Pete Phillips explains why being a Christian does not mean magical...
Some clubs have that rustique, house techno air with a stale smell of beer and cigarette stained carpets. Some have nice people. Some have oddballs.
A few months ago I found myself in the latter. A hip hop club, northern California, 2am.
I should have known how my night was going to turn out when the bar tender raised his eyebrows at my request for a suggestion of a nice Pinot. As I waited for my drink at the bar, I noted to my right, a line of men skirting the potential. Before I could reach to pay for the drink, a man wearing enough jewellery that would make Laurence Graff blush was vying to pay for my plastic cupped Merlot.
‘Oh no that’s not necessary – but thank you’
‘What’s your name?’ he moved right into my space, and focused more on the body than my words.
‘Bernard’ I replied.
‘Let me give you my number’. I had hoped with my first line being an obvious lie, he’d have sort company elsewhere. But no. He only had eyes for my breasts.
‘No no, that won’t be necessary either’
‘Are we talking in the same language?’ I laugh.
A girlfriend notices I’m sinking under the shock of this place. Her arrival means I can turn quickly and walk away.
Disco lights anointing my gang of friends – they are dropping it like it’s hot, accept for me, who can’t take her plastic-cupped Merlot onto the dance floor. So I wait to consume it. As I do so, my new ‘must give my number to every girl in the place’ friend, just stands opposite me and stares. If there could be a counter-come to bed eyes’ look – this guy had it.
No company to help me this time, I pull myself around a wall so no one can see from the dance floor, and mouth ‘please……no’. I move again back to watching my friends.
He ignores me and begins to talk into my ear. I’m stuck between a door frame and his face. Being this the season of brotherhood, I had hoped this was one of those moments where I’d be okay. But Monkey was in the toilets having a nose-bleed the entire evening and LK was dancing with his back to me, no doubt awaiting the team of cougars that regularly follow him to any dance floor. I just was praying no one had a trilby hat so he didn’t begin to attempt his Michael Jackson routine.
This dude was beginning to creep me out. Utterly objectified by him and his screaming perversion, his mouth went from my ear to my neck. I was reacting as if I had just been bitten by a mosquito. God – help a daughter out here.
Within a second I felt his entire body be shifted to my right, I’m given a chance to wipe my neck with my hand.
‘That’s enough man…’
It was LK. To be quite frank, the creep was bigger than LK. But certainly not as assertive, nor as ready to confront. I’ve never seen LK get angry.
Always the calm collective, even on this, he managed to play it cool. My adrenalin was as intense as when I walked on fire in 2006.
‘Is everything ok?’ – a bouncer twice the size of both of them asks.
‘You going to take this guy away?’ LK asks.
It was like watching Charlie Brown trying to fend off Triple H. But oddly, both of the guys LK was facing didn’t snigger. I was actually beginning to enjoy this. Finally a Christian man with testicles and attitude to match. Too often do I find an effeminate male within the Church and I wish I could shout that meekness isn’t weakness. We’re supposed to be undefiable warriors, and fight whenever is necessary, not coil away from it.
‘Ok ok ok, man. Ok.’ Creep replies. He walks away giving me the look as if we were still not done.
‘Okay! We’re all fine. Everyone is happy’ breathes the bouncer.
As soon as they walked away LK turns to me wide-eyed: ‘Well that escalated quickly.’
I laugh and thank him. He already knew my story of the last time I encountered something like this, but when being perturbed by a man’s sexual aggression in front of a past boyfriend - he just told me ‘you’re a big girl, you can look after yourself’. Utterly deflated with no help, from that point, I began to seek out the threat before it even arrived. And rude? Oh boy I was rude. I let a couple of instances in my past to create a new unnecessary strength to fight.
‘You don’t have to always protect yourself Carrie,’ LK replies. The music finds him once more as he shimmies back over to the dance floor.
That line sunk somewhere between my cortex and my amygdala. In a sentence I realised he had recognised my need to have bravado, to have a wall around me to protect myself from prey – LK knew I’d experience unpredictable behavior, from people who were supposed to care for me. Like we all have. But do we let that become a reason to either become a people-pleaser or wear a full coat of armour when actually you’re in a poppy field?
I fathomed how vital it is to have people around us to stay accountable to ourselves, whilst not holding onto this sense of ‘I must protect myself because no one else will’. That is a portentous road to go down – for amongst that path you will find the controlling/judging/irrational version of yourself. And we all know that’s not pretty. Everyone can live in the ‘I’ve been hurt before’ line. Some more than others. But living from a victim mentality makes you over-protective, angry, bitter and untrusting. You will attract the very thing you are constantly fighting against. Hence why we must understand how awesome we are.
Those who care about us respect, protect and love on us, no matter what you may be focusing on or where you are in your journey. You will have the same core values. Self-love, loving others, forever keeping real to those two things.
I had now found a good team of people who didn’t make me feel like I had to always protect myself, getting ready to fight against other peoples’ misdemeanors, misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
Logistical placement of the right friends is all we need to do, the rest takes care of itself. We need not control others if we keep them in the right boundaries, we need not walk around with a warning sign of our push-buttons. And when we feel weak or can’t fight against the problem alone, your community will enter in at the right time, pushing the threat away.
We must take responsibility of our lives, but we don’t need to take responsibility for everyone elses’, or indeed pre-decide a threat before it’s even happened.
Keeping our hearts tender is the main goal, toughening our heart makes it un-useable for anyone. If we are consistently looking out for threats, we focus on the wrong thing. There’s a beautiful balance between protection and being the watchman. The path to go down is somewhere in the middle.
For sanity’s sake.
The moment we let go of the need to get ready to fight, the better we become at trusting. Just discern wisely who you place around you and the rest will come naturally.