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The conversation all week has been about the Will Smith meltdown at the Academy Awards. Everyone has an opinion on whose fault it was. Some believe Chris Rock was at fault and admire Smith’s valor in defending his wife. Others like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar say that Smith not only debased himself, he validated some of the worst stereotypes that some people have of Black Americans. I personally think the ordeal had more to do with Smith’s relationship with his wife than anything that occurred during the show. I’m not blaming Jada Pinkett Smith for her husband’s actions but I think the bizarre nature of their relationship, which they voluntarily share with the world on Red Table Talk, was at the root of Smith’s insane reaction to Chris Rock’s joke.
Our closest relationships shape the people that we are. When we were young, we didn’t like it when our best friends got girlfriends or boyfriends because of how it changed them. Young people frequently become obsessed and possessive of their first loves. As we get older, hopefully, we learn to manage things a little better, but our relationships can and often do, change us. When my kids started to date, I tried not to make judgments about the people they dated. We all have ideas about the type of guy or girl our kids should be with, but I did my best to ask myself whether I thought this new relationship made my kid a better or worse version of themselves. This doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships, it also applies to their closest friends and acquaintances. In the simplest terms, the people around us either add energy to us or suck energy from us. If you take a moment to think about everyone you spend time with, you can pretty quickly determine which bucket they fall in. If you expand this thesis further you can break the impact of your closest relationships down into four categories: focus, stress, fitness, and joy. Specifically, does this relationship make you more or less focused on your goals? Is your stress level higher or lower? Are you taking better care of your body? And finally, do you find yourself laughing more or less?
It’s fair to say that it is not as simple as I make it seem. Very few people are able to view their closest relationships as objectively as I have laid it out. Relationships are primarily driven by emotion and passions that make them more difficult to control. All I can say is that if a relationship is toxic in the beginning, it’s not likely to change. The longer and deeper your relationships become, the more difficult they are to break – so be careful who you share your most intimate thoughts with. My whole life has been a process of getting to a point where I am surrounded by people, both at work and in my personal life, that I love being around. It didn’t happen overnight. It took time. I don’t know what the answers are to any of these questions when it comes to Will Smith, but I’m inclined to believe there is something broken and all the money and success in the world won’t make it right until he surrounds himself with the right people for him.