Christy Herselman ponders over what Will Smith taught us about boundaries, and the lack thereof.
“Love makes you do crazy things.” This was the justification given by Will Smith at the recent Academy Awards after storming onstage to hit Chris Rock for making a joke at his wife’s expense. Will’s actions have been widely condemned for many reasons, and as I watched the spectacle unfold, what struck me was his complete lack of boundaries.
Boundaries can be defined as the invisible line where I end and the world around me begins. They affect both my incoming and outgoing interactions. Without them, my identity and behaviour is dictated by what others think and do. Developing healthy boundaries not only creates a sense of autonomy, but also brings clarity to relationships.
So what can we learn from Will’s “love made me do it” moment?
There should be a boundary between what happens to me and my response. Will was offended; lost control and reacted. Healthy boundaries help us respond appropriately to situations. Our children are often slaves to whim and emotion. Modelling self-controlled responses to tough situations teaches our children that our lives should be governed by discipline, respect and mindfulness.
What Will should have done after his Oscar outburst was to own it. Instead of blaming his violence on “love” he should have taken responsibility. It is important that our children learn that they alone control their thoughts, emotions and choices. One way to model this is to apologise when we make mistakes. There is something so humbling about asking your five-year-old to forgive you for an angry outburst, and by doing so you show her what it means to take ownership of our choices and actions.
When Will flew off the handle, he violated his relational boundaries with both Jada and Chris. He decided Jada needed to be rescued and that Chris needed to be taught a lesson. Chris, too, crossed the line when he made a very personal joke at the expense of woman grappling with hair loss in a world obsessed with appearance. In reality, neither man had the right to do these things. Respecting the boundaries and autonomy of others is key to healthy relationships.
We will not always get this right, and let’s count our lucky stars that we don’t have to make our mistakes in front of billions of TV viewers. But let’s use this teachable moment to help our children understand that maintaining and respecting boundaries is key to healthy autonomy and relationships. Not only do boundaries help us retain our own identity, but also foster mutual respect and trust with others.
The Chat is a culture-shaping movement that exists to start conversations and impart accurate information around issues like sex, identity, social media and pornography. We believe that if these issues are left unaddressed they threaten to derail a generation.
The Chat was founded and is led by Christy Herselman and is overseen by The Table Church in Umdloti. Christy has a background in journalism and teaching. She has written two books and currently divides her time between researching, writing, speaking and being a wife and mom. She lives in Umdloti with her husband Brad and her children Emily, Ryan and Blake.
Please contact Christy on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.thechat.co.za for more info.