The response to anger? Prayer.
Following the confrontation between two actors at this year’s Oscars, a woman shares how the incident prompted her to pray, and how we all can help heal anger by turning off the chatter and turning our thoughts to God, who is Truth and Love.
It’s become known as “the slap that was heard around the world.” Following the March 27 Academy Awards ceremony, social media and news feeds were clogged with reports and images of actor Will Smith slapping Oscars host Chris Rock for his insensitive joke about Smith’s wife. Smith has since publicly apologized for his actions and expressed deep remorse and regret. Yet the incident continues to carry its consequences.
Fellow actor Denzel Washington, who spoke to Smith immediately following the incident, said, “I know the only solution was prayer.” His comment resonated with me. I, too, saw prayer as the best solution to the news and the many resulting commentaries surrounding this issue. This biblical wisdom sums it up best: “If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things God wants done” (James 1:20, Contemporary English Version).
Christ Jesus was the supreme example of acting in the way God wants. He taught his followers: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Doing so includes a willingness to “turn the other cheek.” He practiced this wisdom even as he faced the most egregious accusations against him. When his disciple angrily cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest when Jesus was being arrested, he instructed the disciple to put down his sword. Then Jesus restored the servant’s ear (Luke 22:49-51).
Responding to another person’s provocation with violence is never the answer. As a follower of Christ’s teachings, I’ve also learned the value of a non-condemnatory attitude on the part of the victim. As a young woman leading a small team, I was slapped during a meeting by another woman, my senior, after I presented an idea with which she strongly disagreed. Needless to say, it came as a shock to all in the room, and the meeting ended abruptly.
Measures were immediately taken to address this impropriety. However, following the incident, I recounted the story many times, and I also found it was on constant repeat in my head. By about the fourth day of this mental replay, I felt physically ill, which prompted me to finally buckle down and pray for a healing answer to the whole situation. That’s when I received a very clear message: Stop talking. The only voice this has is the one you give it.
Wow. That was a wake-up call for me. The only power this incident could have over me was the power I was consenting to it having.
I also found helpful direction in an article called “Taking Offense” in “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, who faced a great deal of unjust accusations in her life. “The mental arrow shot from another’s bow is practically harmless, unless our own thought barbs it,” she wrote. And she continued, “Well may we feel wounded by our own faults; but we can hardly afford to be miserable for the faults of others” (pp. 223-224).
Not only did I begin to feel immediate relief from a pounding headache, but I learned right then and there how important it is not to lend my voice to the rehearsal of wrongdoing. It serves no purpose but to perpetuate the error. And the more we focus on error as the reality (about ourselves or someone else), the less we think of God as all-powerful and all good – and of God’s children as wholly good in their true, spiritual nature. When we strive to emulate the truth Jesus demonstrated in our thoughts and actions, we are being obedient to God, who is Love and Truth.
From that moment on, I stopped the mental and verbal chatter and refused to dedicate another word to the incident unless for the purpose of healing. As a result, I felt my attitude soften, including toward the woman who had hurt me. I identified her many stellar qualities – qualities that gave evidence of her nature as God’s child – instead of seeing her only through the lens of this one incident. She was genuinely apologetic, we had a sweet reconciliation, and we interacted harmoniously for many more years.
In the case of the Oscars incident, I have endeavored to turn off the salacious details and instead focus on the healing that can result when there’s a desire for reformation. What’s most needed is not a replay of events, but a genuine desire for progressive change and rebirth, similar to the burst of growth that occurs after a forest fire. “In mortal experience, the fire of repentance first separates the dross from the gold,” wrote Mrs. Eddy, “and reformation brings the light which dispels darkness” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 205).
Contemporary English Version, copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.
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