I want to talk about something difficult today. Something that necessarily comes with layers of difficulties, rabbit trails and red herrings in abundance.
I don’t want the difficult specifics of the situation to be minimized in any way, but I also want to get beyond the details so we can think about another important question that has far-reaching implications.
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Before proposing the question, let me be clear—the specifics are hard. The audacity of the act is unthinkable, sobering, and nothing short of infuriating. I don’t want to minimize the severity. I simply want to examine an underlying angle that tends to get under-discussed at best and ignored at worst.
I am wrestling with this question: What’s too much to pay for an awful choice?
I want to talk about forgiveness. And consequence. I want to address pardon…propitiation…a restart. I want to talk about second chances. When do they and when do they not apply? When does a person not deserve a second chance?
And who gets to decide that? Could different people have justifiably different ways to proceed?
His Offense: An Act that Can’t Be Retrieved
Joe Mixon is a 20-year-old, aspiring NFL athlete.
Soon after arriving on the college campus one day after his 18th birthday, Mixon punched fellow student Amelia Molitor in the face. The punch broke multiple bones, required hospitalization, surgery, and a jaw wired shut.
Not only did Molitor have to endure a difficult physical recovery, she was also subject to extended stares, shame, social media streams attempting to blame her, and to the fans, attorneys, etc., who prioritized Mixon’s football future over her mental and physical health.
While the horrifying incident happened three years ago, the video wasn’t released until December 2016, which spurred even more stares at Molitor, more outrage directed at Mixon, and more fans and attorneys attempting to minimize Mixon’s criminal actions.
Her Choice: A Path Rarely Chosen
Molitor has seemingly worked hard to heal and survive. Some would say she has found a way to thrive. Part of her chosen way through was to meet recently with Mixon.
From Molitor on their meeting:
“Joe and I were able to meet privately, without any attorneys, and talk about our experiences since that night. I am encouraged that we will both be able to move forward from here with our lives. From our private discussions I am satisfied that we are going to put this behind us and work towards helping others who may have found themselves in similar circumstances.
I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did.”
“I’m thankful Mia and I were able to talk privately. I was able to apologize to her one-on-one. The way I reacted that night, that’s not me. That’s not the way I was raised. I think she understands that.
Talking together helps move us past what happened. I know I have to keep working to be a better person, and this is another step in that direction. I love working with kids, and I’m looking forward to more chances to do that kind of work. I want to lead a life that inspires them, and I hope I can lead by example from today forward.”
The initial incident was awful. The apology was nevertheless accepted. I’m not close enough to either Mixon or Molitor to gauge the depth of sincerity nor entirety of motive. All I know is what everyone else knows: they met, he apologized, she accepted it.
Joe Mixon is considered one of the most skilled NFL prospects and was projected talent-wise to be in the top-10 of First Round picks. When he was finally selected by the Bengals in the mid-second round on the second day of the draft, many were understandably outraged.
Your Move: Is a Second Chance Part of Your Worldview?
If a person chooses to never cheer for Joe Mixon, they will find no active argument from me. If a person chooses to jeer, they will also find no argument.
But if a person feels led to give a second chance to another—investing in him, walking alongside him, providing structure and discipline and helping him grow—you will also find no argument.
A second chance is not a right, but it can be beautiful, contagious, and inspiring.
Hence, this isn’t ultimately about Joe Mixon, Amelia Molitor, the Bengals, or the NFL. The real questions are, “When does a person deserve a second chance? Who gets to decide that? And is it ok that we will have different answers to that question?
When an athlete, celebrity, public servant, felon, or friend, does actually redeem themselves—when they do grow, change, repent, and become a positive influence, when a person or relationship is redeemed or restored—is that not most beautiful?
Tough, I know, because this beauty always depends on someone granting a second chance in the face of some difficult behavior—and sometimes just plain evil—that started the whole thing in the first place.
But we can’t miss wrestling with a critical question like this one, because inevitably, it’s one whose answer affects us all.