People keep talking about the Tiger Woods scandal as a “teachable moment.” They debate whether or not it is, in fact, a teachable moment “for us” or whether it isn’t. My question: Why does something that some celebrity does have to be teachable or even relevant to me? I might admire a person of accomplishment for the use of his mind in developing his ability and potential. In that sense, he has already taught me something. But what does a lapse in his personal judgment have to do with me? And what’s this “us” business? What are ‘we’ — some kind of gigantic tribe where everyone is affected by everyone else?
People find it surprising that someone who does so well in one area of life can mess it up so much in another. It’s not surprising if you consider that ideas have consequences. A person can walk around with both healthy and unhealthy ideas. The healthy ideas lead him to great accomplishments in one area, while his unhealthy ideas lead to foolish endeavors in another. People are complicated and are therefore capable of thinking and doing contradictory things. Why is this news, and why is this so surprising? Also, people change. People who previously exercised rationality sometimes stop using it, and this switch often shows up in their personal lives first. None of this is inevitable. But it’s always possible. Why? Because people have choices. If there’s anything “teachable” in the Tiger Woods incident — or any celebrity scandal to come — it’s this: Use your choices wisely.