Letter: An Alternative to Bullying

To the Editor:

The story about 300-pound football player Richie Incognito and his travails has struck me as very ironic. Recently reported in the media as a “bully,” Incognito appears to have a history of troublesome, confusing and sometimes violent relationships with teammates, opponents and others.

The term “incognito” basically means “in disguise” or “concealing identity” as in “traveling incognito.” It is my belief that Incognito has willingly taken on a “disguise.” I’m guessing that beneath the disguise is a big 300-pound football player who has been and remains broken, sad, afraid and confused — maybe not too different from each of us. A bully is very alert to signs of weakness, softness and fear in others. The bully needs to crush these images, otherwise he might be overtaken by his own fear and alienation. The bully is actually trying to destroy the very image he sees in himself as unacceptable. Thus he remains “incognito” — unaware and out of touch with his life, his feelings, his brokenness, his humanity. He’s not stupid, though. Some, in particular the NFL, its coaches and directors, are heavily invested in “incognito-ness.” Incognito has been a good student. He has learned. I can almost imagine some of the instruction he may have received — “Stop your damn crying and get out there and kick some butt.”

Fortunately for all of us, there is an alternative to bullying. Either we will transmit our experience of pain, fear, shame, etc. on others, or we will learn to transform the experience. Transforming this experience begins with “recognition” and owning our own fears, doubts, shame, etc. This “recognition” can only be done willingly and usually happens with the care and support of others. The journey from “incognito” to “recognito” is a spiritual and arduous one. It requires real courage and grace. Together, we can travel this road.

Mark Koch

Springfield, Vt.