Tiger Wood’s mother, Kultida, is a native of our beloved Thailand. This makes Woods himself half Asian. Some people may already know this fact, but what they may not understand is how this ancestry affects his recent public apology and confession.
Thailand, as with many Asian nations, is a shame based society.
This is in contrast to other cultures which may be “guilt or sin based.” Being shamed or bringing shame upon one’s family is the cardinal “sin” of this worldview. Many would argue that there is nothing worse. Having multiple affairs is wrong in the eyes of most cultures, but in Asia the reproach brought upon one’s family through public exposure is even worse. This is especially true when a person holds themselves, or is seen to have held themselves, to a higher standard yet has fallen short of it.
So in a shame based culture, “being honorable” is more important than “being right or wrong.” Theoretically one can do wrong things, but still keep up a good “face” and everything stays smooth. But once a person “loses face” and causes family to “lose face”, he has committed the highest “sin”, if you will.
In the West, our transgressions are individual problems, between us and God or between us, God, and our family. But in Asian cultures, if we are regarded as a role model and we fall short, we bring shame upon our family, our culture or religion, and even our nation.
I my opinion, these are the main reasons Tiger made the recent statement on his Buddhist faith with his stern faced, but loving, mother looking on. It was an effort to rescue the face that she lost because she “raised him better than this” and he “went away from the way he was brought up.” I didn’t sense the conviction in his voice over what he said, but more of the desire to help lessen the amount of shame he brought to them.
In the shame based cultures of Asia, it may be safe to say that real actions and behaviors don’t matter as much, but rather what OTHERS BELIEVE about the offender, his family, or the way he was raised. This is the most important thing.