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How To Use The Will Smith Slap At The Oscar’s As A Teachable Moment For All Men

Written by: Michael Taylor, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past couple of weeks, chances are you’ve heard the story of what occurred during the live broadcast of the Oscar’s event on March 27th 2022. If you missed it, megastar Will Smith (who won an Oscar that night) became upset after comedian Chris Rock made a joke about his wife. He then walked on stage on live television and slapped Chris in the face.


Instead of passing judgment or placing blame on either of the celebrities, I’d like to share some insights on why the slap had nothing to do with the joke Chris Rock told.

To fully understand why Will resorted to such a violent act, let's remove a couple of misconceptions that have been circulating around social media since the event occurred.


First of all, this event had nothing to do with race. Although this occurred between two black men, race did not play a part in Will’s actions. Secondly, economic status has nothing to do with Will’s actions either. We live in a culture that idolizes celebrities and in too many cases we place them on pedestals as though they are somehow different than ordinary human beings. The fact is, they are ordinary human beings who sometimes do extraordinary things. It’s important to accept that Will is only human, and his celebrity status has nothing to do with his emotional and physical outbursts.


To fully understand Will’s actions, it’s important to go back to the beginning and understand male social conditioning. Since the beginning of time, men have been socialized to believe they have three primary responsibilities. Procreate, provide and protect. These responsibilities are the foundation of masculinity for men. In my book, A New Conversation With Men, I identified five unconscious illusions that men are trapped in as a result of male socialization, and it is these five illusions that cause the overwhelming majority of pain and suffering in a man’s life.


The first illusion from that book is, “To be a man, you must be non-emotional and disconnected.” This illusion perpetuates the idea that feelings are for women, and men shouldn’t express their feelings for fear of being labeled a sissy, a punk, or gay. From a very young age, boys are taught to suppress, repress, and deny their feelings and they eventually disconnect from and cannot connect with how they feel. They have no problem expressing what they think, but sharing their feelings becomes extremely difficult.


Now that I’ve set some context, let’s take a look at how social conditioning played out in this event with Will. But before I do that, let me set the record straight. Every man has to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Will is 100% responsible for his actions and he must be willing to accept the consequences.


With that being said, it’s important to know that Will and his wife Jada have had some difficulties in their marriage. They have both spoken publicly about some of those challenges, and this event in several different ways is the result of some of those challenges.


During an episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s extremely popular Red Table Talk show, she revealed in an interview with her husband Will, that she had been in an “entanglement” relationship with another man. It was obvious that Will was hurt and embarrassed by it and yet he never really expressed how he felt. He sort of laughed it off and mentioned how they were simply in a rough spot in their marriage. Although he didn’t say it, his face was filled with pain and disappointment, and like too many men, he suppressed his true feelings.


In his latest book aptly titled “Will”, he shares how difficult it was for him to see his father physically abuse his mother, and he said he felt powerless to protect her and the women in his life. His life was filled with a series of violent experiences that he used as fuel to build a better life for himself and despite his upbringing and all of the negative things that happened to him, he was able to eventually become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood who is loved and adored by millions of people around the globe.


And yet with all of his success, it is pretty apparent that there are some unresolved emotional conflicts within him that caused him to lose his cool and possibly tarnish his nice guy image and change people’s perception of him for a very long time.


So what caused him to act that way?


To fully grasp the reasoning behind his actions, it’s important to understand that Build Ups, lead to Blow Ups. In other words, all of the trauma, hurt, anger, pain, disappointment, sadness, fear, and feelings of unworthiness he had felt most of his life had been building up to that moment. Like too many men, he had suppressed, repressed, and denied those negative feelings for so long that he became a ticking time bomb. As a man, he had accepted the illusion that he wasn’t supposed to express his true feelings and therefore he did not have an outlet for all of those negative emotions. In addition to that, he accepted the social conditioning that a man is supposed to protect his woman so when Chris Rock made the joke about his wife, it gave him the perfect opportunity to “Blow Up” because in his mind he was protecting his wife and therefore he could justify his behavior.


Unfortunately, Chris Rock was in the wrong place at the wrong time and his joke really wasn’t the problem even though it may have been insensitive.


The psychological term for Will’s action is called a Trauma Response. It is all too common for men and women. If you’ve ever had experience with road rage, you’ve dealt with someone having a trauma response. During a trauma response, a person is so consumed by the negative feelings they are having that they are unable to think rationally. Their feelings override their ability to think clearly. They are reacting to the negative energy they feel inside and in most cases, it comes out as some type of violence.


The teachable moment is that Will’s actions are not uncommon. Too many men are currently trapped in an antiquated paradigm of masculinity in which they are uncomfortable talking about and expressing their feelings. The solutions begin by acknowledging that the three most difficult words for any man to say is “I need help”, so it begins with our willingness as men to utter those three difficult words. There should be no shame in men seeking help, so it is important to teach men that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but a definite sign of strength. It takes an incredible amount of courage and strength for a man to be vulnerable enough to admit he needs help and it takes even more effort to actually take action and do something to get the help he needs.


The good news is there is an incredible shift in men’s attitudes surrounding mental health and going to therapy. It has become more socially accepted and men are beginning to recognize the importance of having support networks of like-minded men who can support them in dealing with the changing roles of manhood and masculinity.


As men continue to open up and embrace a new paradigm of masculinity, it is possible that we can eliminate the types of “blowups” Will exhibited. But this can only occur if we’re willing to hold men accountable for their actions and at the same time be a little more understanding, nonjudgmental and compassionate towards men. This does not condone negative behavior, it simply opens the door to solutions to the types of senseless acts of violence exhibited by Will Smith.


The teachable moment here is for forgiveness. My hope is for Will to get the support and help he needs to work through his unresolved emotional conflicts, and though he is completely responsible for his actions, he still deserves forgiveness for his actions.


In addition, all men need to learn to forgive themselves for their shortcomings and be willing to deal with their emotional baggage so they won’t have to “blow up” and hurt the people they love.


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Michael Taylor, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Coach Michael Taylor is an irrepressible optimist with a passion for the impossible. He is president and CEO of Creation Publishing Group and is the author of 10 books designed to empower men and women to live extraordinary lives. He is the host of 3 podcasts, (A New Conversation With Men, Don't Believe The Hype, and Shatter The Stereotypes) and host 3 television channels on the Roku network.


He was featured in the bestselling book Motivational Speakers America with legendary speakers Les Brown and Brian Tracy. He has won numerous awards for his dynamic speaking style and says being on stage speaking, lights him up and ignites his soul.


When he isn't speaking or writing books, you'll find him hanging out with the love of his life Bedra, who he has been blissfully married for 19 years. His hobbies include going to the movies, listening to old school 70's and 80's soul music, and reading Calvin & Hobbs comics.

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