Insecurity is often Incognito

In case you haven’t heard about the supposed bullying case involving the Dolphin’s offensive lineman Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin, already, you can read a little bit about it here, where the GM allegedly tells Martin to punch Incognito for bullying.

Whether positive or negative, one result of this high profile issue, is that it has opened the door for discussion on the sports talk radio shows. It’s a time when the morality of sports life takes front stage and opens up the door for everything from a can of worms to a can of whoop@#$.

Most of the discussion didn’t center on whether or not this was actually a case of bullying (although I heard today this was more classism than racism), but how one should respond when that happens. At any level.

Report: Jim Rome, who’s worldview I would describe as moralistic temporary karmic, thought that Jonathon Martin did the right thing and report it. After all, what if he did fight back? Could anything good come from that? End Incognito’s career, his career, assault charge, etc? From a pragmatic perspective, he could not be more accurate. Practical thing is to report it.

Fight Back: This was also present, and when there were two hosts, opinions seemed opposite. Fight back and be a man. That’s what you do. Then the bullying will stop. And you will have shown you are worthy of respect.

Rome’s best contribution to the discussion was his claim that not everything is black and white (do this and that will result). It’s not a simple issue. And it’s not a simple result. When grown men physically fight each other, I’m not sure the results are the same as on the playground in grade school. Such problems compound themselves not solve themselves.

But another question one host raised seemed to go a little deeper: is standing up, fighting back, of the essence of being a man? Or a follow-up question (from me) is self-control at the heart of being a man or is defending yourself physically when another is verbally abusing you?

Why is it important to start with belief? Because among other things, you always act according to your beliefs. Here’s a fairly apropos verse from I Peter 2.

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

What did Jesus do for me? He suffered for me. He also gave me an example of what do when people verbally insult me-though one needs to read more of the context to get that. But why was Jesus able to do so? Because of his belief: “entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus deferred justice to God the Father.

Jesus was judged unjustly so that we could be judged justly. So while he left us an example, he first and foremost initiated justification. His death on the cross shows me all the respect in the world. I don’t need your respect-though I often feel I do (disbelieving the gospel) because he has already provided that. In addition, if I entrust God to judge my bullies, I can go to the civil authorities and trust that God will use them to protect me. If not they will have to give an account.

I don’t have to fight back in order to “show some respect” or be a “man.” I don’t have to prove something to you in order for you to respect me. We’re made in the image of God and that’s enough (James 3) to warrant you not verbally bullying. Of course you build respect before others by what you do over time, but you have to start with the respect that God gives you or else you’ll simply do things to manipulate others into liking you (including physical violence).

We really probably have no idea of what all went on. And Martin’s parents are both lawyers, so he surely operated from their legal counsel. But instead of discerning what Martin should have done, and whether or not Martin is blameless in this, or if it all lays on the lap of Incognito or Dolphin coaches, the best question to ponder is what does it mean to be a man, or to have “self-respect.” If grounded in the gospel story, then I don’t HAVE to fight back. Now I may, and you may, but I would argue that if you or I truly believe, we won’t have to do so. Is the ability to take criticism and not respond impulsively (physically) a bit more masculine and respectable?

Instead of only preparing yourself for what you would do in that situation, it’s probably just as important to prepare yourself to not HAVE to succumb to your emotions and literally throw the first punch. You have the power not to do so (Romans 6:14) and have been stripped of the sense of needing to do so as well.

You could really argue that fighting back, showing you’re a man, showing you’re worthy of respect, is really insecurity dressed incognito. Incognito.

On Kyle Williams and Manning-up/Womanning Up

There were some great football games this past weekend for the divisional championship round games (winner goes to Super Bowl). Unfortunately for both losing teams, their losses are mired in the mystery and misery of mistake ridden final moments.
The 49ers lost to the giants in OT because kick-returner Kyle Williams fumbled the ball on his team’s side of the field. As a result, the Giants kicked the game winning field goal. Unfortunately for him, he actually received death threats via twitter (unfortunately its not just soccer where that happens).
The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Patriots due to a missed field goal in the final moments which would have sent the game into OT. 
Two games. Two goats. 
But each responded a little differently. 49ers Kick Returner Kyle Williams owned his own mistake. Ravens kicker seemed to do just that. But then he began blaming the New England scoreboard for not putting the correct down causing him and his teammates to rush. Given New England’s penchant for cheating, I’m sure that it was intentional.
However, two games, two goats. Two different responses. As Jim Rome said on his radio show today, “One guy manned up, and owned it. That’s macho.”
I’m always interested in what folks consider masculine, or in other words, what “real men do,” because even “Christian” masculinity seems to be cut and pasted from respected cultural norms. Then you can just throw a verse or two on top of it and canonize it.
But because man is made in the image of God, we shouldn’t expect everything held high in our culture to be completely devoid of biblical truth. Rome is on to something here. In part.
Right: It is “manly” to confess when you screw up. Men often run from their problems. We blame. Adam did it. But redeemed manhood does confess. And this can be hard because men are designed to lead and saying you screwed up seems to get in the way of leading. But part of leadership is being able to say, “I screwed up. I own it. It’s not YOUR fault. It’s mine.” People like that. Kyle Williams’ teammates did too. Of course this really can only be accomplished by a deep belief in the gospel that says, “I screwed up, but God loves me the same as He did before I screwed up. I don’t lose my opportunity to lead, but have the opportunity to recognize my need for grace. Ideally others will also see their need for grace too.”
Perhaps not as Right: While it is “manly” to confess when you screwed up, I don’t know that is is uniquely manly. Men do need to take the lead in this because, well, they are to lead. So maybe there is a primacy…Yet you could also just as truthfully deem this quality “womanly,” or feminine. You could just as easily say, “Woman up, own this, and move forward.” Adam blamed Eve. Then Eve followed his example and blamed the serpent. Just like the natural man, the natural woman, is prone to blame shift. But the redeemed woman, can also believe the gospel, and “woman-up,”  and display this “manly” or “womanly” quality.
Owning your mistakes and shortcomings is both masculine and feminine, if you have to put it in those terms. But truthfully it is simply living out the gospel. It is Christ-centered more than anything. 
The fact that some people appreciate this characteristic is but another example of the ways man/woman still images God. While I don’t know that this is SPECIFICALLY masculine, it is still part of godly masculinity. And it’s great to see this quality praised as opposed to what passes as “macho” in beer commercials. Maybe folks like Jim Rome will take the next step and say, “I screwed up because that’s what I do. I’m a screw-up. But Jesus loves screw-ups who recognize their need of His grace.”