Our age of media. It’s turned many into voyeurs – eager to watch the train wrecks of others unfold in their full horror… sitting on the sidelines, like spectators at a gladiatorial contest. We’re relieved from our boring routine lives by the distraction of someone else’s drama on TV programs like Survivor, Big Brother, Housewives of…, and now The Oscars.
Host and comedian Chris Rock was daring people. His insulting, provoking banter was purposefully walking the high wire. The subjects of his barbs, most sitting right in front of him, were meant to just take it, go along with it. Until one didn’t. While the world watched in disbelief, actor Will Smith chuckled mildly, looked to one side, then got up, walked 20 paces, and hauled off and slapped Chris Rock across the face. Then he returned to his seat, mouthing off and dropping an F-bomb or two.
In that vivid moment, everyone knew. Well, incomprehension came first, for me. What had just happened there? Did I just see him do that? Here? At the Oscars ceremony? Then it dawned on me… this could change everything! What could this mean? It certainly wasn’t anything the Oscars wanted to have acted out. It couldn’t be a good thing for Will Smith. Chris Rock actually kept his composure, and cynically responded, “…sure makes for great television”. In this age, yes.
Then came the aftermath, the analysis, and the impacts. Now I’m not an entertainment world junkie, so I haven’t followed all of what came after, except for a few matters that hit my radar as a writer, and practitioner of Fixing Fractures.
A fracture had certainly taken place.
Will Smith will live forever with the consequences of his impulsive action, however well motivated by his protective urges. Like many.
When I speak about my Fixing Fractures book, it’s very seldom that people don’t get a bit wistful, then relate their own experience with a relationship fracture. Some have a small storehouse of them.
“I’ve been remote from my brother for six years. One day I’ll…”
“I wish I had had had this book a couple of years ago. I had to fire one of my closest friends, my EVP of operations…”
The aim of this book is not to analyze the aftermath of such fractures, or to enumerate the many ways these breaks arise, or to list all the ways they trouble those who carry the wounds. What I’m really interested in is releasing people from the prison of regret for the loss of a valued relationship.
My book is a handbook, not a conflict theory manifesto. It’s meant to be a “how-to” manual for doing something most have written off as even a possibility. To fix a fracture. Forever.
It takes courage to even face into the memory of what happened. Because from the moment you stir the ashes of memory, to the moment of full reconciliation, it’s a climb. Not up, but down. A descent from the heights of your citadel, that fortress of self-justification and rumination your ego has built around you, like a scab around the original wound.
Justification: This is why I acted as I did; this is why I’m right to be offended; this is how the other person was insensitive and wrong-headed.
Rumination: How could that have happened? What if I’d done this, or that, differently?
Since the fracture, direct and collateral damage has continued to mount up. Other people know, or can sense the break, and usually collude in affirming the perspective of the person they are close to… supporting them in avoidance of the other, upholding the justice of their umbrage, sometimes gossiping with others.
In our social media era, some people can be a bit loose in the lips. And, as with the Will Smith/Chris Rock incident, the wider the exposure, the more difficult the descent. People have opinions – for or against the actions of the players – which are universally unhelpful and serve to cement the alienation. Egos not only have to confront the other party, but also the implacable judgement of onlookers.
So, what happened after that fateful slap? The ultimate irony for Will Smith is that this low point was followed by the ultimate high – he won the Oscar for Best Actor. He had refused to leave the auditorium after the incident, and so was present to voice his contaminated speech, already full of justification and regret. Chris Rock did not press charges. Will Smith posted a lame apology on social media. And later, the Oscars Committee excluded him from attending the Oscars for years into the future.
This was an enormous moment for them. If they do nothing about it, the court of public opinion will pronounce a verdict. My guess is that Chris Rock will win the battle for now. He’s seen as the good guy. And I’d guess that Will Smith is at the beginning of a long downward slope. Will his career ever rise again?
What they could do…
Wouldn’t it be something if they met? Wouldn’t it be marvelous if they decided to put their egos aside and begin a process of restoring their shattered relationship, despite how difficult it might be for each of them to do that? What an act of courage and humility it would be to work this through.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful moment if they appeared together and made it clear to others that they had fully come to ground, climbed all the way down into the relationship muck, made admissions, given acknowledgements, and granted the forgiveness that would allow the matter to be completely put to rest?
What an example that would be to a cynical world… that fractures like this don’t have to roll to a tragic conclusion. Wouldn’t it be a superb, life-affirming, teaching moment about the potential for reconciliation? Such a move would be a magnificent push back in this media-saturated, cold-eyed, voyeuristic era. If only Will and Chris could discover Fixing Fractures: Restoring Shattered Relationships in Business and Life and put it into play.
Now, let’s turn to you. Do you have unhealed fractures that cause you torment? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you ended a personal cycle of regret and alienation, of backing away, of closing off? Wouldn’t it be something if you turned towards the other person in a broken relationship, and being prepared, made a move to approach and reconcile? To demonstrate to yourself, your counterpart, and all those watching, that people can get past regrettable times and live more fully than before? Wouldn’t it be lovely to enjoy the renewed warmth and regard of someone you really care about?
How do I know you care? Because it keeps coming up, it won’t leave your mind as you bounce against the walls of your prison. The prison for which you hold the keys…