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Forgiveness, Contrition and Tiger

Adultery is one of the hardest sins to forgive, and yet it occurs with disturbing regularity leaving in its wake anger and bitterness.

Certainly in Tiger Woods' case he has wronged a great number of people, foremost being his wife, Elin Nordegren.

But then there are also the sponsors, who banked on Tiger's pristine image. There is the general public who bought into that image, and may even have felt a vicarious pride in it.

Lastly of course, are the women who got involved with Tiger and were the duped into believing it was true love.

One expert says it's hard to see how Tiger's brief mea culpa in front of a group of handpicked journalists will address all offended parties , "but at least it's a start," says Dr. Fred Luskin, of the Stanford Forgiveness Project. He says a five minute speech "doesn't fit the research criteria for a sincere apology."

He says there are five things a person must admit to for true contrition, they must acknowledge that... "I clearly erred, that I'm sorry for what I did , I accept my behavior, ask, "What can I do to make it up?", and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."

But there's a vast difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, says Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and author of "When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense."
"Forgiveness has no strings attached, but reconciliation has many strings," he says.

"Forgiveness is what we do for ourselves." It unburdens us from the bitterness that brings us down and keeps us captive, and may even affect our health.

Jeffress says "unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die." It harms you more than the person who did you wrong.

And most importantly says Jeffress, from a Christian perspective, forgiveness doesn't require that the person ask to be forgiven. "Those who've been forgiven much, must always forgive."

But reconciliation, on the other hand, is a great deal more work, says Jeffress. "There has to be repentance, rebuilding of trust, rehabilitation and restitution if necessary," for the relationship to be repaired.

This takes time. From a Biblical perspective Elin has every right to walk away and divorce her husband, but not an obligation. The marriage could ultimately emerge stronger because underlying issues can be brought to the surface and dealt with.

And in that area Tiger "can make a very important contribution," says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of "The Blessing of Enough."

He can reveal "how broken these champions are."

"So many of these champions (athletes) aren't allowed to be human. "Tiger has a putter put in his hands at 3 and was told unless you win you are nobody."

These great athletes, Boteach says, "know they are one loss away from obscurity. That's why so many of them are prone to infidelity." They need to be reassured that they are great and admired. He says if "Tiger would open up about this it would really help."

And what would also help, says Jeffress, is if spectators would be very careful not judge Tiger's sincerity.

When it comes to adultery, all of us need to guard against self-righteousness. "God is willing to forgive and forget." Unfortunately says Jeffress, "people have longer memories than God."

Lauren Green is religion correspondent for Fox News.

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Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996.