Vengeance is mine?
Portland, Maine — It is only human that when an injustice occurs to us, we want to get revenge. However, my father taught me the biblical principle of not responding in kind when someone treats us badly.
My father was a talented, well-respected teacher and a public relations expert. He was the PR director for a hospital in Nashville TN, and when he was 60, a new administrator was hired and reported for duty. The new CEO wanted to infuse young blood into the organization so he eliminated my father's position as PR director.
I was livid to say the least. I spent countless hours over many months conveying well-meaning advice on how dad should sue, file discrimination claims, etc.
At every turn and recommendation of mine, my father would kindly rebuff me with the simple biblical admonition. "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord."
Religious or not, history shows us that this is a good piece of advice. People who take the high road and don't respond in kind usually end up with history rewarding that behavior.
One great example of the wisdom of this behavior is from Armando Galarraga, a talented pitcher with the Detroit Tigers. On June 2, 2010, Armando retired the first 26 batters of his opponent, the Cleveland Indians, and was one pitch away from a perfect game.
In more than a century of baseball with over 200,000 contests, there had only been 20 perfect games—no hits, no walks, no errors —no blemishes of any kind. Armando was poised to be the 21st.
Armando’s pitch to reach the record books of baseball immortality turned into a cruel flash. It was a routine grounder to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who made a perfect throw to Galarraga covering first who clearly beat the runner to the bag. However, Jim Joyce, the experienced first base umpire didn't believe the throw had beaten the runner and he called the runner safe.
The Tigers screamed at umpire Joyce, and the fans started booing an angry protest.
Only one person remained calm: Armando Galarraga. With a wry smile on his face, he returned to the mound, as if to say, no big deal, as he got the next batter out to end the game.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga & MLB Umpire Jim Joyce in the Press Room of the 2010 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theater - LA Live on July 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Joe Seer/Shutterstock
This was before the days of video review challenges. As he left the field, Joyce had a sick feeling in his stomach. Making his way to the umpires’ clubhouse, Joyce asked to see the video replay. Then he immediately went to the press room and communicated an emotional regret, breaking down in tears and admitting his error.
At the Tiger's clubhouse, Armando reacted with a smile, instead of bitterness. “Nobody’s perfect,” he said. Armando and Joyce have since formed a bond and both participated in writing a book entitled “Nobody's Perfect.” Galarraga and Joyce's behavior put them both in history as an unforgettable example of mutual graciousness.
My father had every reason to be bitter and cry “foul" over his dismissal. Instead, he graciously moved on with his life and took a position as editor of the Nashville Business Magazine. During this time, he increased his influence in the community and became close with Johnny Cash and his family.
When my father died a few years later, the Church, of which he was a member, did not have enough seats for everyone who wanted to attend his funeral.
My father's advice has helped me so many times, and it really came in handy when I was faced with the greatest challenge of my life.
I went to Guam in 2012 to manage the Guam SDA Clinic. In May 2015, I took a one-year interim contract as CEO of the Guam Memorial Hospital to help the government of Guam manage the facility that was in a real jam financially. GMH was on probation with JCAHO, were needing $30 million a year in local subsidy to stay afloat, and was facing the opening of a new private hospital competitor on Guam.
Using my background and experience in hospital management, I began looking into areas needing improvement while preparing for the impending JCAHO survey. But some at GMH who had great influence at the governor's office didn't want me looking into areas I was beginning to address, such as noncompliant billing and physician compensation abnormalities.
The governor at that time sent a letter to the board chair and the media stating I had abused the company credit card. Based on the inquiry conducted by an independent consultant, the hospital board cleared me of any wrongdoing. Unbeknownst to me, however, the administration’s resentment toward me would seal my fate. (This is the first of a two-part series. The continuation will be in next month’s issue.)
Theodore Lewis is former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.