Louis C.K. made his first public appearance since his sexual misconduct allegations last year. I wanted to write about this because I wanted to engage with our audience in how this makes them feel? I can’t decide how I feel about it. To back up a bit – C.K. exposed himself to women in an inappropriate way. In a statement released after the allegations were made public, C.K. states “I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions.” This is both an admission of guilt, as well as a suggestion that he now knows what he did was wrong and wants to at least make amends.
I’ve been grappling with some past decisions that I’ve made in my life. Certainly not related to sexual misconduct, but it has lead me down a path to understanding my shame and guilt for past decisions. Regardless of the action, we have all been presented with the feeling of shame. “I shouldn’t have eaten that cheesecake, because I’m on a diet”. But the driving factor to change isn’t feeling ashamed, it’s actually guilt. Do you feel guilty for eating that cheesecake even though you’re on a diet? The reason to differentiate the two is that guilt shows remorse. It means you understand that you’ve done something wrong. It also implies that you will take that feeling and turn it into something to make amends. Or to make the situation right.
While I am not suggesting that what Louis C.K. did is comparable to eating cheesecake when you’re on a diet. I am highlighting the fact that both have the ability to trigger feelings of shame and guilt in us. How we decide to react to those is what defines our character. C.K. did some bad things, but does that make him a bad person? Again, I think the answer is in how he chooses to continue on his life. If he denies the allegations and refuses to take responsibility for his actions, then I think that does make him a bad person. But he seems to be learning something from all of this.
C.K.’s close friend Sarah Silverman has spoken about his actions, and even she’s having a hard time coming to terms with it. Mostly because she sees him as a great father and a good friend. Making it hard to reconcile the two versions that we know of him. She, like the rest of us, are on the side of the victims. Noting “[I’m] very angry for the women he wronged – and the culture that enabled it – and also sad, because he’s my friend. It’s vital that people are held accountable for their actions, no matter who they are. We need to be better. We will be better.”
With so many #MeToo allegations coming forward (still), it’s hard to know how to feel. Should we defend our favorite celebrities because there’s no way that they did that? Or should we believe their accusers because why would you make up something so horrible? In some instances, it’s come to light that the accusations simply weren’t true. But in other cases, we know that it did happen. What I hope happens is in what Silverman said – we need to be better. If one person, like C.K., can come forward and learn from his actions, then I think we will be better. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon.