Reputation Rehab

Anna Grummitt on Nick Kyrgios, public shaming, and seeing people as more than their worst moments.

Another addition to the growing list of things I definitely didn’t have on my 2020 bingo card: Nick Kyrgios turning out to be a sweet, caring, and responsible human being.

In January, he spearheaded a huge fundraising effort for bushfire victims. In June, he spoke out against Novak Djokovic’s coronavirus-ridden Adria Tour. And most recently, he featured in the new ABC TV show Reputation Rehab, an appearance which led many (including me) to ask: what happened to the bratty, entitled, anger-prone Kyrgios we love to hate?

Reputation Rehab – a program which seeks to “lend a hand to reputations in distress” – is the show I’d love to have created. Filled with humour and empathy, it asks questions like: Why do we love to trash people? Why can’t we accept that everyone makes mistakes? And why do we reduce people to being either all-bad or all-good?

The show paints a refreshingly nuanced picture of humanity amidst our culture of public shaming – a picture that says people are so much more than their worst moments, whether they’re throwing tennis-court tantrums or failing to socially distance at Bondi Beach. It makes us realise we’ve all done things we’re not proud of – things we’d prefer didn’t end up on the front page of The Daily Mail.

This view of people was shared by Jesus, who was no stranger to having his reputation attacked. In a famous story in John’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a woman who has been caught in adultery, an extremely serious charge in the ancient world. His compassion towards her shows he sees her humanity beyond her worst behaviour; he sees someone who is capable of change.

That’s the attitude I want to strive for when I’m tempted to write people off because of their past faults.

So Nick: I’m sorry.