Apparently at some venues comedians readily use members of the audience as material for their jokes.  They thereby cross a boundary between audience and performer.  Crossing boundaries can be hazardous for all concerned.

At the recent Oscar award ceremony compère and comedian Chris Rock made a joke at the expense of actor Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, sitting in the front row of the audience.  Everyone realised that he was drawing attention to her short hair.  Maybe even mocking it.  What Chris Rock did not know, or ignored if he did, was that Jada’s hair was cut short because of alopecia. 

Much laughter followed.  Everyone seemed to find the joke funny.  From the look on her face, Jada did not.  Her husband was not amused either.  He walked across the stage, straight up to Chris Rock and slapped him hard on the face.  Another boundary crossed.

Boundaries are useful not only to us as individuals, but to families, to groups and nations. They help us with our physical and psychological safety.  They give us a sense of belonging and identity.  At the same time they exclude.  And in excluding they create barriers to connection and communication.  Exclusion can lead to hurt and hostility.

A joke at our expense is a form of exclusion and if we feel hurt enough, we might be tempted to retaliate.  That is, unless we have been able to expand our boundaries to embrace Jesus’ teachings about treating our fellow beings with compassion and love.  Not to mention turning the other cheek.

Chris Dawson

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