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  • Writer's pictureLee Freeman

Perspectives: Counseling Lessons from the World Number 1 Golfer Being Arrested This Morning

Updated: Jun 20


In a bizarre turn of events, the best golfer in the world was arrested and charged with felony assault this morning due to an apparent "misunderstanding" (ESPN's Jeff Darlington). From a Christian counseling lens, there's a lot we can learn from what happened.


Summary of Events

  • A vendor was tragically killed by a bus in the early morning hours, and a roadblock was set up by police as a result.

  • According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, an eye witness to Scottie Scheffler's arrest, "players, tournament officials and broadcast media were allowed through the roadblock. "

  • As Scheffler approached the roadblock in a marked PGA courtesy vehicle, he attempted to drive past it on the median.

  • "A police officer approached Scheffler’s car and told him to stop but Scheffler continued to drive another '10 to 20 yards.' That’s when Darlington reported the officer “officer attached himself to the side of Scheffler’s car” and Scheffler stopped as he turned into the entrance of the golf course. After about 20 to 30 seconds, Scheffler rolled down his window to speak to the officer, Darlington said. According to Darlington, “the officer grabbed Scheffler’s arm to pull him out of the vehicle.” Scheffler was then pressed against the car and handcuffed, Darlington said." (https://golf.com/news/scottie-scheffler-detained-what-we-know/)


Interpreting Events Critically: Considering Context

Most of the initial accounts have done a remarkable job staying neutral, but big news has a way of inciting outrage. Certainly as this story gains traction, speculation and judgement will abound. However, the story becomes much less outrageous when we consider context:

  • It was dark outside, and there were flashing police lights. Both the officer involved and Scheffler likely had trouble seeing clearly.

  • The motion, intensity, and emotional connotations of the police lights likely contributed to autonomic arousal in both Scheffler and the officer.

  • From the officer's perspective, someone had just died, and he was put in the incredibly stressful position of negotiating droves of frustrated drivers at one of the most prestigious sporting events in the country.

  • A miscommunication is plausible in this chaotic environment.


Biblical Wisdom

Scripture offers many applicable insights here, a few of which are included below:

John 7:24 — "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."


Proverbs 18:17 — "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes

and examines him."


As with many issues we work on in counseling, readers have a choice about what to focus on. Unfortunately, social media and major news outlets have too often conditioned us to identify enemies and passionately crucify them. But we have alternatives. Rather than a "gut reaction," we can have a "brain reaction" or perhaps even better — a "heart reaction." We can consider both perspectives and take an empathic stance. We can see things with nuance and understanding rather than in absolute terms. We can be blindly loyal to those we align with, or we can see the ubiquitous imperfection yet incomparable Image-bearing value in each person. We can judge others based on how God judges us: with love, mercy, and grace. After all, as we determine what "right judgment" is, wouldn't God's example be the best one?


Matthew 7:12 — "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


There can be a sick satisfaction to aligning with others against a common enemy. But Jesus did the opposite. When crowds persecuted individuals, Jesus joined those facing the crowd's ire (John 8:3-11). He also gave us the "golden rule," which reminds us how the police officer must feel right now.

Luke 6:37 — "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven."


From a mental health standpoint, forgiveness is one of the healthiest things we can do. As the number one golfer in the world, Scheffler could have been indignant. He could have called out the police department for how he felt unjustly treated, for what must have seemed to him like an absurd overreaction. But he didn't. His statement on his Instagram story is a great example of a mature, humble, magnanimous response, clarifying his intentions, acknowledging the chaos, and putting it all in perspective of the tragic death that set these events in motion.


How Forgiveness Paves the Way for Reconciliation

Scheffler could have leveraged this situation for financial gain and/or fame. He could take legal action against the police department. He could massively increase his social media following by contributing to the media firestorm surrounding these events. Instead, because Scottie responded the way he did, the ground is fertile for reconciliation. It sounds familiar:


Matthew 5:25 — “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison."


Scheffler did everything he could without compromising truth to make it possible for the police department to apologize and/or dismiss charges. He didn't make it combative and he didn't point the finger. The subtext of his message was forgiveness, and it paved the way for the police to reconcile with Scheffler.


Application

  • How do you see yourself in the police officer?

  • What have you learned from this situation?

  • How has this example inspired you to respond to issues in your own life?

  • What actions can you take right now to reconcile and forgive?

UPDATE:

Almost two weeks after his arrest, charges against Scheffler were dropped. In his Instagram story responding to the announcement, Scheffler reiterated that he feels "no ill will toward Officer Gillis" (https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/40240096/charges-dropped-scottie-scheffler-louisville-arrest).

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