King George III was a hot mess after the American Colonies successfully rebelled against the Crown and won their independence. (God Bless America!) He was constantly haunted by this loss and became obsessed with England’s declining influence around the world. By 1788, King George’s agitation and eccentric behavior took a more dramatic turn toward mental instability.
Brilliantly depicted by Nigel Hawthorne in the 1994 movie “The Madness of King George”, we plainly see the king’s private and public collapse toward insanity. His behavior was, at times, unseemly and embarrassing. He had lost all control and was is in danger of being ousted from the throne by his rivals.
But just as quickly as the madness descended, it vanished into the night. Suddenly the king was back to his old cantankerous self. His loyal servants and close family were thrilled to see their king back in control. It was only a rough patch. And they had survived the ordeal together.
But instead of acknowledging his issues and rewarding those who helped him, King George banished anyone who had witnessed his embarrassing actions. Cooks, servants, priests, some loyal family members, all were either locked away or shipped out of the country. He could not stand the thought of anyone seeing him in such an “un-kingly” state. So he shut those people off from his world and refused to discuss his own damaging behavior.
It was not King George’s “fault” that he became unhinged. His inner circle did not judge him and only wanted him to get better. But his own pride would not allow him to embrace his difficult moment and relish those who loved him unconditionally.
We can’t afford to make the same mistake!
Let’s Embrace Our Humanity
At some point, we will all face embarrassing situations. We stumble in a presentation and the client calls us out in front of our peers. We mishandle a document and the boss makes a public example of us. We speak up in the company meeting but fumble our point and face ridicule. We make a wrong call in a game or a poor lesson in the classroom and the community lets us know about it.
The slow burn of perceived judgement can take a toll. Our embarrassment over of our mistakes can paralyze even the most balanced person. Our natural instinct is to withdraw. Put up a wall between us and our peers. Bury our heads in front of management. Run away from the people who have witnessed our most humiliating moments.
But that is true madness!
Why not embrace our humanity? Admit it was not our finest moment. Disarm the situation with some self-depreciating humor. Acknowledge our shortcomings and vow to improve in the future. Withdrawing from our peers only gives credence to our mistakes. Everyone has taken their turn in the negative spotlight. People will understand more than we think. Isolation is not the answer. We can’t cut off our co-workers and expect to positively impact the culture.
We Can’t Be Resilient on Our Own
The same is true in our personal lives. Perhaps we had too much to drink and created a spectacle. Perhaps we reacted in anger and uttered hurtful words we did not mean. Perhaps we had a subpar game and let our teammates down. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen. Resiliency withers when we withdraw into our shell. We can’t isolate the very people who give us strength and support!
Acknowledging our mistakes builds trust. But more importantly, it allows us to be vulnerable. If we are sincere, do we really think our friends will think less of us? Do we really think our family won’t forgive us? Do we really think our teammates won’t rally behind us?
In fact, these blips and weaknesses can help strengthen our bonds. Our inner circle does not judge. At some point, we will disappoint our close friends and family. But we have to remember that they will love us unconditionally. If we are contrite, they will not hold a grudge. They will not strike back against us. They just want us to get back to our old, fun-loving selves again.
Don’t Be a King George
If we have never had a humiliating public experience, we probably haven’t been trying hard enough. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as King George, but we have all gone off the rails at some point. We have all made minor or monumental mistakes that we wish we could erase.
But there is no going back. It’s out there. And we can’t un-ring the bell.
So let’s do the opposite of King George. Let’s acknowledge our mistake or eccentric behavior. Let’s embrace our inner circle of family and friends when we stumble. Let’s vow to be better while recognizing that we are human. No one is above embarrassment or ridicule. The pedestal is a lonely place to perch.
King George experienced a brief descent into madness. That’s cool. Who hasn’t? But the only true madness is burying our shame and turning our backs on those who love us the most.
Until next week, keep smiling!