The short answer is no. Absolutely not.
As much as I like Will Smith’s carefree attitude, his inclination towards personal and spiritual growth, and his incredible cinematic work, it breaks my heart to say that Will was out of line during the Oscars night.
One of my favorite Stoic quotes that I always keep at the back of my head — mainly to regulate my own passions — is the following one by Marcus Aurelius:
“Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on— it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance— unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.” (Meditations, 11.18.5b)
And so, as I got to know about this incident online, I immediately referred to this quote and employed it in understanding who truly was at fault here.
Building up on the above-mentioned quote by Marcus Aurelius, here’s what Ryan Holiday writes in his book The Daily Stoic: “Strength is the ability to maintain a hold of oneself. It’s being the person who never gets mad, who cannot be rattled, because they are in control of their passions— rather than controlled by their passions.”
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that Will let his emotions get the better of him, and Chris, who kept his cool and to his credit kept the show going without any interruption, emerged as the real man.
If we address one key truth in this unfortunate incident, the person who ended up getting the hurt most was Will himself. We’re all connected. And so, when you hurt someone, you hurt yourself too. Pain finds its way to you as well, one way or the other. Even though Will won the Academy Award for Best Actor — the movie industry’s highest honor for a male performer — he couldn’t enjoy his achievement fully; he was still hurting from what happened just a while ago, and that massively diluted his joy of accomplishing such a worthy feat.
Please don’t get me wrong, his notion of standing up for his wife was not wrong; the intent was right but the execution was wrong. He chose the immediate and extreme route of violence, that not only ruined the mood of the night at Hollywood’s most prestigious event, but also severely tarnished his own precious moments of hard-earned victory.
I encourage you to read an essay I wrote last year, ‘When You Hurt Others, You Hurt Yourself Too,’ as it beautifully ties in with the subject we’re discussing today. If you consider yourself to be a hot-headed person, please read it multiple times and get it ingrained in your system so that you diminish the chances of committing the same mistake when you find yourself getting agitated. (I’m a work in progress, so this applies to me too!)