The Will Smith in All of Us
I watched the movie King Richard and saw Will Smith loping around the tennis courts of Compton with those slumped shoulders and a brooding look on his face.
So when he walked up to Chris Rock at the Oscars with that same demeanor, I thought He looks like Richard.
Even Chris Rock said, “Uh oh... Richard.”
But then he took a swing at Chris, and I thought, “Uh oh, that looks like me.”
Not that I hit people. But I saw the same fury rise up in Will that I’ve experienced in my life time and again.
Will’s anger didn’t come from Chris’s joke (although that was awful). It came from something deep within.
Actors like Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, and Tyler Perry swarmed around Will, not to restrain him, but to coax him out of his trance-like tantrum.
It brought to mind all the times my wife has had to whisper, “Ben, take it easy.” Like when I publicly berated a gate attendant at Universal Studios or degraded a customer service representative on the phone or accelerated toward a car that cut me off.
I once had a childhood friend who inexplicably abandoned our friendship when we turned 16. In recent years, he requested to “friend me” on Facebook, and I accepted it just so I could unfriend him the next day.
(You don’t have to say it. I know.)
I don’t know what caused this unhealth in me. I’ve tried to think of one traumatic incident that could explain everything. A strike across the face. An improper touch from a pervert. The loss of a loved one with whom I’d forged a deep connection. Anything.
But I got nothing.
I went from counselor to counselor trying to sort it out. One of them told me to go for a walk when I felt myself getting angry. A walk? (I still can’t fathom how that khaki-wearing, Jeopardy-watching, soap-on-a-rope scrubbing therapist stays in business.)
The thing about anger is that it feels like so much a part of you that you dare not be rid of it for fear of losing yourself. Anger can be useful after all.
I can honestly credit anger for every significant thing I’ve done in my life. Tell me I’m not good enough and I’ll show you I am. Tell me something can’t be done and I’ll prove that it can. Anger is a powerful driver.
I’ll never forget when Michael Jackson was asked how he had such a close friendship with the dancer Fred Astaire.
“We both dance out of anger,” he said.
I can relate. Anger puts a chip on your shoulder, which drives you to achieve what more passive people would dare not attempt. My wound is my secret weapon.
The trouble with untreated wounds, however, is that they can only stay hidden for so long. Eventually, they surface on highways, on Facebook, at theme park entrances... and even at the Oscars.
I’ve come far in my healing journey. I’ve learned that the root cause of anger is pain. Deep hurt inside me that’s trying to shield itself from grief.
Anger feels powerful.
Sadness feels weak.
Guess which one I choose.
It was no surprise to me when Will broke down in tears after his tirade. The second set of emotions was authentic. The first one was a front. He finally let himself sit under the full weight of grief.
There’s no chance you are reading this without a wound of your own that rears its ugly head from time to time. It might not be anger. It might be something else.
But there’s a Will Smith in you.
There’s a Will Smith in all of us.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL...
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