Chris Brown is now back in court after prosecutors claim he falsified his community service documentation. Service work was a requirement of his probation after Brown pled guilty to felony assault on his singer-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Now reconciled, Rihanna, 24, attended the hearing, blowing kisses to Brown, 23, from across the courtroom. They also attended the Grammys together. Her support could easily be seen as an attempt to sway the court from forcing Brown to repeat his probation. Meanwhile, Frank Ocean dropped his assault case against Brown this week without filing any charges after the singer and his entourage allegedly jumped Ocean over a dispute about a parking space. The very people who accused Brown of assault are those who now want to expunge all culpability for his actions.
With a long history of violent outbursts, it seems Brown hasn't conquered his rage since 2009. He deleted his Twitter account for the second time in November, after a feud erupted with comedian Jenny Johnson who claimed he hasn't shown the least bit remorse for his crime. Brown did graduate court-ordered anger management courses, which isn't unbelievable as he is not an unintelligent young man. The challenge is getting Chris out of his head, into his heart and body so that he can fully understand the personality of rage and the punitive price he is paying for allowing it to abide in his life. When asked about the incident on Good Morning America in 2011, Brown became agitated and apparently caused such a commotion backstage after the interview that security was called. He then tweeted something about the media dragging up the past. But it's Brown's inability to fully face the past, to stare it down and conquer it, to take responsibility for his actions, and reform his explosive reactions that keep putting Brown in the hot seat. There is a blueprint underneath the behavior. Chris simply keeps re-directing the rage and anger. Reviewing his responses, there is a telling sense of disrespect and disregard that is driving how he is showing up in his own life. Undoubtedly, he has proven that he can mount a career comeback and conquer the world stage with chart-topping hits; however, the real demonstration of showmanship is his ability to conquer the anger and rage that threatens to upend the very life he dreamed of living.
Our culture supports and permits celebrities to shirk responsibility for their actions. Famous people often don't hold themselves to probationary arrangements, i.e. Lindsay Lohan crashing her car while under house arrest. "With fame and fortune comes a sense of invulnerability, which can seriously interfere with the motivation necessary to change an entrenched behavior pattern," Dr. Harold Koenig, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, told ABC News after Brown's Good Morning America spat.
Learning to manage anger includes: 1. Stepping back from the situation to think, not immediately jumping to reaction. 2. Waiting to express your feelings until your heart rate, breathing, and thoughts stop racing. 3. Use your energy to think about solutions, not on blowing up. 4. Don't add a value judgment to your anger. Anger doesn't make you wrong or bad. Everyone feels anger, but not everyone has the courage to try to change it. 5. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, recognize that anger is just a sensation that is under your control. You cannot be made to feel anything you don't want to feel.
Steps to breaking free from your temper are doable and possible. The hard part is actually taking those steps. If there is nothing at stake to drive the change in behavior, it's a lot easier to do nothing at all. In fact some celebs embrace the change from famous to infamous. That too is a choice. However, for those, like Chris, who clearly cares how he is perceived, it is our public responsibility to hold them accountable to actualize change. It signifies that we believe in them and are not just interested in berating them.
As a culture, we must--
• Demand that celebs play by the rules. Their lives are filled with plenty of other exceptions, access, and luxury. Usually their jail time and sentences are very light, a slap on the wrist, and yet they can't seem to fulfill even the least inconvenient probationary responsibilities. Permitting them to break the law perpetuates the brokenness.
• Revoke the get out of jail free card. This is life, not a board game. High-profile celebrities have a huge impact on culture. With the privilege of a platform, comes responsibility. That's the price you pay. It is the price of admission for acclaim. Period. Celebrities set an example for impressionable youth. If they can't take that level of influence seriously, then maybe their actions are saying that not only do they not deserve the platform, but also that they actually do not want it either. Maybe we should oblige the revelation of their actions.
• Don't forget. No matter how many other celebrities step out to defend their actions, don't let that wipe clean the slate. We all have to pay for the crimes and mistakes we commit. The rest of the world has to live by the adage, "Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time." It's time everyone in our community did. Our society is built or broken by it.