It wasn’t just Denzel Washington who came to Will Smith’s aid on the infamous Oscar night. So did actor and director Tyler Perry. Both immediately reached out to Smith, approaching him and trying to help him recover from his burst of rage.
Washington explained that the first thing he wanted to convey to Will Smith—who shortly thereafter was to receive the Best Actor Oscar for King Richard—was that slapping Chris Rock in the middle of a live ceremony was a bad thing to do.
He told him, “At your highest moment be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
It’s advice that echoes warnings given by the saintly Curé d’Ars, a priest from 18th- and 19th-century France who had a lot of experience with how the devil works on people. He had suffered it in his own flesh.
These were the first news stories about what is perhaps the most famous slap in the history of cinema after those in the classic film Gilda.
Then, the news was all about Will Smith’s expulsion from the Academy, his trip to India as a “spiritual journey,” of Jada Pinkett Smith and the problem of alopecia, of past addictions.
But Denzel Washington’s lesson in humanity doesn’t stop there. He goes one step further.
In April, he explained to Deadline that they prayed together that night. And he added that Tyler Perry also helped.
“Fortunately there were people there, not just me but others. Tyler Perry came immediately right over there with me,” he said.
When asked more specifically what they said to Will Smith, the actor replied: “Some prayers. I don’t wanna say what we talked about. But there but for the grace of God go any of us.”
Washington directed the moment of crisis in the wisest way, namely by turning to God when you know humanly you can do no more. To help Will Smith, who had been overcome by anger, he could only turn to God to restore peace. Washington did so not in a judgmental way, but by accompanying his friend: “Who are we to condemn?” he told Deadline.
“The only solution was prayer.”
He added: “I don’t know all the ins and outs of this situation, but I know the only solution was prayer. The way I saw it. The way I see it.”
Prayer leads us away from judging others and puts us beside them with love as friends, as brothers and sisters.
In the midst of all the emotions and passion that boiled over that night at the Oscar ceremony, and we must recognize that such behavior is not improvised. Tyler Perry is a Christian; even many of his characters are openly Christian, and he’s not afraid to say so publicly in his professional career. The way you habitually think is what comes out in moments of urgency, when it seems you haven’t even had time to reason.
Now that some time has passed since the slap, the first piece of advice for the future is to be alert to the devil’s insidiousness. The second: as soon as we see the devil prowling around, pray. Prayer drives away that most clever fallen angel because he will never be able to defeat us if we unite with God. Prayer is more powerful.
Thus, from Hollywood comes a lesson on the importance of prayer.
The worst (an act of violence) can bring out the best in us.