I know the talk around the cyber-water cooler lately as swarmed around the Kanye West and Serena Williams debacles that occurred recently. They’ve been grilled, smashed and spoofed over the last few days but I’ve hung back. I wanted let the situations percolate for a few days because, as frustrated as I was that they occurred at all, I think they are the perfect teaching tool to help children and teens learn about courage and taking responsibility for their mistakes.
I hate when publicist’s send in luke-warm responses on behalf of their celebrity clients when they make big blunders. Something along the lines of “So and so regrets the incident took place and is apologetic for the hurt she caused to so and so and her family.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. But where’s your FACE? I want to SEE you say it! Nobody wants to get a measly note. Show me, don’t tell me, ya know? To me, letting your publicist go out and do your dirty work for you is NOT taking responsibility.
And these two, Kanye West and Serena Williams could have gone that route—but they didn’t. They owned up, got out there on national television, and told the world that the messed up. They apologized. Good for them. It wasn’t perfect but at least it was something– so it’s a lesson.
OK. I’ll admit it. I’m a softie. Please don’t let on that you know. But when Kanye West came out on Jay Leno on opening night and told the world how sorry he was for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs—and specifically, when Jay Leno asked how Kanye thought his mother would have felt about the choice he made- I shifted in my seat. I know, we all wanted to see him roasted on a spit for embarrassing “nice girl” Taylor Swift but, well, I felt bad for the guy. He looked as if he was about to cry. And I thought—more kids need to see this. More kids need to see that Kanye West in all his cool glory did something that made him extremely uncomfortable because it was the right thing to do. Yup folks, that’s courage. Because he didn’t have to do it. But he did.
Now I recognize that Kanye tried to put off taking full responsibility by blaming some of his poor behavior on the loss of his Mom and not taking any time off. But still, I was happy he at least got out there. He needed to do it—to mop up his own mess —despite he was being booed and berated for his behavior.
And Serena, well, you never want to hear that many *beeps* covering up what comes out of your own mouth.
Yes, it was deplorable. And she had trouble taking responsibility at first. That’s a lot like…many people in our lives, isn’t it?
“I just really wanted to apologize sincerely, because I’m a very prideful person and I’m a very intense person and a very emotional person. I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended.” – Serena Williams said at a post-match conference.
I know a “real” direct apology came a little late—36 hours after the on-court confrontation. It would have been better if it came immediately. This is an important aspect to teach to our kids too– be direct, do it as soon as possible, and be sincere. And it would have been better had she not made the mistake at all. But she did. And she owned up to it…finally.
Her amended statement:
“I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst,” the statement said. “I’m a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I’m wrong. I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it’s not the way to act — win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner.” –Serena Williams
So glad she said that last part. Celebrities and sports icons have to acknowledge their power in shaping youth. They are allowed to be human but they also must show character. If character is compromised, they must show character and deal with the issue with integrity and humility.
Everyone has lapses in their character– but it’s not all caught on camera for the world to dissect, rewatch, and analyze. Thank goodness. Could you imagine if the angry outbursts of your…Mom, Dad, or YOU were caught on tape? Oh my. You might be issuing an apology through your publicist.
It’s hard not to wonder if the fuss was so major because Serena is a woman. We used to all stand by and wait to see how McEnroe was going to erupt this time. It was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. But erupting like a crazed volcanic mountain is not a very girly thing to do in our society. So it was incredibly shocking. Yes folks, girls get angry too.
Of course, that does not negate that it was wrong. Parents and teachers need to use these moments to teach their kids and teens about appropriate ways to let off steam when they are angry.What should she have done instead? If you were her best friend, what would you have said to her after her outburst? By role playing and discussing the issue instead of simply pointing a judgmental finger, we all learn.
But again, the important part is that she owned up to it. Now, she must suffer the consequences that come when our actions are not thought through and our impulses lead us to betraying our character—respect, discipline, anger management, impulse control and other Powerful Words we must cover with children and teens. This isn’t the first time this has happened with a celebrity– and it won’t be the last.
Ask your children and teens; “when was a time that you did something you regretted and wished you could erase or re-do? When did you need to apologize for losing your cool? What do you think it the difference between a tepid apology and one that is meaningful and sincere? Listen to what your children have to say. No doubt they will have some interesting responses and gain some perspective from talking about the incident. Apologizing is difficult– but all children and teens must learn how to do it. They can’t have Mom and Dad do it for them– and they don’t have a publicist (most likely)– they must stand in front of the person– the teacher, the friend, the store manager, and show their face. Speak up. Take responsibility and show some courage. Children and teens need exercise their character and learn to keep their powerful words in their character toolkit at all times- even when they get angry.
And of course, it doesn’t hurt to remind adults about using our powerful words too—clearly, as you can see, we sometimes need it.