Let me begin by saying, there is never an excuse for a man to hit a woman. Ever. What Ray Rice did is completely inexcusable, and he deserves to lose his contract. Using your physical power over somebody who is weaker than you is disgusting and cowardly, and Rice was certainly punished accordingly (albeit not immediately). What I still believe however, is that Ray Rice deserves a second chance. I don’t necessarily mean a second chance with the Ravens, or even in the NFL. What I mean is a second chance at being a man. Despite how egregious the abuse was, Ray Rice is still capable of changing… but he needs help. This may come as a shock to you all, but I don’t know Ray Rice personally. I don’t know his personality, his likes or dislikes, or what his upbringing was like. What I wholeheartedly believe about him though is that he can become a better man, a much better one.
Our emotions about this incident are running hot right now, and they should be, but we can’t fall into the trap of believing that this one incident defines the totality of his character permanently. People can change, all people, at any time. It is never too late for a person to change. I have a unique opportunity to see this up close and personal. I have the privilege of working for Young Life, and I have seen lives change right before my very eyes. I have been around high school kids who have done things and have had things done to them that aren’t far from what Ray Rice did, and I have watched them change with my own eyes. I get to see kids walk from darkness into light, and it is incredible. It is one of the most exhilarating things ever, and I would never want to deny that opportunity to anybody, not even Ray Rice. We should never deny a person a chance at new life.
New life doesn’t come easily. It also can’t be forced. The bottom line is if Ray Rice wants to change, he has to make that decision for himself and begin to live it out. But lasting change is so much more than a checklist of “things I want to do better.” Lasting change has to begin on the inside, and usually starts with “I’m tired of living like this.” Ray Rice has to make the decision, but he needs help. The most radical way to respond to someone like Rice is with love. I can already hear people saying “he doesn’t deserve love after what he did.” While I totally understand that sentiment and the place it comes from, I completely disagree. I think Ray Rice may be more in need of love than most people right now. Let me be clear, treating somebody with love does NOT mean that you condone their actions, or that you are okay with what happened. What it means is that you believe there is something better inside of them, and you are trying your hardest to point them towards it.
This is so much bigger than Ray Rice. On a daily basis our culture responds to hate and violence with more hate and violence in the name of discipline, it makes no sense. But discipline and hate are two completely different things. Discipline is ALWAYS done out of love. We discipline someone because we care about them, and don’t want them to continue in the direction that they’re headed. We also see more in them, and discipline them in the hope that it helps them realize that in themselves. When we respond to hate and violence with more of the same, darkness wins. When somebody, whether Ray Rice or someone in your life, chooses the darkness over the light, it’s our job to pull them back out and into the light rather than force them deeper in to the darkness.
Ray Rice screwed up, to put it very lightly. He likely ruined his career and absolutely destroyed his image. He needs to be disciplined, and he has deservedly lost many of the privileges in his life that he once had. However, Rice is in need of someone to love him, someone to discipline him but to teach him, someone to makes sure he understands the depths of what he did but also to tell him that he can choose to not let that incident define him. I pray that that person is already making their way into Ray’s life. There is no excuse for what he did, but there is also no excuse for forcing someone further into darkness when we have a chance to pull them into the light. One of my favorite songs says “if it weren’t for second chances we’d all be alone.” That’s just as true in Ray’s life as it is in all of ours.