It was the slap heard around the world. Will Smith walked up to Chris Rock on the stage of the Oscars and struck him across the face for all mankind to see. Even if you weren’t watching the awards presentation, you heard about it at least by the next morning. The world reeled at a shocking display of anger at such a glamorous event.
While people remember the slap, you can’t ignore the words that led to it. While serving as the host, Chris Rock poked fun at Smith’s wife over a physical issue that is a result of a health condition. Even while intended to be a joke, the couple did not find it funny at all. Smith began to yell back at Rock and then walked on stage for the most unfortunately memorable moment in that event’s history.
We must understand for all the shock that the slap caused, we must never forget that words led to it.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
While we learned the “Sticks and Stones” rhyme as children, we have all lived enough to know that words will hurt you. What people say can lead to significant hurt and escalating reactions.
I would imagine that Chris Rock would now agree: words will hurt you.
Our words reflect our character. They create reactions. You may never anticipate slapping someone for the world to see, but I doubt Smith did either. But with every hurtful word exchanged, the tempers escalated. Ours can too.
James taught the power that our speech has in our lives. It can cause great damage.
So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.James 3:5-6
While it’s easy to be shocked at what happened at the Oscars, it’s more shocking to me that we act as if we couldn’t react that way. And we must recognize that speech is typically what provokes actions. Slaps are often responses to words.
Be careful what you use your words for today.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.