. But our own words and whether or not those words are congruent with our actions has everything to do with us. Our reputations are built—and stand or fall—on what we say and what we do.
The most memorable thing I ever heard Ross Perot say when he was running for president was, “Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious.”