It’s old news at this point, but the incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the 94th Annual Academy Awards has stuck with me, and not only because of its inherent controversy. 

It was loaded with the kinds of ideas, questions, and complicated inspiration life story writers grapple with every time they sit down to write.

The aftermath of an event.

After the altercation at the awards ceremony, I read articles and posts on social media, and I talked about it with friends and loved ones. Everyone seemed to have an opinion, and not all of them were the same.

Public incidents like this one, when all of our eyes see the same thing, are prime examples of how many different interpretations can be formed from the same event. They are breeding grounds for a wide range of responses – judgments, blame, explanations, justifications, and opinions about what actions should be taken next.

And the variety of opinions that arise are also proof of a principle I teach in Journey to Legacy™ – we give meaning to events based upon our unique combination of human experiences. Something happens, we have an emotional reaction, we make up a story about it, and it becomes part of the lens through which we define ourselves and interpret the world.

You may experience the same thing someone else experiences – you can be at the same event, watch the same things unfold, be part of it all – yet your “takeaways” are going to be different.

When that kind of disconnect happens, that’s when we know we have an opportunity to examine our values and beliefs.

A time for personal reflection.

Question: What did the altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock bring up for you around your sense of right and wrong, your compassion, and your judgments?

What did you learn about yourself from your reaction?

More importantly, what stories of your own did it cause you to remember?

The incident caused me to think about these questions, which I offer for you to use as writing prompts:

  • Has there been a time when you lost your cool and later regretted it?
  • Has there been a time when you said something in jest and experienced consequences?
  • Was there a time when you came to someone else’s defense, or someone stood up for you?

As you reflect and write about these events from your past, I invite you to notice how you’re treating yourself when you think about them. Are you beating yourself up, or are you able to have compassion and appreciation for yourself (and others) in your stories? Hopefully, you’re able to do the latter.

Learning from our stories.

You’re no longer the same person you were in those stories, just like Chris Rock and Will Smith are no longer the same people they were prior to that night at the Academy Awards.  

Incidents like that night combined with your own personal stories are teaching moments – we can learn more about ourselves; and, if there are young children in your life, you may take the opportunity to share with them not only what is important to you but how you learned or developed that sense of importance.

“Recalling the events that shaped our characters and values, we give to those who follow us a blueprint for their own maturation.”

– Julia Cameron

For myself, at first I felt outraged at Will Smith and outraged that he was allowed to remain at the event and even accept an award. But then, because of my own life story writing experiences – and in particular reflecting on the tough early life my father endured – I remembered that Will Smith is more than just that one hideous moment. Which isn’t to say I think what he did should go without consequences. I simply realized how my own life story writing endeavors had given me a greater sense of compassion and insight into how our pasts affect our future personalities and actions.

If you’re feeling called to write down some of your stories but don’t know how or where to begin, check out my Write Your Authentic Story starter kit and get your free copy.