What DMX And The “Iyanla: Fix My Life” Episode Can Teach Us About The Importance Of Compassion

April 15, 2013  |  

DMX is the reason why sometimes you really don’t want to know all the sordid details behind the making of the art.

Seriously, anybody with the first two DMX albums already knew the man had problems. The prayers? The good angel/devil voice fluctuation he used to do? His obsession with pit bulls? I mean, we kind of always knew there was something ’bout X that was hurting. But he was also a good looking, bald-headed black man who could rap and liked to bark aggressively on tracks. Not to mention the bedroom scene from Belly put many women on his side. In the past, most of us took DMX as unbalanced, but in a fun way – sort of like John Malkovich. But now that the covers have been pulled back on Earl “DMX” Simmons the person – thanks to his various appearances on reality television – it kind of puts a damper on DMX the artist. He is no longer the black and hip-hop version of the misunderstood eccentric we once thought. Instead, he is just like a Gary Busey.

But I still have love for DMX and I definitely extend my deepest well-wishes to Earl Simmons.

Based off of Saturday’s episode of Iyanla: Fix My Life with Iyanla Vanzant, DMX certainly is embittered by his past and fearful of facing his own mistakes. But so was his son Xavier, who had been estranged from Simmons for a number of years. Despite father and son claiming that they desired a relationship with each other, both claimed anger and pointed fingers at each other for why their relationship didn’t work. Simmons said it was because his son was distant. Xavier, however, charged that his dad was a controlling womanizer, who made him feel “valueless and like nothing.” His intention on the show was to confront his father; to make him own up to what he did. But as Vanzant asked, and then what?

Vanzant challenged Xavier to search for the root of his father’s faults; to understand that Simmons is likely of “diseased mind and a wounded heart.” His breakthrough came when he realized that his own anger towards his father and about his upbringing was sending him down the same destructive road as Simmons. And his father’s behavior might not be intended, but rather a reflection of how Simmons too learned to love from past pain. Instead of meeting and confronting his father in anger, Vanzant advised Xavier to instead go into this meeting with an open and compassionate heart.

I have my questions about the platform in which Iyanla Vanzant chooses to dish her brand of self-help, mainly about how she tries to squeeze months of intensive counseling into only a few hours of taping, which makes for good self-help television, but maybe not for good therapy for those direct recipients of her counseling. And I definitely cringed at the sheer exploitative nature of the whole #SupportDMX hashtag, which she promoted periodically throughout the show. While a great use for fan engagement (i.e., marketing), what a horrible way to really show your support of DMX. I mean, sure there was some really nice well wishes and thoughtful advice given, but there was also a lot of gossip and jokes made at both DMX and his family’s expense. But I have to give her credit for the delivery of a very powerful message about what it truly means to show compassion.

Compassion isn’t just about having sympathy for someone’s circumstances, but rather an acknowledgment that the pain and suffering from such circumstances is not exclusive and is likely a shared experience by many. Therefore, when we extend leniency or even forgiveness towards others forgiveness, we are actually offering compassion to the vulnerable part of ourselves, which has also been wounded and scarred by similar pain. Right before I watched Saturday’s episode, I was throwing things around in my place. As usual, I waited until the last moment to file my taxes and as usual, one of the important documents I needed to file was missing. I thought I had it with all my other tax documents but it was not there. I had no idea where it was, so there I was, running around, frantic, tossing around papers and screaming about how this always happens. “Things just always get up and disappear,” I’m yelling to no one in particular. I’m so mad, I want to take this anger out on someone. The IRS for requiring that I file taxes; the document-maker for not making the paper harder to misplace; basically anybody or thing else but me. That’s the hard part about accepting responsibility. I had to admit to myself my place in not only mismanaging my important documents, but also waiting until the last minute to file. And I have to admit that all the similar judgments I have placed on others for similar infractions now land squarely at my own feet. Not only will I have to admit that I am wrong, but I might also have to admit that I am a hypocrite too. The weight of imperfections and faults can be a very heavy mental and emotional cross to bear at times, and it is very tempting to want to hide from the responsibility. But then you have to also have mercy on yourself. To understand that you are going to make mistakes and that’s okay. And sometimes, those mistakes will have consequences that you will have to deal with and that’s okay too. The best thing to do is not to harp on what was done (can’t change it anyway), but rather what needs to be done next. So I stopped throwing angry fits and tearing up my place; owned up to my mistake, forgave myself, and got some filing folders for next tax season.

It is a lonely place when you are embittered by mistakes in your life. And as the show progressed you could definitely see that father and son were becoming aware of that very fact. For Xavier, being compassionate enabled him to meet with his father, not only to confront him about his feelings, but also to listen to what his father had to say in response. Being open to possible criticism enabled Xavier to then go and have those same objective conversations with people in his life, for whom he might have been unconsciously treating as he had been treated by his father. In a very emotional part of the show, Simmons apologized to Xavier, saying, “I tried. Really sincerely tried. I’m sorry. I tried.” It was a really emotional scene, which I imagine took lots of courage for him to commit to. It was also the start of some healing on the part of Simmons. Unfortunately, he has yet to be able to garner the necessary compassion needed to forgive himself for his mistakes. And until he does, he will continue to make excuse after excuse and wallow in the pain of it all.

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