Yesterday I happened to catch an interview with Tiger Woods leading up to his return to golf at the Masters tournament in April. In the interview Tiger was asked questions about his past transgressions. As I listened to him respond to the barrage of questioning, one of his answers stood out to me. When asked to give the reason for his embrace of infidelity, Tiger responded by saying he lost sight of his core values and stopped practicing Buddhism, and that is why he embraced this dark path.
I immediately thought to myself, "really?" The only thing preventing Tiger from pursuing infidelity was Buddhism? I found this interesting on a number of different levels. First of all, I think this conversation describes for us the symptomatic approach to a full life that we find ourselves wrestling with. Think of it along these terms. If we desire outcome A as a reality for our lives, what then would prevent us from pursuing outcomes B, C, D or E? What we do is look for a set of behaviors and practices that will help prevent us from pursuing additional outcomes. We want to be good, so we adopt the practice of not going to the bar, not buying alcohol and not associating with people who drink. Meanwhile, our attempt at preventing certain behaviors in our lives had led us to develop a lifestyle methodology that is steeped in legalism instead of relationship. Our focus becomes driven by what we do not do instead of on what our behavior actually is. If our desire is to be good, why would we not define good by perhaps taking time to help out someone in need instead of defining it by what behaviors we prevent ourselves from engaging in.
I'm a guy who loves systems, but there is no systematic approach to life that will prevent us from embracing undesired destinations. There is, however, a relational approach that will do just that. I wear a wedding ring as a symbol of my relational connection with my wife. If I define marriage by a list of do's and dont's, what is preventing me from reaching undesired destinations such as infidelity? If we measure success in terms of restraint, how then do we measure growth? If the symbol is meant to prevent certain behavior, I'm in trouble. This ring cannot prevent me from doing anything; the system is broken. If, however, I view the ring as not a symbol of restraint, but as a symbol of relational growth, then the system does work. My focus becomes rooted in my desire to grow in my understanding of what it means to be a good husband, friend, confidant, lover and provider. The relational filter informs my behavior and pushes me towards my ultimate desirable destination.
The bottom line is this: If you're look for a system to help you prevent hurt, pain, brokenness and awkward situations, you can try all you want to find it, but the perfect system doesn't exist. Instead, I encourage you to look beyond the system and embrace the deep relational need the exists within us all. Using this relational platform as our interpretive lens, our measure for growth and our definition of success will begin to shift, becoming more progressive and less preventative in nature.