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5 Leadership Lessons From Will Smith’s Slap Heard Round the World

Will Smith
Screengrab from YouTube @ ABC 7 News

During the Oscars, Will Smith and Chris Rock were part of one of the most uncomfortable, disturbing, and talked-about moments ever witnessed on national television.

As is the tradition in these type of events, Rock was roasting many of the members in the audience. This happens annually at the Oscars, Golden Globes, ESPYs, Grammys, and for that matter, every late night talk show and Bill Maher. But Rock’s statement to Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, apparently crossed a line when he said, “‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.” The following video shows what ensued.

Will Smith initially laughed at the joke but then came on stage and slapped Rock in the face. For those who do not know, Smith’s wife suffers from alopecia, an auto-immune condition that causes hair loss. Afterwards, from his seat in the first row, he twice shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your [expletive] mouth.” The audience was stunned. Twitter exploded. As a result, this issue has been examined from every possible angle.

I will now give my thoughts.

5 Leadership Lessons From Will Smith’s Slap Heard Round The World

We Live In A Lawless Land

Will Smith should have been arrested. Period. Assault is generally defined as intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contactPhysical injury is not required.” I think Smith’s slap obviously was offensive contact and put Rock in a reasonable apprehension of harmful contact.

Notice the legal definition does not state anything about whether the act was justified or not.

I am still confused as to why Smith was allowed to return to his seat and less than an hour later win an award, get a standing ovation, and then say, “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people. And to be a river to my people.” This action would indicate Smith’s river is polluted with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Never Get Fun At Someone Else’s Expense

I am also confused at to what Smith was expecting. He was the presumptive winner of Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard. Smith was seated in the front row. Once again, comedians with a history of roasting people were employed to be the show’s hosts. Traditionally, “poking fun” at the stars is what happens at these events.

But we were reminded of a basic form of respect and human decency which is to never get fun at someone else’s expense. Dignity is the imprint of God on every human soul. “I was just kidding” is never an excuse for degrading comments. Degrading a person and hurting their dignity for the purposes of increasing our own self-worth or public standing is unadvisable and just plain wrong.

Maybe this will be the start of ending the “roasting” and degradation of people and the start of building others up.

Angry People Are Foolish People

The only difference between anger and danger is a “D”. Since Smith said in his acceptance speech, “I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world,” allow me to share with you what God says about angry people. I could have gone on for dozens and dozens verses more but will stop at 15.

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Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. See www.briandoddonleadership.com for additional insights.