“We judge ourselves by our best intentions, our most noble acts, our most virtuous habits. But we are judged by out last worst act.” — Michael Josephson
Actor Will Smith’s actions at last Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony was precedent setting inexcusable.
Reacting to a joke by comedian Chris Rock about Smith’s wife, Smith stepped on stage and slapped the comedian. Then, in a final shameless act, shouted an expletive at Rock. In standing up for his wife, Smith’s justification is among the oldest in the rationalization playbook: the end justifies the means. In protecting his wife from a perceived abuse, he believed his actions were necessary.
Even though Smith offered a tearful apology in his acceptance speech after winning a Best Actor Oscar, it was only a beginning. While the academy is meeting to discuss the consequences of his actions, Smith needs to do much more beginning with his three children.
Children listen and observe everything a parent does . . . everything. And they have an innate capacity for seeing the truth.
Unless he has already had a conversation, I would counsel Smith to have a private moment, sit and talk to them. Describe what happened. Tell them what you were feeling and why you acted. Then explain to them why you were wrong.
Be honest. Be sincere. Be humble. Ask their advice on how you should apologize to others and listen to them.
“My words and actions have hurt many people,” Smith could start, “but they have hurt you most.
“While I have spoken to you about the importance of respect, I was disrespectful. I’ve spoken to you about responsibility, and I have been irresponsible.
“I not only broke the rules of the academy, but I have broken the rules that I have tried to teach you. I embarrassed many people who have trusted and believed in me, but most of all, I have broken your trust in me.
“My words and actions were inexcusably wrong. This is not the person I wish to be. And I hope that you learn from my mistake and why it is so important to live your life by a standard of conduct that is an example to others.
“I will work hard to regain your trust. I will work harder at being the example you expect of me.
“We all need to be responsible for the consequences of our actions, and whatever consequences I face, I will humbly accept.
“This is not only what I must do for myself but for you.”