Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Photos from World Music Awards
The biggest story that came out during the 94th Oscar awards is not the winning of CODA as the first movie from a major streaming service to win the coveted trophy for best picture. But the incident where Best Actor winner Will Smith – who won for his performance as the hard-driving father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard – slapped comedian Chris Rock in front of a live audience.
Smith did the “crazy thing” after Rock made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, being in a sequel to G.I. Jane, a reference to her close-cropped haircut. (The original film starred Demi Moore, who went bald when doing the movie.) Pinkett lost her hair due to alopecia.
The day after the incident, Smith wrote an apology. “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable… I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
The incident came to mind while reading a chapter of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, which was on the number-one New York Times bestseller.
“Whenever you are in business – or when you are taking risks, making things happen, interacting with others, or in the public eye – you are bound to make mistakes,” wrote Dr. Richard Carlson, the book’s author.
“At times, you are going to use bad judgment, say something wrong, offend someone, criticize unnecessarily, be too demanding, or act selfishly,” he continued. “The question isn’t whether you will make these mistakes – we all do. The question is: Can you admit to them? If so, the question becomes: Can you apologize?”
Before answering that inquiry, listen to the words of Sandeep N. Tripathi: “Ego said, ‘I will not apologize for who I am’. Experience replied, ‘Unless your self-realization comes to light, your apology is worthless. And, when your self-realization does come to light, which it will, your apology will be of little or no value at all.’”
People who never ask for an apology are described as liars. In The Bimbo Has Brains: And Other Freaky Facts, Cathy Burnham Martin wrote: “Liars are highly unlikely to admit their lies, never mind apologize for the hurt they’ve caused. Liars don’t genuinely apologize.
“Deceit has become their full-out lifestyle,” Martin further wrote. “They are centered on themselves with no thoughts of the consequences of their lies. In cowardly style, they tell more lies to try and cover their tracks. They are not good at admitting they actually have shortcomings.”
That’s what makes asking for an apology hard as Dr. Carlson pointed out, “Many people never apologize. They are either too self-conscious, self-righteous, stubborn, or arrogant to do so. The unwillingness to apologize is not just sad, it is a grave mistake as well.
“Almost everyone expects others to make mistakes. And with a humble and sincere apology, almost everyone is willing to forgive. However, if you are a person who is either unable or unwilling to apologize, you will be branded a difficult person to work with,” he further elaborated.
And there’s a big hitch if you keep on not apologizing for the behavior or actions you have done: “Over time,” Dr. Carlson said, “people will avoid you, speak behind your back, and do nothing to help you.”
“I am sorry.” That may only be three words but saying it to the person you have done something wrong is for sure a herculean task. “‘Sorry’ is, indeed, one of the most difficult and most powerful words in the English language, provided one can feel and say it at the same time,” wrote Uday Mukeriji in Love, Life, and Logic. “It’s difficult because you sincerely need to feel the pain of the other person and rise above your ego and say it; it’s powerful because you overwhelm the other with the opposite reaction of what they were expecting.”
Martin, who was mentioned earlier, said that by saying apologies, you are actually admitting your mistakes. “Apologies require taking full responsibility,” she explained. “No half-truths, no partial admission, no rationalization, no finger pointing, and no justifications belong in any apology.”
Beverly Engel seemed to agree. “A meaningful apology,” she wrote in The Power of Apology: Healing Steps to Transform All Your Relationships, “is one that communicates three R’s: regret, responsibility and remedy.”
Don’t wait for tomorrow to ask for an apology. “The longer you hold onto an apology,” David Arnold reminded, “the harder it is to give.” For as Dr. Carlson said, “The ability to apologize, to admit mistakes, is a beautiful human quality that brings people closer together and helps us succeed.”
But never use an apology to manipulate others, as some people do. “Stiff apology is a second insult,” Gilbert K. Chesterton once said. “The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”
Dr. Carlson said it this way: “You must never apologize as a tool of manipulation, to try to get a response like this or to get something out of it. When you apologize from your heart, you keep most of your existing doors open. Occasionally, you may even open doors that had previously been closed.”
Forgive and forget – this should be the attitude of those who have been given an apology. Again, Martin reminded: “If there were past mistakes, I do not believe we should nag or repeat them, never mind throw them in someone’s face. If they sincerely apologized and we genuinely forgave them, we must move on. Learn from mistakes, but move on. If we bring them up and toss them at the offender, we may not have actually forgiven them, even if we claim we have.”
After all, forgiveness, to quote the words of Isaac Friedmann, “is the sweetest revenge.”