“Vulnerability is at the core, the center, of meaningful experiences.” ~Brene Brown
People fascinate me. I love to learn what makes them tick. That is probably why a ministry as a family and relationship therapist called to me. It also accounts for my love of reading memoirs, watching biographical movies, and listening to in-depth interviews, especially inspirational ones. I enjoyed and was inspired at points with Dave Letterman’s interviews with Barack Obama, George Clooney, and Malala Yousafzai on his new Netflix show, “My Guest Needs No Introduction.” But I wasn’t so sure about his fourth interview with Jay Z.
I wondered how in depth funny man, Letterman, would be with Jay Z. I am of a generation prior to hard rock, rap, and hip hop. I simply don’t grok these styles. Skeptical about giving over an hour of my time to a musician whose music doesn’t appeal to me and often contains words that offend me, my curiosity overrode my skepticism as I tuned in.
And was I in for a surprise!
As I listened to the interview, not only was I inspired, I gained respect and admiration for both these men. They sat across from each other doing what men are not known for doing … being vulnerable and authentic … admitting to grave mistakes they made that caused a lot of pain to people they love … in front of an audience no less. Wow!
“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” ~Brene Brown
Dave got the ball rolling by saying they had something in common that he wanted to talk with Jay Z about and that he had to be careful about how he broached the subject. He went on at length taking full responsibility for getting himself in trouble with behavior he should not have been engaging in and which he regretted. It was obvious, he was referring to his infidelity, though he didn’t use the word.
He said, “At the time, the pain that I caused myself was the fear that I had blown up my family. I never talked to a person who had been in that situation.” Then he asked Jay Z, “I’m wondering if this rings a bell with you?”
Of course, it did.
What impressed me was the awareness these two men held about the pain they had caused their wives. To me, they demonstrated the depth of their love for their wives by their willingness to engage in therapy. Letterman called therapy the scariest experience of his life. He was quick to point out that he didn’t deserve any accolades for doing that, implying that the pain he caused his wife was much greater.
Jay Z mostly nodded as though validating Dave’s feelings and relating to his experience. Then he jumped into the conversation, pointing out that with the divorce rate so high, it looks as though there is no hope. He wanted a different path. He wanted to stick with his marriage and do the work needed to get on the other side. He hoped that doing that would be a source of hope for others who have “lost their way.”
Both men stated that they continue to do the hard work involved in being in therapy. Jay Z admitted that as a young man he learned to read situations to ascertain the level of safety. These were survival tools. But he lacked the tools to properly show his emotions to his wife. He didn’t learn emotional ques growing up. Instead, he learned what many men are taught, “Be a man. Don’t cry.”
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” ~Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly
Both men are in a better place today. Jay Z is even proud of the husband and father he has become. Dave is grateful that his behavior didn’t result in the loss of his marriage and family.
In our current environment, I find it alarming how many high-powered men blatantly demonstrate a lack of respect for their wives and women in general. In contrast, these two offer an alternative path … making clear that they are the ones who were wrong … being willing to dig deep to understand their motivations so as not to repeat the behavior that violated their marriage vows … modeling that it is possible to emerge stronger when fears are faced … being a source of hope to others with their changed attitudes and behavior.