… lessons from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Beyonce and Halle Berry.
In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman in history to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because of her gender, her initial decision to pursue a career in law was widely expected to be fruitless. Throughout her journey from education, to employment she encountered many people who discriminated against her because of her gender.
“I became a lawyer when women were not wanted by the legal profession,” she says. “I did see myself as kind of a kindergarten teacher in those days because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.”
RBG, as she’s come to be known, considered part of her challenge, educational. She gave people the benefit of the doubt when she witnessed discrimination, considering that the offenders often weren’t really aware of their own prejudices. When she got angry, she channeled it into her work and refined sharp turns of phrase which would highlight the injustice she was battling.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has incredible grace, something which has served her throughout her career as a highly successful lawyer. A career which continues today.
Seen generally as a feminine quality, it can be difficult to consider acting with grace, without fear of becoming a pushover. But so much of acting with grace is about taking ownership of your responses and pride in your strength.
The first necessity to handle situations with grace, is to actually want to handle them with grace. Often our desire to communicate everything we feel, overrides that. When something happens to us, which feels unjust, or like a mistreatment, our egos feel wounded. We want to lash out and let that person or people know how we feel.
There are many issues with this though.
The first and most important is the damage it does to you. Generally when you let your anger loose, your heart and how you feel go down rather than up. Secondly you undermine yourself and become ineffective. When we see someone shout or panic, I can’t tell you why psychologically but we just shut down.
Someone acting with consideration is much more effective and more likely to have an impact.
“My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Five years ago after the Met Ball a video surfaced of Solange Knowles attacking her sister’s husband, Jay-Z. While no-one involved ever spoke openly about the incident, we can conclude through their comments that Jay was cheating on her sister.
Now, if someone was cheating on my sister I’d probably struggle to be in a confined space with them too, and it looked almost as though Solange was having to act on her sister’s behalf as Beyonce remained passive and silent. Though of course she wasn’t really being passive and silent. What she was doing was processing and communicating her response through her work. Writing an album, ‘Lemonade’, which not only broke sales records, but also communicated the reality of how she had felt through this period of time.
As the couple reunited and moved forward together, the album and her decisions had the intended impact on her husband.
“A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich” – Jay-Z
In his response album, 4:44, Jay-Z did acknowledge his role in the lift incident, and also highlighted another leading lady who had to deal with a situation with grace.
“You egged Solange on, knowin’ all along all you had to say you was wrong / You almost went Eric Benét, let the baddest girl in the world get away / I didn’t even know what else to say. Never go Eric Benét”
So who’s Eric Benét?
“We all know I cheated. It was out there. It’s a betrayal” – Eric Benet, 2005 (People Magazine)
The ex-husband of Oscar winner and serious bad-ass Halle Berry, thats who. Benet cheated on the actress who was his wife at the time. How did Halle Berry respond publicly? With grace:
“I have no further comment on this matter as I have moved on with my life. I do wish Eric well.” – Halle Berry
Had she really moved on with her life? I doubt it. It’s going to take anyone a fair amount of time to move on from being cheated on and a failed marriage, but that was for Halle to deal with herself.
Acting with grace is largely about focusing on what you want to happen next, rather than focusing on what has happened to you. It’s about taking ownership of yourself, your emotions, and your response to a situation.
Can you be angry and gracious? Of course. Acting with grace isn’t about not being angry. It’s about recognising that how you use that anger will have a greater impact on you than on anyone else.
So take whatever time and solitude you need. Use a journal, use friends, read books. Remember that we are all individuals in this world, full of insecurity and ego.
Don’t be bitter. Be better.