(Part 3 of The Mighty Men Series)
(Photo Credit: Faith Durham) (Location: The Lion at Alabaster Prayer House, Redding, CA).
I remember when a man pummelled a woman’s head with the heaviest part of a telephone receiver in a phone box outside of Liverpool station. I remember getting out of my car down the street, screaming from a distance to save her life.
Whoever she was.
I remember him looking up, grasping from his violent breath, to see who had the audacity to interrupt him, leaving the half-conscious woman to now run after me. I remember the police being just around the corner. I remember how vivid and monstrous the sound of him beating her was – 16 years later.
Those are the trials that we define as traumatic in domestic violence, the ones people fight for years to overcome. For as much as physical abuse is the definition of evil in relationships, we seem to sideline the emotional torment, the slightly less burdensome journeys we never signed up for when he first asked us out on a date.
For the majority of us, hurt is very subtle, yet it’s startling how lasting that can be, it’s startling how bruised the heart can get with their emotional punches.
I remember being lied to. Regularly. By different boyfriends.
I’ve fought for a man who didn’t want to fight for me.
I’ve been the victim of verbal abuse, I’ve ducked away from being in a domestic violent one.
I’ve been on his mind and in his living room for a thousand hours and still he can’t decide whether he wants to date me.
I’ve been the confidante to the mistresses; I’ve been the confidante to the wives.
I’ve been the butt of their self-hating jokes.
I’ve been involuntarily part of a smear campaign so they can cover their own reputation in a mutual church community.
I’ve lost Facebook friends, I’ve been ignored in the streets, all based on the fact I decided something wasn’t right.
I’ve had to defend my right to exist with other women in his life.
It was the luxury apartment or me. And he took the apartment.
I’ve been controlled.
I’ve not been talked to for ten minutes in a car ride because he didn’t like my shoes. And I liked my shoes.
I’ve been advised to do my homework and by homework – he meant more squats.
I’ve been advised to eat more. I’ve been advised to eat less.
I’ve been told it’s between me or another girl he’s interested in – he ended up dating both.
I’ve been promised babies and weddings, with it never following through.
I’ve been flirted with to discover I was just the stop-gap girl to appeal to his own emotional needs.
I’ve been uncovered to a whole ray of people who knew my name, but I couldn’t have placed theirs.
I’ve been ditched because I wouldn’t put out. I’ve been ditched because I did put out.
I’ve been the apple of their eye in one week and a stranger to them the next.
I’ve had the biggest smile on my face when I finally found out their fickle fabrications. Yet my smile swiftly vanished when I learnt how long the lies had gone on for.
But this isn’t an invite to some pity party. This isn’t a recall on some of the poorer relationships I’ve endured. It’s a reality check to all those women that say that there aren’t any good men out there.
‘How could she start this piece of writing with her horror stories of male encounters and expect us to have hope?’ I hear you cry.
I declared it myself that there were no healthy men.
I have said that line more in my Christian days than in my atheist ones. It seemed I found more brokenness in men, who longed for God yet forgot about goodness, the problem was, I was functioning from a hopeless ache that looked for physical evidence; back-up stories that proved that men weren’t kind. After so much hurt, a back catalogue of dating misdemeanors – how could we have hope?
It’s a line that is spoken not from a bitter edge or a negative personality, but from a heart that has been hurt so much, their lens is now faded to a duller tint and it protects, it keeps out, it stops us from messing around our own hearts and disempowers the ability to be vulnerable. We think this jagged edge of pessimism will be realistic, however vulnerability is your greatest protector and hopelessness is your sharpest opponent to love.
Despite the subtle pains I’ve faced, masked in the phrase of ‘long-suffering’ there are men out there that turn all these stories into redemption, that make the rainbows finally shine through the treacherous thunder.
They are there. Once you clean your own lens.
Sometimes with purpose in your pocket, some self-love and friends that adore you, you wipe the bi-focals yourself. Other times it takes an encounter with a great man.
Here’s where the redemption arrived at my door.
I had men who complimented every detail of my dress. Choosing the very shoes the previous one hated.
I’ve been the reciprocity of his affirmation.
I’ve faced his honesty with an apologetic smile and a change of behavior.
I’ve never had to raise my voice, because he already heard me.
I trusted his next moves.
I’ve not needed half the amount of basic boundaries because the dude finally showed up with his own.
I found men who said sorry in the moment – not a year later.
I’ve had a man sacrifice money, travel, and dreams for the day, just to meet me.
I discovered men who sought advice from a small committee of healthy friends, never seeking comfort from half of a broken world.
I’ve found the mightiness in a man’s humility to tell me the truth even if it might hurt his own pride.
I’ve found men who wanted my soul over a posh duplex.
I no longer had to ask why, because his words were always followed up by action.
I’ve been loved in my complexity as well as my diversity.
I was loved in my mess so much that perfectionism jumped out of the window.
I found security in myself because he didn’t rest on my confidence – he had his own.
I’ve been asked questions, instead of be accused.
If I had a need, it was a pleasure for him to fulfil it thus I was no longer seen as a drain.
I was gently confronted with a soft tongue and a trust to resolve.
I no longer blamed myself for another person’s behaviour. For he took ownership of every step he made.
I was satisfactory to him, without using my body.
These are the redemptive ones. These are the mighty men, who will restore your past experiences. These are the ones who will never speak anything less than highly of you, despite their own pain of losing you.
I promise you: the ‘you’ who is out there wondering if there are any good men. If you did something wrong. If you’re too old. If you’re too young. If you’re not good enough. If you’re too picky. If you’re too too too…
Take off the self-questioning so you won’t question men so much. Take down the wall of protection so you don’t ooze distrust. Take up discernment to another level so that you can avoid one more horror story to the storage unit of poor experiences, and raise up the standard to encounter kind men, gentle men, men with back bones, men with justice hearts yet a teachability to always be able to say sorry and grow. We were never looking for perfection, we were looking for humility. And it had to start with us.
It was never about how good the men were out there, it was always about how much we truly believed we deserved it in the first place.