The 94th Academy Awards ceremony was held at the regal Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, actors and actresses showed up dressed to impress on the red carpet, pose for pictures and receive awards.
But what they were not prepared for was the now infamous “slap heard ‘round the world.”
The mood of the evening markedly changed after comedian Chris Rock made an unsavory joke at the expense of actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from hair loss due to the autoimmune disorder alopecia. “Jada, can’t wait for G.I. Jane 2,” Rock joked.
That was too much for Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, who walked on stage and smacked Rock across the face, generating an audible gasp from the audience. After walking back to his seat, Smith shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out your [censored] mouth!”
Shortly following the Oscars’ conclusion, the Academy issued a statement condemning Smith’s actions, saying it had “officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences.”
Then on Monday evening, Smith publicly apologized for his actions.
“My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,” Smith wrote. “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.”
“I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.”
“I am a work in progress,” Smith concluded.
Aren’t we all?
There are many angles one could take in addressing this incident.
It’s commonly known that Will Smith is in an “open relationship” with Pinkett Smith. Is it an odd reaction for him to defend his wife in this instance, but not defend the sexual exclusivity of their relationship on the other hand? Yes.
Is it good for a man to defend his wife? Certainly!
At the same time, is a violent physical response to a verbal joke unjustified and over-the-top? Probably.
And yet, I think the real story here is the universal and constant need that mankind has for forgiveness, which we all need to give and receive from time to time.
Each Sunday, at the church I attend, we recite the Lord’s Prayer, which “at the Savior’s command and informed by Divine teaching, we dare to say.”
We ask the Lord to “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (italics added).
The conjunction “as” reveals an inextricable connection between the forgiveness of our sins, and our willingness to forgive those who ask us to forgive them.
When we confess our sins, God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).
But that grace God is quick to give us, we can be too slow to extend to others.
In Matthew 21:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive his brother. “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times,” Jesus replied.
In the Smith-Rock altercation, Chris Rock has so far taken the high ground. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Rock has declined to press charges.
Good for him.
While not many of us will slap someone on stage, with millions of people watching, we’re all a work in progress.
In your life, what do you need to ask God for forgiveness for?
And who do you need to forgive?
Photo from PluggedIn.