To Hit or Not To Hit

ray.rice1_By now, you’ve most likely heard about the NFL star, Ray Rice, and the video that shows him spitting on, punching, and dragging his then fiancée (now wife) in and from an elevator. It’s pretty brutal to watch the soundless video and how Rice turns his fiancée into a “sack of potatoes” with one punch, rendering her unconscious and completely helpless, looking nearly lifeless as she lays slumped on the elevator floor.

This case has so many different layers that it’s really hard to know where to begin in taking about it. The NFL has responded to the video by indefinitely suspending Rice from play, but now there is question as to whether or not they had seen the video prior to its becoming public.

One of the most surprising reactions to the video is the idea that what Rice did was okay, that maybe his wife deserved what she got. There are actually people who are saying that Rice’s then fiancée was to blame and that the punishment that has been meted out on the NFL star is too harsh. Really? Did I miss something?

You might call me old fashioned, but I still kind of look at it as a man’s responsibility to protect his woman. Protect, not beat. Protect and guard, not forcefully abuse and punish.

I grew up with parents who had witnessed abuse or experienced it themselves. Both of my grandfathers had tempers and were known to release those tempers on their wives and sometimes, children. One was an alcoholic and the other just allowed his German blood to boil to the top. Because my parents had both experienced and witnessed this anger themselves, to say that their sensitivity to anger, losing control, and striking another human being was heightened is probably a gross understatement.

I remember once when I was in high school, my girlfriend at the time and I were hanging out at my house. As we talked, the conversation moved towards a female friend of mine for whom my girlfriend suspected I had feelings. I denied it but my girlfriend persisted and in a moment of anger and rage, I snapped. My hand moved fast and I slapped her across the face. It was almost as if I was watching the whole incident play out from above and I acted before I had thought, responding to words rather than the person.

Well, whatever took place in the moments following, I don’t completely remember. I do remember that my mom knew something had happened and she came into the room where we were. I vividly remember my mom and dad sitting me down to explain to me how egregious my actions were. No, I didn’t render my girlfriend unconscious, in fact, the biggest thing hurt in the whole incident may just have been her pride, but my parents would NOT raise a son who would raise his hand to a woman, no matter what she had said. They would not raise a son who would turn out to be like their fathers had been to their mothers. That was their concern.

While that seems like a lifetime ago, I still remember what happened and it left an indelible mark on me, to the point that I’ve never repeated those actions nor would I ever consider repeating them. I was a teenager. I was young and stupid. I repented of what I had done, turned from that stupid mistake. I didn’t just say I was sorry because I got caught, I turned away from that day and never, ever, ever repeated those actions again.

As I look back, it didn’t matter what my girlfriend said to me, words are words. Whatever it was that she had said caused something within me to rise up, but the end result should hardly have resulted in a slap across the face. While words can be hurtful and cause us emotional pain, can we really equate emotional and physical pain to one another? Can we really say that one pain deserves another? If we are the bigger person, don’t we just walk away from hurtful words? What does it benefit us if we respond and react, especially in such an angry and aggressive manner? The thought that emotional abuse would evoke or even deserve physical abuse is distorted, at best. It doesn’t matter that Rice’s fiancée eventually married him. It doesn’t matter that he pays the bills. What matters is that his commitment to protect and care for her doesn’t render her as his property, giving him freedom to do with her as he pleases.

If we are all honest, we get angry. Some of us struggle with anger more than others, but I think that most of us have ways to handle our anger, hopefully they are healthy ways. The moment that we begin to handle our anger in inappropriate ways is the minute that we need to look beneath the surface to see what’s at the heart of our actions. If there are mental issues there, lurking underneath what everyone sees, then those issues need to be addressed. If we see a tendency in ourselves or others to be controlled by anger, we need to sound the alarms. That’s what my parents did for me and as much as I might say that it was only a slap, what would have happened had my parents not confronted me on what I had done.

I won’t soon forget the day that I raised my hand to a female that I loved, my parents assured that that would not be the case. They helped me to understand what my role was as a lover, companion, friend, and protector. I wonder whether or not Ray Rice will forget the day that he raised his hand to a female. If we have a remorseful response to our mistakes only because we were caught for them rather than because we legitimately see the error of our ways, we will most likely be doomed to repeat those same mistakes. I hope that we all stop not because we have been caught but because we’ve seen the error of our ways and changed our behavior.

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