A couple of days ago, I read that Ray Rice was being cut from the Baltimore Ravens. I was a bit stunned. He’s one of the best running backs in the NFL and still in his prime. You don’t usually see star athletes get cut like Ray Rice did.
But then I read why: he beat his fiance in an elevator and it was captured on video. I haven’t even watched the video yet, and I don’t ever plan on watching it. The thought of it is sickening. Violence and hurting others are two of the biggest things I stand against. I don’t tolerate harmful behaviours from anyone. I proudly thought to myself, “I would never hit a woman like that.”
“I would never hit a woman like that.”
“I would never hit a woman…”
I sat in silence as I found myself stuck on these words. I knew I would never get violent with anyone, but something was off. I began to think about everything that happened between me and my girlfriend after we broke up. Every word. Every encounter. Every feeling.
“I would never…”
A sinking feeling of dread started to kick in. “No”, I thought to myself. “Surely not. I’m the victim. She dumped me. I was just saying what I had to say. I couldn’t let our relationship go without a fight.” I was looking for something. Anything. Anything to tell me that I hadn’t been a horrible human being.
I couldn’t find it. The more I thought about every word that I spoke after we broke up, every negative feeling that I felt, the more I started to realize that I had made a succession of massive mistakes. I had become everything that I stood against. I was convinced that I was the victim, but it’s dangerous to think of yourself as a victim. And even so, it doesn’t give me a right to be hurtful. At some point and somehow, my love was only conditional on receiving her love back. But that’s not love. That’s madness.
When her love wasn’t received back, I hit out. Not with force, but with words. I didn’t realize at the time, but a part of me wanted her to feel the pain that I was feeling. She hurt me, so my first instinct was that if I was getting hurt, then to hurt her.
As I realized this, time seemed to freeze for a bit. And it was in that moment of clarity that I realized that I was no better than Ray.
I hit her with my words. And words cut deep, sometimes even deeper than physical pain. But she didn’t deserve those words. No one does. I said some very mean and hurtful things. I’m terribly embarrassed by what I have said.
When and how did I get like this? I was never a vengeful person. I’ve never wanted to harm anyone. I preach being a good person, but in those moments, I was anything but a good person. It pains me to see the hurt I’ve caused. I’m better than this, I can do much better.
From this, I learned that it’s really easy to lose yourself. And it can happen to anyone, under any circumstance. When we’re faced with these times of anger, of despair, these are the times that we really need to be strong and not give in to those emotions. We need to explore, to introspect, to reflect.
We need to think deeply about what is causing theses emotions of anger and despair and realize that most of the time, it’s our own insecurities that we are fighting.
We cannot win that fight if we are fighting someone else. If we are not fighting the true problem.
There is a brilliant piece on medium that I will link to here. The author is a man who writes about his experience on a plane flight. When he bought his ticket, he chose a window seat. Of course, since he chose that seat, he was expecting to sit by the window. But as he arrives to his aisle, a woman is already sitting in the window seat. He is in disbelief. He asks the lady if she prefers the window seat, to which she replies, “Yes I do”. At this point, the man is fuming. He grabs his phone and immediately begins to text his friend an angry message about how someone took his seat.
But right before he sends the text, he thinks better of it. He thinks to himself, “Why am I so angry? It’s just a seat”. And in that moment, he reflects on his anger. He realizes that nothing good will come out of texting that angry message. Nobody benefits.
And it’s this moment that we all need to remember the next time we get angry.
Instead of sending the angry text and being grumpy the rest of the flight, the man decides to put a smile on his face and just go on with his day.
And then magic happens. As the flight attendants come by, the lady asks the man if he wants anything. He sees her order of a Bailey’s and a coffee and remarks that he’ll order the same. The lady then tells him that she’ll buy it for him because he’s been “such a great seatmate”. And suddenly he feels awesome. It always feels awesome when someone does something nice and unexpected for you. The two start conversing and end up having an amazing flight. And to think this amazing flight could’ve easily not have happened if he was bitter the whole time, or if he forced her out of the window seat.
And this shows another lesson: that everyone is going through something.
Maybe she was having a terrible day and the window seat provided her comfort. Maybe my girlfriend broke up with me because it just wasn’t working for her. And if it’s big enough for her to want to break up with me, I should have respected that.
Just as Ray Rice has to live with the consequence of being cut, I have to live with the consequences of my actions. And those consequences are losing my girlfriend, and even more than that, losing a good friend. One of the coolest girls I know. But that’s what happens when you let anger consume you.
You can’t control what happens in life, you can only control how you respond and react. Sometimes, our initial reaction might be anger. But let’s not let anger consume us. Let’s take a step back, reflect, and find peace within ourselves. Let’s be better people because we can be. Because we have to be. Because the world needs us to be. Because every human we touch will be better if we are.
Let’s be great. And while we’re at it, let’s help everyone else be great as well.