(Scroll down for Part Two “Again, Time is Not an Apology”)
My left foot stood ahead of my right. I placed my weight forward as I observed the field. There were gaps in their defense that I fully expected to expose. We were up 3-1. Our defense caused two turnovers while our offense had yet to be stopped. It was just one of those games of football.
“Set, hut,” the quarterback said.
Quickly, the left foot thrusted me forward five yards. My lungs warned me that I shouldn’t run too far up the field. I should let the lighter receivers take flight. Thus, I planted my feet into the ground, turned back, and looked for a pass. Instead, the quarterback found someone on a fly route and launched the ball up the field. Thirty yards later, we had scored another touchdown and went up 4-1. The game only went to 5. It was going to be a quick victory.
I didn’t understand why it was so easy. The teams, I thought, were going to be more evenly matched. We had enough lightweights playing with heavyweights. Speed, strategy, and arm accuracy were all the difference we needed. We were better, and I had no problem telling them we were.
“Y’all gone play defense, or y’all just gone keep letting us score?” I boasted.
It wasn’t an outstanding game for me. I only had an interception and a few catches. We just had the better team. It was simple. Still, even with an average performance, I was going to talk trash. It was embedded in me. I grew up talking trash and having trash talked to me.
“What you say?” one of the opponents said.
“Man, hurry up and walk back up the field so y’all can turn the ball over again and lose.”
He stopped in his tracks, and looked back. “You doing a lot of talking.”
“If you want me to shut up, score. Oh wait, y’all not about to do that,” I countered.
He began to approach me. “Aight, bruh.”
Several of us watched as he marched towards me. He was taller, but thinner than I. He had the kind of stature that would make you believe he could fight. Believing he would swing at me, I placed my right foot back and curled a fist up behind my wide frame. I wasn’t a fighter, but I was past letting anyone take me down easily. The lessons from childhood came to the forefront of my mind. “You bet not go down,” I thought.
“What’s the problem?” I stated, nervous.
As quickly as he had approached, he passed me. “I got something for yo a**,” he warned.
The very moment he walked past me, I lost all respect for him. He was headed to his car. If he was headed there, he was headed there to get a gun – a coward’s weapon. He wouldn’t rely on his fists, something all of us had. He had to go grab a gun, an item none thought we’d need to bring to a park in a mutual friend’s neighborhood.
I turned away disgusted and enraged. “You’d shoot me over some trash talking in an unpaid football game? You really grabbing a gun right now!?” I thought.
“Oh, nah,” another player said.
Suddenly, the field emptied of people. The coward stood near his car, waving his gun around like he was the most powerful man. I tuned him out. Whatever he was saying were the words of a coward. They were not worth hearing. I went by the bleachers, away from him, and cursed as I pondered on what to do.
I recognized that the anger within me rose. Anger was an emotion I rarely let have a turn, so the fact that it was active was uncharted territory. It was challenging me. “Go over there and see if he’ll actually try to shoot you over a football game.” Wisdom kept telling me such a dare was not worth the risk. I couldn’t afford a hospital bill and I couldn’t afford to scare my family and friends in that way. I was stuck, but I wanted to show the coward the gun meant nothing.
Another player, who remained out of pride, was irritated as well. “Of all the people we could be in this moment and he chooses to be the black man waving a gun in a peaceful neighborhood. This doesn't just make us look bad, it makes our boy look bad, too. It's his neighborhood.” I confessed to him that I wanted run up on him, but he talked me out of it. “It’s not worth all that. He’s just talking. Let him talk.”
More people left. The few of us who remained contemplated on whether we’d leave also. We didn’t want to give him the opportunity to say he ran us off. I expected to play three games, but here we were, witnessing a young, black man pull out a gun on people who knew the people he knew. It made no sense at all. He shoots anyone and he’s in jail for murder. With kids and a wife, that was the last place he needed to be.
I hit the bleachers as he kept shouting in arrogance. He was the big, bad man in his eyes. He was the coward in ours. When he realized no one was challenging him, he placed his gun back in his car and marched back towards the field. Our teams of seven turned into teams of three. Others, along with myself, refused to let him scare us out of playing football. It was supposed to be fun. Now, it was one wrong play from turning into a fight or a gunshot wound.
“I’ma keep playing,” one friend said. “He’s not about to scare me. I’m a grown a** man. I’m not leaving because of him. Not after that.”
“Me either,” I added. “I would’ve had respect him if he actually swung on me, but he pulled out a gun. I don’t respect that and I’m not running from some coward. He about to get this work. I ain’t got nothin’ else to say to him. I’ma let my game do all the talking.”
My team, up 4-1, returned to the field. I defended him specifically. I was determined to make sure he made no further contributions to the game. Every route he ran, I’d be on him. Every move he made, I’d be in front of him. He’d get no targets and he definitely wasn’t stopping me from catching anything.
My anger blinded me to the dangers of antagonizing him further. He’d have to earn respect, and from the way their drive began, they wouldn’t have much earnings at all. They made it over halfway down the field before we stopped them on 4th down. The time had come.
In two plays, we drove down the field. The trend of the game remained, and would not be stopped. We were going to win. All we had to do was make that expectation a reality.
I lined up on the left side of the field. I placed my left foot to the front and got into position. I kept my eyes on him. I wanted him to see my game embarrass him one more time. There would be no controversial calls, iffy catches, or misplaced feet. I was going to end him.
“Set, hut,” the quarterback said.
Ten steps into the route, I ran a post, turning up the field at an angle. He tried to cover me, but I had already seen my move. I cut back from a post into a corner route, taking a slight step around him and throwing his hips out of sync. Instantly, my friend threw the ball to the back of the endzone. Throw, catch, and touchdown, with a “Game” leaving my mouth.
Part of me wanted to look at him; part of me didn’t want to acknowledge him at all. We began to clean up the cones and water bottles. I said nothing to him. He went to his car and I went to mine. I dapped-up everyone else who came to play with us. I was done with the coward.
It was just a game, but that memory left an imprint in my mind about the kind of man he was. Up until that point, I thought we could be cool – friends even. After that display, we would never be cool. He didn’t even apologize for his actions. He felt justified in pulling out a gun on young men trying to enjoy each other and workout in a game of football. That kind of person would better fit into the role of an enemy than I would ever allow to be a friend.
I kept that attitude towards him for months. What happened, happened. Can’t blame a coward for doing cowardly things. I had no grudges, but I also wouldn’t have any words for him if I ever saw him again.
Life challenged this belief when I saw him again while I was getting a money order to pay my rent. He had been hired by the establishment I frequented to collect my rent money. When I saw him, I grew irritated instantly, but I waited to see if anything had changed in him. I was cordial, and did my best not to let my face reflect the aggravation that rose from seeing his face. I did a simple nod, said, “What’s up?”, got my money order, and left.
For a while, I didn’t want to return to that establishment. I didn’t want to be forced to see him every month. However, I also didn’t want him to take something else from me. It had already become increasingly hard to get all the guys to come out to play football. Now, I was going to let him take away monthly interactions I had with the money order staff? No. I wouldn’t allow that. I returned the next month and luckily did not see him.
However, months later, a mutual friend told me the coward believed there was no animosity between us. He thought our cordial interaction that one time was enough to consider us reconciled. He believed he no longer had to apologize. He believed things had returned to normal. Little does he know, I still have no respect for him.
Me being cordial was not me accepting an apology. The passage of time was not an apology. I am mature enough to realize that not every moment has permanence. I am wise enough to realize those who refuse to apologize do not deserve to hold any position of value in my life.
“I apologize for my actions,” is a simple statement to say. I’ve had to say it several times in my life. It is a way to show respect, honor, sincerity, and value. The passage of time and one cordial interaction does not equate to a person actually saying the words and walking those words out. The passage of time does not negate the need to apologize for what you did and how you behaved. The passage of time does not heal. Talking through it, doing the work, and apologizing heals. Do not delude yourselves into believing otherwise.
Some of you, my blessings who read my content, have apologies you don’t know you need to say. May I encourage you to reflect. Go back through your memories and see if there was ever a time where you were out of line. Did you apologize? If you’re still connected to this person, go and apologize. If you’re not connected but know where to find them, go and apologize.
What does Matthew 5:23-24 say? If your brother has something against you, do not present your gift before the altar. Frist, be reconciled. What does James 5:16 say? Confess your sins that you may be healed. There are benefits to apologizing and confessing your wrongs. Do not leave your life in the hands of curses because you’re too prideful to admit you did wrong.
I talked too much trash. I pushed a man too far. I underestimated how much my words stung. I have done this several times. I can admit I do not realize the full power of my tongue. What was me having fun should’ve never conjured such a decision by another. This story isn’t just about one man. Though I wasn’t the only voice talking trash, it was my voice that led to the appearance of a gun. I have to own that.
In a world where man’s first instinct is to be evil, we should always be checking our hearts, our motives, our words, and our actions. What may feel like one person being evil is actually all persons being evil, but one being the evilest. Always be aware of your hand in the situation.
Again, Time is Not an Apology
Lust. I have battled with lust for a good portion of my life. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I’ve accepted. Women are beautiful and I have no problem letting them know. I also tend to have no problem letting them know in dramatic fashion, which has put me in conflicts. That is how I was being asked why I stopped following a girl after years of interaction.
I would flirt here, she would tease there, but it was never anything that would pan out. She lived far away and there were moments where I had to realize we were not compatible. I owe lust nothing and will leave it, and those I share it with, alone at any time. This was what I had done with her, and she was justly upset.
As I said, we had been interacting for years. It wasn’t always inappropriate, but her content was consistently inappropriate enough for me to include her when I cleaned house. I realized I had ventured too far into things I shouldn’t have given myself access to. It took her a little while to notice, but she did.
She asked why I stopped following her, so I confessed. Her alluring beauty was on display in a dream of mine. It was the kind of dream that involved much passion, but left me very exposed when I woke. How could I let my fascination go that far? I had to sever the tie.
I thought I could trust her to understand my reasonings. It’s not like I wasn’t also, and more frequently, sharing the Gospel, wisdom, and more pure things. I explained that her content wasn’t for me anymore and I recognized I couldn’t ask her to change how she posted for me, having interacted with the risqué posts beforehand. My dream was a wakeup call. I did what I thought was best and disconnected.
I was very honest. I was very detailed. I was very transparent. I apologized. The reward for this communicative effort was seeing my private messages shared to her page with her calling me a lame. She and her followers laughed at my confession, commenting “You removed her cause you couldn’t have sex with her? Lol lame.” She did not censor my profile. She laughed at and mocked me along with others, like an enemy.
I took this retaliation as confirmation of my decision. I was right in excommunicating her. I had no hard feelings, but it did hurt to see just how vile social media allows people to be. Even people you interacted with for years can turn and give strangers personal information.
I couldn’t fully understand her reasoning. I admit, I am consistently at a loss dealing with women. From what men have told me, it is a common experience, so I don’t stress it. Laugh at me, mock me, talk about me behind my back. I’m good either way, and I am a good man either way. Let the Lord sort it out between us.
However, months later, she messages me, asking for prayer. Her mother was going through a fight with disease, and she, as her daughter, was losing her hope. The request was so surreal. I wanted to ask, “Do you know that I saw you share my private message publicly and laugh with the people who laughed at me? Be for real.” Instead, I did as a good Christian does and sat my pettiness aside to intercede.
The interaction left me concerned for her, because who does she have in her life that she would turn to me to ask for prayer? How bad was it going to get if her mother did not make it through her battle? How long would this return be?
The skimmed version of the story goes: her mother’s condition worsened, more prayers were requested and we shared phone numbers to do lengthier prayers, her mother passed away, more prayers were requested, and I kept checking in from time to time. She had matured, and her content wasn’t so riddled with lust, so I felt safe to reconnect. Still, at the back of my mind, I kept wondering why she thought she didn’t need to apologize for broadcasting my personal message.
Still, being the good, Christian man that I am, I stayed in touch. She’d call me from time to time to pray or ask about how to deal with a new man in her life. I was happy she had a man. Most of the sexual things she used to confess to the world were getting left off her page. He must’ve been doing right by her by some means. Still, where was the apology?
The interactions were so sparing that I didn’t think it appropriate to bring the past up whenever she called. However, I realized, allowing this issue within me to stay quiet would not allow me to present my best version. I’d always be holding back or expecting this association to end over something stupid.
Thus, I asked her in a private message, “Hey, why did you share my private message with your followers and laugh at and mock me with them after our first disconnect?”
“What?” she replied.
I explained what had happened nearly two years ago. I confessed how it made me feel. I questioned why she felt she never had to apologize for that.
Do you know what I got in return to bringing that up? She blocked me. She ceased all communication with me without even explaining how she felt. The last thing she did was call me weird for bringing it back up.
This confirmed what I had always known about her. She was good at using men. She was poor at valuing men. The connection would only last as long as I helped her walk through life. When it was time to help me get past some things, she wouldn’t even extend an olive branch. She wouldn’t try to understand my viewpoint at all. She wasn’t a friend. She was a user. I was just glad she could no longer pretend like she cared about me. The months between texts and calls were getting annoying.
What makes a person believe they can treat you like a punchline and then come back with no apology? Time passing is not an apology. You can’t just return into people’s lives without acknowledging you hurt them in the past. What kind of insane person does such a thing and think there is no consequence for such actions?
People truly believe they can just erupt on you because their feelings are hurt and return months later without so much as an explanation. It is absurd and disrespectful. That is why she became one of the first people I ever blocked from my social media. I cannot afford to have people in my life who refuse to acknowledge their faults. I acknowledged mine. I confessed I had ventured too far into things I should not have entertained. I apologized. Yet, I am supposed to accept far less? Far be it from me to hold and be held accountable.
The older I get, the less I am willing to endure the abuse by others. I am a kind man. I am a sweet man. I am a good man. None of this allows for disrespect or manipulation. You can’t tell people my faults and laugh, then come back because you know I’m close to the Lord and will pray for you. There is a reason I’m not anyone’s pastor. I talk a lot of trash and entertain lust on occasion. God has not finished His work in me to completion on that matter.
Let it be known that it is a danger to all to abuse a righteous, holy, child of God. You do not get to treat God’s people like emergency lines to Him. Many times, I have heard, “Oh, He listens to you, Dario. I know if you pray, God will answer.” If He answers me for what you need, do you not think He will answer me for what I need also? Then, how dare you disrespect me like I won’t take it to God and He will respond.
There are several excommunicated folks who are walking around in this life thinking they’ve gotten the best of me. I have learned, God does repay, as He said He would when He spoke through Paul in Romans 12. To play with your life over disrespecting a child of God is foolish. Nothing is forgotten, and not everything is forgiven. Discipline comes for those who treat people like playthings.
If someone says, “You hurt me when you ____,” please do the easiest thing and apologize. Even if you don’t understand in the moment, you can seek understanding later. What’s best is to apologize, especially if you do not know how you were wrong.
Even in the moments where you were right, you can go about being right all wrong. You can be arrogantly right, calling someone dumb for not realizing their evil. You can be right, but tease them about it, which is evil. You can be right and violent, like many superheroes, which is evil. You can be right and judgmental, like a Pharisee or Sadducee, and be evil. There are plenty of ways to be right and behave in a way that makes you wrong. Don’t believe me, ask God where you used your rightness to be evil.
You cannot do people wrong and avoid consequences. You cannot hurt people and demand to remain in their lives without first apologizing. You never know what people hold in their heart. You never know who may be holding onto something because you didn’t do your due diligence and make sure that you were forgiven. Don’t assume you were forgiven. Ask for forgiveness.
Time passing doesn’t mean you can act as if nothing happened. Time passing does not open the door for reconnection. You putting it to rest is not the same as another putting it to rest. Be mindful of your past actions. God has forgiven you, but people have not. People need reassurance. You’re going to have to apologize, whether they want you to or not.
Let these two stories be a lesson for you, as they were for me. Apologizing goes a long way. Even if people don’t hold it against you, apologizing goes a long way. You owe it to the people you’ve hurt to apologize. Doesn’t matter if they were your kids. Doesn’t matter if they did more evil than you. Doesn’t matter if them being unforgiving is not Christlike. Confess what you did. Own up to what you did. Apologize for what you did. If you do, you never know what forgiveness you may draw out, what door you may open up, and what relationship you may restore. Don’t become like two of the few people in my life who will never earn the same access to me as a stranger would have. If you need an apology from me, let me know.