Pastor’s Corner: Step Back

March 30, 2022

A few weeks ago, I wrote a Pastor’s Corner that discouraged telling racist and sexist jokes. I guess I should have included jokes about people’s medical conditions or disabilities. I guess I should also have sent it to Chris Rock before last weekend’s Academy Awards broadcast.

Seriously. Somebody else’s pain – the pain of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism (that’s the word for prejudice against people with disabilities) – is no subject for humor when coming from those who do not share that pain. In short: I can joke about my pain in the hopes of mitigating it or teaching something about it. I cannot make fun of somebody else’s pain, especially if I do not share it.

That doesn’t excuse Will Smith’s behavior.

He made at least two mistakes. The most obvious is that he responded to inappropriate speech with violence. That’s escalation. I know from painful personal experience how important it is to de-escalate a situation that has spiked my emotions. Escalation makes things worse, not better. De-escalation offers the possibility for improvement.

He made the second mistake first. Chris Rock owed an apology for what he said, but he owed it to Jada Pinkett Smith, not her husband. She is entitled to make her own decisions about how she responds to people who insult her. By taking the stage on her behalf, Will Smith deprived her of her own agency, her own choices, her own responses.

The drive to protect our loved ones or ourselves is very strong. It doesn’t always serve us well. We do better to do two very important and sometimes very difficult things: First, to let our loved ones choose for themselves how they will respond to provocation. Second, to step back from our surging emotions and, in a calmer time, choose our response with more care.

And, of course, let’s avoid the jokes about race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. We don’t need them. At all.

With aloha,

Pastor Eric

Categories Pastor's Corner Reflections | Tags: , | Posted on March 30, 2022

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