Learning from Steve Harvey: A model for our children

Poor Steve Harvey. Last Sunday night, while hosting the Miss Universe contest, he mistakenly announced the wrong winner, crowning Miss Colombia Miss Universe when he should have had called for the tiara to be placed on Miss Philippines.

Harvey learned of his mistake, sheepishly walked back on stage and said he had to apologize. He went on to take full and complete responsibility for the incident. He did not blame the teleprompter, the strange verbiage on the card in his hand or some underling producer. He put it all on his shoulders, even if it did not squarely belong there.

Who is old enough to read these words and has not made a mistake? Who does not have a moment or two or three hundred that play over and over on the theater in our mind’s eye, where we are riddled with regret, misstep, error or blunder? Who does not wish for a magical remote control that would enable us to hit pause, rewind and re-do. Life transpires in real time and mistakes happen. All the time. For all of us. No one is immune to it. Not even The Donald or Steve Harvey.

How we handle mistakes defines our character more than the mistake itself. To prove that true, look at the spectrum of reactions to Harvey’s bungled moment. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were inundated with jokes and jabs pointed at the TV host and comedian. News anchors cringed when re-telling the story, as if they had never made a mistake and are insusceptible to misspeaking on camera. Even celebrities chimed in with trending hashtags to poke fun at another in their ranks.

This is all another sad example of a technology that works at a faster pace than our morality. Remember Tyler Clementi, the closeted gay freshman that was outed by a remote video camera operated by Dharun Ravi, his roommate of only a few days? Clementi was shamed and embarrassed to the point where he jumped from the George Washington Bridge. He hoped his new life in heaven would afford him a slate without viral judgments, courtesy of the Internet. He had hoped that his coming out would occur on his terms, not others’. It didn’t. That invasion and rape of his privacy and abuse of ethics led to his death.

What is crazy is that Ravi knew well how to operate a video camera remotely from his computer, but he did not know the moral code regarding another person’s privacy and proper boundaries. This is just another example proving technology moves faster than morality.

I am steering my kids away from the social media’s response to Harvey. As a whole, it is devoid of the values I want to model and celebrate. Overall, it is cheap and unfair. I think you should steer away from it too.

What parent does not want their kids to own up to mistakes? Who does not want their kids to take responsibility? To apologize for trouble they have caused or an mistake made, especially unintentional mistakes? Harvey did everything that we teach our kids to do. He does what any responsible person — whether leading a country or hosting a game show — should do. Does it really deserve to be the target of the malicious and viral social media world when instead it could be an equally contagious clinic of how to handle a slip-up? Shouldn’t we be praising him instead of scolding him? Couldn’t Harvey be our poster boy for integrity instead of being the target of callous one-liners and wisecracks?

The Talmud and all of rabbinic literature are thick with samples to distinguish between acts that are be-shgaga versus be-mayzeed — unintentional versus intentional acts. The person that eats non-kosher meat thinking it is kosher, the person that profanes Shabbat not knowing the candles were kindled, the person that eats on Yom Kippur forgetting that it was the holiday are categorically different than the person who does any of these acts intentionally or without heed to law, rule or fear of God. This underscores the notion that our tradition is as accepting of mistakes as it is with rainfall: they both happen often and, many times, beyond our control. How we respond to such mistakes is what matters.

When choosing a path for my kids to follow, I’d much rather take a page from our Talmud or Steve Harvey’s book of life than follow any of these quick-draw and mean-spirited cynics, cowardly hiding in the world of social media. Harvey’s book, like our tradition, is rich with real experiences, honest characters, and responsible moments. That is the standard I want my children to be inspired by. If not, I tremble for the world they will inherit.

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