Not too long ago, I went with some friends to “Dancin’ in the District,” a regional summer concert series. The feature for that particular weekend was Kanye West and like most nonconforming Christians, I am really feelin’ his latest single, “Jesus Walks.” To be honest, although it is a hot song in its own right, what really cracks me up is how many people get into it from all walks of life, both Christians and non-believers alike.
Which brings me to my point.
When you find yourself in a huge crowd, you also tend to find yourself among a wide variety of individuals and for me, that night was no exception. There were teenagers on first dates, parents with their kids, conservatively summer dressed couples and girls who were scantily clad in their mini-skirts and flip-flops. Some rocked huge ‘fros, others had multiple tattoos; some were black, some were white, while others were neither. And that’s what I loved about the experience. Amazingly, music can unite so many differences.
But, every silver lining has its cloud, right? Right.
Sure the cheers and claps of the crowd provided a subconscious state of euphoria, but as I found myself inhaling and exhaling from singing and laughing along, I noticed a thick, intoxicating scent. It was weed. Yes, before you ask how I would be able to detect such a thing, I know many people who have been smokers in my time and I must admit, even I tried it once and unlike Clinton, I did inhale (although to this day, I still don’t have a clue what all of the hype is about). In any case, I know exactly what it smells like. However, it has never been anything that I have really gotten used to—obviously because that night my eyes were slightly irritated and soon I found myself to be just a little on the light-headed side. I was getting what is called a “contact high,” which means that I was being physically manipulated by second-hand smoke. And yes, there is such a thing.
I followed the scent and my nose led me to a guy no more than 20 feet away from me just puffing away on his little, limp cigarette. Right there, in the midst of children and even cops, a guy was getting what the urbanites call “lit.”
It got me to thinking.
Before that moment and even to this day, I have no details on that guy. I don’t know if he has his master’s degree or if he’s a high school dropout. I don’t know if he just broke up with his girlfriend or if he’s gay. I don’t know if he came to see Kanye because of the conviction of “Jesus Walks” or the random cussing that he did in the rest of his show. Who knows?
But, for those few moments, there was something that we shared—the fumes from his joint. Without even knowing his name, we connected in a very intimate way. His habit spilled over into my psyche and it left me affected.
If a stranger has that much power over someone, what makes us think that casual acquaintances, friends, loved ones or even our enemies don’t have a much more critical affect on not just our physical beings but our emotional and spiritual lives as well? I recall when I used to hear that “saints” (I use that term loosely) were not supposed to be “yoked with non-believers,” I always chalked that up to an extreme warning for weak people with no backbone. There was no way someone who does not believe as I do, act as I do, speak as I do or do as I do in a spiritual sense was going to influence me to the point where I would be detrimentally influenced.
Oh, how hard the big egos fall. I have written an entire memoir on the dangers of undermining influences in one’s life. The reality is that anything that you come into contact with through any of your senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste), you will be affected by; however, you have the power to determine just how much.
When it comes to the weed head at the concert, I could have done what I’m sure some radical individuals would have done and left the show altogether, but shoot, I was enjoying the show. So to me that wasn’t really a suitable option. However, in retrospect, what I should have done was removed myself from being so close to that dude. We were at the same place, and so on some level we had to share the same space, but we didn’t have to be intimate to the point that it was harming me.
This is a lesson we all can afford to learn when it comes to dealing with people in the world, in the Church, in our lives. It is impractical, non-beneficial and in many ways totally unrealistic to live your life totally set apart from those who are different from and at times even detrimental to you. As long as you are on this earth, in some shape or form you are going to have to “share your space” so-to-speak with others, but that doesn’t mean that you have to consciously put yourself in harm’s way.
Just as I did that night, let your spiritual senses guide and if necessary warn you of when you are too close to something or someone who will only produce a negative result in your life. Move yourself far enough where “it” is not hurting you, but not so far that you can’t enjoy living.
Either way, take it from me and don’t underrate the power of a contact high. You don’t have to be “doing it” to be subconsciously and/or seriously affected, influenced, manipulated, involved or changed by it. Being spiritually sick by someone else’s habits, sins, strongholds or issues just isn’t worth it.
Back up a little bit so that you can enjoy life with your eyes wide open and your head clear.
[Shellie R. Warren is the author of Inside of Me, available now from Relevant Books.]