Serena Williams berates a line judge for a bad call, saying, “I’m going to shove this ball down your f—— throat” (among other things). Kanye West jumps on stage and grabs the microphone out of Taylor Swift’s hands, claiming the award should’ve gone to Beyonce. Congressman Joe Wilson breaches congressional protocol by shouting, “You lie,” directly to President Obama on the floor of the House of Representatives. President Obama calls Kanye West a jackass because of his obnoxious behavior at the VMA awards. What is going on? Since when is it okay to do, say or act any way we want because we don’t like a situation, person or behavior?
What is prevalent in the media is rampant in relationships. Our culture seems to be sending a loud and dangerous message that retaliation is okay. It’s as though the mean, obnoxious, unfair behaviors of others are a green light for our own. What happened to civility, grace, respect and self-control?
Serena was abusive, threatening and toxic to every person in that stadium that day. She totally lost it. At one point she started to walk back to the service line, changed her mind…and went back to continue her rant. The justification for this rant (in her eyes) was a bad call at the US Open. While I understand that is terribly frustrating and can affect the match, threatening a line judge because of a perceived bad call is not justified—it’s offensive.
When asked if she was going to apologize, she responsed, “An apology for…? From me? How many people yell at lines people? Players, athletes get frustrated. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that happen. I haven’t really thought about it to have any regrets. I was out there and I fought and I tried and I did my best.” I must say she is absolutely right about one thing—athletes do get frustrated and many of them behave exactly as she did. That, however, is nothing to be proud of, nor does it make it okay.
The U.S. Congress has a 230-year-old set of rules for civil disagreement in its chambers that forbids interruptions and direct confrontations with speakers. These rules aren’t radical. They’re about basic respect. Congressman Wilson’s decision to not practice self-control was disrespectful—to President Obama and our country. As he’s calling our President a liar, our children are watching
Kanye West apparently felt that because the world didn’t agree with his assessment of who should win the VMA award, he had the right to jump on stage and pull the mic out of Taylor’s hand. He acted as if his beliefs were the only ones that were important. Did he not think the people who voted had a right to a different opinion? In his effort to stand up for Beyonce, he appalled her. Beyonce was then left to clean up his mess. With class and compassion, she invited Taylor Swift to come on stage and finish her speech.
In response to that incident, President Obama is heard calling Kanye West “a jackass” in a conversation that he thought was off the record. Although the President shouldn’t have said what he said—either on or off the record—what’s really off is the response from the media and our culture. Many – if not most — of us have probably said something similar or worse in our lifetimes. We’re all human so mistakes are a part of life. What’s not okay, though, is then justifying our actions. Various radio stations, blogs and newspapers are saying that what the President said is justified because it’s true that Kanye is a jackass. They’re backing President Obama’s remark because of Kanye’s actions.
Since when is it okay to call someone a derogatory name because of their actions? I’m constantly telling couples they don’t have the right to yell and swear at each other—period. This is true no matter what behavior they are responding to. Why? Because swearing, name calling or yelling is disrespectful. It’s that simple. Were Kanye’s actions obnoxious? Yes. Does that give everyone the right to bash him? No. Integrity is about doing the right thing even when no one is watching. If he chooses to act selfishly, that is his decision. He will have to deal with the consequences for that decision. Looking down your nose at him and talking about him with disgust and contempt is no more okay than what he did. We don’t need society condoning either behavior. We also don’t need society condemning the humans who made the mistakes. Allow the consequences to happen and don’t justify hurtful behaviors—yours or others.
CHALLENGE: Watch how you give yourself permission to act hurtfully because of the hurtful actions of others. Be committed to stop doing and/or justifying poor behaviors—yours or others. Pay attention to how you speak about other people’s mistakes. Take the contempt out of your voice and show grace and humility towards others.