A Split Second Slap and a 10-Year Ban

By Michael Brown Published on April 11, 2022

Do you know that in a split-second of time your life can be changed forever, for better or worse? Have you thought deeply about how our momentary decisions and actions can reverberate for decades, or, in some cases, for centuries?

All this has now been illustrated in front of our eyes with the Academy Awards banning Will Smith for the next 10 years. What can we learn from this?

An Indelible Image

I have no interest in rehashing the slap itself, which has already been done endlessly. (A Google search for “the slap heard around the world” yields 37,500,000 hits.) And I am not here to pronounce self-righteous judgments on Will Smith (or others involved).

Instead, this article is about us, about you and me and the choices we make. By what will we be defined and remembered? By the legacy of a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice and courage and love and kindness — whatever we wish our legacy to be — or by a momentary, destructive action or word?

In the case of Smith, this is not simply another example of cancel culture at work — making you pay for the slightest transgression or misstep, even from years ago.

Instead, this is about an indelible image. This is about public assault. This is about seeing something that you cannot unsee.

In the future, when you watch a movie with Smith, will you watch it the same way you previously did? Or will you look at one of his fight scenes a little differently? Or will you have a harder time buying him in a sweet and innocent role?

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I don’t mean this in a vindictive way. I don’t even mean it in an intentional way. I mean it will be a kneejerk reaction: “That’s the guy who slapped Chris Rock on international TV. That’s the guy with that odd relationship with his wife.”

In the case of that fateful night, it was supposed to be the night that Smith finally received his due: an Oscar for best actor! It was supposed to be the night when his name would be enshrined for the generations along with some of the greatest actors of all time. It was supposed to be the night when all the years of toil and dedication finally paid off. Instead, despite him winning that Oscar, it is remembered as the night of the slap. And now, it is the night because of which Smith is banned for the next 10 years.

The Choices We Make

This is where wisdom comes into play. This is where self-restraint controls our choices. This is where we say to ourselves, “It took me decades to climb this mountain and earn the respect of my peers (or family or followers or whoever). But I can fall off this mountain in one split-second.”

These are sobering thoughts, and the Book of Proverbs, God’s book of wisdom for us, is filled with them. In short, the message is this: Consider the long-term effect of your words and actions. Don’t look at the gratification — or as in this case, provocation — of the moment. Look at what the results will be in the years ahead (or, in eternity).

“It took me decades to climb this mountain and earn the respect of my peers (or family or followers or whoever). But I can fall off this mountain in one split-second.”

If you’ve never read Proverbs, you’ll see this message drilled home in the very first chapter and then repeated throughout, especially in chapters like 5 and 7. Take a few minutes to read when you can. It might just save your life.

In a word, the message is that sin doesn’t pay. That whatever reward it offers you is fleeting. That, while wisdom carefully and thoughtfully builds her house over many months and years, folly tears it down in a second.

The Pastor’s Fatal Choice

In the 1980s, when I was speaking at a church in upstate New York, a pastor pointed out to me a family in his congregation, a widow and her children. Her husband had been a successful church planter but fell into depression, went into the city, and got drunk.

In that drunken condition, he was brought to an orgy, where he had sex with another man.

When he became sober, he was deeply repentant, agonizing over the choices he had made. And his wife actually forgave him.

But the lasting damage was already done.

From that one encounter he contracted AIDS, leading to his own death. Even more tragically, before he knew he was sick, he infected his wife and the child she bore.

When I visited that same church again a few years later, the pastor told me that both the wife and baby were now dead as well. And all for what? For a drink? For a fleshly attempt to cover up depression? For a momentary sexual act?

I have preached this message to myself many times over the years — the message of the final consequences of sin — and it has literally saved my life.

As Proverbs says, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise” (Prov 19:20).


Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Revival Or We Die: A Great Awakening Is Our Only Hope. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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