What Are the Odds of That?

What Are the Odds of That?

As a sports fan and therapist, I have been observing events around the NFL player, Ray Rice, who recently was involved in some apparent partner violence. There has been speculation about fines and punishments. Then, after he does a press conference, there is speculation about his sincerity and whether or not we should accept his apology. As a blogger, this all got me thinking.

I’m generally ambivalent about Dr. Phil, but there is one thing attributed to (but not original with) him that I believe and repeat. Dr. Phil says that “the greatest predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior.” That is, if you have to bet money on who is going to do something, put your money on the person who has done that thing before. A person who has intentionally lied before is more likely to lie again than the person who has never done so. Same for those who cheat on their spouses, resort to violence, over-drink, attempt suicide, and so on. That is not to say that these people absolutely will do these things but statistically, there is a greater likelihood for them than for those who have no history with these actions.

So in my world, I look at Ray Rice’s press conference and like everyone else, wonder if his apology was sincere. I think that matters. He needs to be serious about this and truly contrite but that is not all that matters. It matters less that he has a sincere apology in the bright lights of being caught than if he is able to challenge and work on that part of him that under extreme emotional arousal believed that hitting his wife was the best course of action.

The bottom line for me is this. Yes, he is statistically more likely to engage in such behavior again than someone who has never done so before but yes, there is hope that real and deep contrition can lead to real and deep change. It didn’t happen yesterday in front of the microphones and it won’t happen today because the sports media slips back into covering other topics. It will happen a step at a time for the rest of his life. Even as my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of domestic violence, I also offer the same for the perpetrators that the only things they beat from now on are the odds.