Monday, August 4, 2014

That Wasn't Me ... Or Was It?

Ray Rice is one of my favourite NFL players not playing for a team I support. He's a dynamic playmaker and I try to get on my fantasy football teams whenever I can.

But that's changed.

In February, video emerged of Rice dragging his unconscious fiance (now wife), Janay Palmer, out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. They had both walked onto the elevator but then Janay was dragged out unconscious.

Even Rice's lawyers at the time conceded that a "physical altercation" had occurred, although they chose to describe it as "minor".

So let's call a spade a spade. Although we don't know exactly what happened in that elevator. Ray Rice pushed or hit his fiance that whether as a result of the blow or from hitting her head on a hard surface she was knocked out. The not-so-technical names for this behaviour are: domestic violence and assault.

There. is. no. excuse.

Throughout his first six years in the NFL, Rice had no record of any off field bad behaviour. In fact, Rice had been the public face of anti-bullying campaigns in and around Baltimore.

This track record makes Rice's behaviour in that elevator appear very much out of character. However, the physical and emotional damage to Janay is still very real whether it's typical or not. We should not underestimate the hurt that one act can cause.

Last week the NFL announced that Rice would receive a 2 game suspension for his actions that night. This means that he will sit out the first 2 games of the 2014 season against division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

On Thursday Rice held a media conference and publicly apologised to his wife. Without going into specifics (and he doesn't need to) he acknowledged that his "actions that night were inexcusable". He needed to do this.

One thing Rice said several times that I have heard other public figures say when making public apologies is the phrase, "That wasn't me."

I think Rice is doing a lot of the things that are necessary to redeem a bad situation. I wish him well in the future. I hope he continues in counseling to address the issues that lead to that violent outburst.

But I know this. Until Rice (or anyone needing to change behaviour) can own up to the fact that it was him that night, he's not going to make much progress.

I think what he means is "That wasn't typical of me. It wasn't characteristic of me. It was against my beliefs and expectations that I and others have for myself. I don't want to ever do it again." And those are excellent thoughts that I hope are true.

But it was him.

He has to own up that he was angry and violent. Maybe there were other factors such as alcohol involved. I don't know. But that was him.

Acknowledging our weaknesses, our struggles, and our darkness creates room for God to enter our lives and work his transformation. Dismissing them as mistakes, or a moment, or not the real me, means that we ignore them and continue through life not knowing how we'll react the next moment that particular fuse is lit.

For that sake of his wife. For the sake of his son. For the sake of anyone else close to him, I hope Rice can say, "That was me, but it's not who I am anymore."

This type of transformation is a key element of God's presence in our lives. In Colossians 3:7-8 Paul could write to the church and remind them, "You used to walk in these ways in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips."

A few lines later in v 12 he continues, "Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience...."

Paul thought it was helpful for us to remember and own who we were. Only then, with God's help, can we become the man or woman God wants us to become.

(For another perspective on Ray Rice that picks up on the same phrase, I appreciated this article on

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