I’ve been asked by a few people for my thoughts about the bullying scandal surrounding the Miami Dolphins. These are my thoughts. For a more thorough treatment, you can read a 2010 post I wrote about being bullied.
It’s been over twenty-five years since the neighborhood bully was tormenting me. I want to type his name in this post. I want type his name and have it be associated with bullying. I want vengeance. I want to see him embarrassed, publicly, the way he embarrassed me. I want to see him suffer the way I suffered. I want to verbally eviscerate him, and then punch him square in the face for good measure. If we were to fight, I would not lose.
I will not do that. I make a conscious choice not to do that. I have made that choice multiple times throughout my life when sharing my story. I rule my thoughts and emotions. What would be accomplished by getting even? Nothing. The thought of “I would not lose” if we were to fight? That scares me.
I don’t deny the pain, I acknowledge the pain. Continually, I am forgiving him, even though I haven’t seen him in over two decades. I believe I have prayed for him more than any other classmate of mine from my youth. Prayers of blessing and forgiveness, and not vengeance.
This past summer, I looked him up on Facebook. We have mutual friends, and his profile is public. I see what he is up to. If it weren’t for the fact my word association with him is “sociopath”, he would seem like an average thirty-something male. Harmless really.
So, I went looking for him one day. It was when Jana and the boys were in Ohio. I wasn’t sure what I would do if I saw him, but maybe part of me wanted to know I could do it. I could face this guy who was a monster to me. I thought he might be at an event, but he wasn’t there. What would I have done? Who knows. Despite playing out multiple scenarios in my head, probably nothing would have happened if I didn’t engage him.
As I get older, another set of feelings comes into play when he comes to mind. Pity. As a ten year old, he thought this kind of behavior was acceptable. Was it modeled to him by his father? Was he a product of whatever environment he was in outside of school? Was he the victim of something heinous? Being a ten year old, maybe he did not know how to process it and lashed out at somebody else? It makes more sense. He did not grow up “in a vacuum” and become the bully. I think of this. I intentionally think of this when combating the other feeling to hurt him. I have compassion on him.
Any time a bullying story is in the news, I think of him. Since the news first came out about Jonathan Martin being bullied by his teammates, I’ve thought of the bully of my youth every day. I see and hear what Richie Incognito did to Jonathan Martin, and I can see the bully of my youth saying and doing similar things to me. I see the Dolphins’ leadership putting their head in the sand, and the leadership I had doing the same. No one wanted to address the bully, his behavior, or his environment. I was told to avoid him. Like that’s possible when attending the same school and living in the same neighborhood.
I wonder what the bully of my youth thinks when he reads what Richie Incognito did. I wonder if he thinks, “Jonathan Martin should have MANNED UP!” Or, does he think, “I can’t believe I used to be like Richie Incognito.” Maybe it’s somewhere in-between. Probably.
I wonder if he’ll read one of my posts someday. I wonder what he’d think. “Whatever loser. You’re a p—y.” “I can’t believe I did that to you.” “Who are you?” Who knows.
He’s out there. He lives and works in the city of Omaha, where I live and work. Who he is now is harmless. Who he was? A product of his environment with its own (probable) harrowing story. The sin he committed against me? It haunts me to this day. Every now and then I can sense the rage within me yearning to be unleashed. I quell it, and I pray for him. I keep praying for him.
I see and hear Richie Incognito and it is easy to project onto him the bully of my youth. Hate is nearby and rage senses an opening. Richie Incognito is a grown man compared to the ten year old bully I had. He should know better, and needs to be held accountable. Yes. Hell yes.
I have to pray for him. I have to pray for Richie. I don’t want to, at first, but need to. More for myself, and maybe that sounds selfish. Maybe it’s more out of duty. It would be nice if it was coming from a loving place. It’s not. But maybe it will get there. I want to want the best for him. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. He should be accountable, but he is not unforgivable. None of us is too far gone from God’s love and forgiveness. God knows Richie isn’t when I take a look at my own life.
I keep praying for myself to be a better man, to be more like Jesus, to be forgiving, and not repeat the cycle of violence. Because I’m like Richie Incognito. The rage inside me yearns to say to the bully, “I’ll kill you.” But I want to be like Jonathan Martin and walk away.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.