Remember the KONY2012 video? That’s right. We’re going way back to February for a moment. We can do it.
The video, produced by the non-profit organization Invisible Children, is about brutal Ugandan military leader Joseph Kony and the hateful acts that should and must be stopped. The video became an internet sensation and has been viewed more than 90 million times.
Then days after the posting of the video Jason Russell, the filmmaker and star of the film, was detained and hospitalized after being seen naked and making crude gestures on the streets of his neighborhood.
Everyone who is not a total asshole was saddened and confused by this news. Upon hearing this, the internet combusted with hypothesis for Jason’s actions. “Was it demonic possession? Was he high on cough syrup? Was it just a promotional stunt to get more people to watch his video?”
Everyone was asking “What was THAT about?”
“What was THAT about?” seems to be the sentiment of the day. It is what we say when a character’s actions do not seem appropriate for the scene. It is what we say when a best friend won’t return our phone calls. It is what we ask when someone cries while in line at the grocery store. It is what we say when a colleague storms out of a meeting discussion about where you are going to order lunch. It is what we ask when someone begins a hateful debate about diaper preference in a Facebook post. What was THAT about?
I believe that this question is about character.
A sign of budding maturity is the ability to notice our habits and compulsions in real time. Then proof of good character is the ability to notice these habits and change them when they do not align with our larger values or who we long to be.
This is difficult for two reasons. First, rarely do we allow ourselves the time or have the courage to reflect on what we are feeling. We say things like “It’s just how it is” or “I don’t know why I do that” or “I can’t control how I feel.” All of these things are cowardly excuses for our laziness.
Secondly and perhaps more difficult is the ability and commitment to trace our behaviors back to their source. I have written about this a number of times on this blog. We all have core stories, scenes, and characters that have impacted our lives. Some of us don’t know our biological fathers, were fired from our first job, or grew up in an emotionally abusive church. These things affect your present behavior. There is a reel of the past playing in your head and projecting onto the screen of today.
When someone asks you “What was THAT about?” you can be sure that the picture they are seeing is blurry. The greek word for this blurry image is hupokrinomai – which means to display inconsistencies. The world sees these displayed inconsistent images and are no longer sure which one is the real story.
And we all do it.
I believe that Jason Russell is a wonderful man. I believe that his work is beautiful and important. I also believe (perhaps ignorantly) that whatever happened that day could have been prevented. And I believe that we can work to clear up our inconsistent answering and avoid those “what was THAT about” moments.
More on that in the next post…