• Jasmyn Elliott

Anatomy of an Apology

Just a few short months ago, I wrote my thoughts on the slap heard around the world. Today, there is more to the story.


This morning, Will Smith posted a nearly six-minute long video on his YouTube and Instagram feed where he apologized for that fateful night and answered some of our most burning questions. He takes the time to apologize to all parties involved and somewhat delves into how his ongoing inner trauma fueled his actions. He appears to be sincere… and exhausted. What I see is a man who has indeed done a lot of inner work, and still has far more to do.


Will made it a point to take full responsibility. Contrary to the popular belief that his wife Jada-Pinkett Smith encouraged his outburst, Will clarified that his choice to slap Chris Rock was his and his alone. In a culture where women are consistently blamed for the foibles of their spouses, it was surprisingly refreshing that he manned up and didn’t throw her under the bus.


He also informed us that he has reached out to Chris Rock and that the latter party is not yet ready. He leaves the door open for that discussion to happen on Chris’ terms apologized to his family, recognizing that his friendships with him and his brother Tony are likely “irreparable.” Unfortunately, forgiveness from the party we hurt is never guaranteed, and this we deal with that consequence accordingly.


Out of everything he said, there are two statements that stood out to me. One is where he states that he says, and I quote: “Disappointing people is my central trauma.” When he said this, I related all too well. There have been too many times to count that I myself have compromised my own values in order to stay in the good graces of others, or have felt the sting of letting someone down when I messed up or didn’t follow through. I’m sure all of us have. Even so, I appreciate the fact that he recognized his pattern without using it as a justification for his actions.


Another statement he made is “I am deeply remorseful, and I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself.” On the surface this seems like a backhanded statement. Logic would state that he should be ashamed of himself. However, if Will (or any of us) were to constantly carry the shame of past mistakes with us in perpetuity, there would be no room for healing. Shame and growth cannot coexist. It is only by learning to forgive ourselves that we can truly learn the lessons from our mistakes and apply them to making better choices.


As I said before, the only difference between Will and our own worst moments is the presence of absence of a rolling camera. Like him, we have all made terrible decisions spurred by a lack of forethought and the replaying of unhealed trauma. May all of us continue to do our work so that going forward we can own up to our mistakes, seek forgiveness from within and from those we hurt, and make better choices.

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