All About Perception

I work at a strip club.

Okay, not really. Let me clarify: my company shares a driveway with a strip club. You can’t even see my building from the road—it’s set back behind some trees. The strip club wasn’t there when the company was built, and there were all kinds of protests when it went in. Still, it managed to get past everyone and has made a lucrative business selling “hot babes and cold brew.” Lovely.

Most of my coworkers are used to it by now. I’m as accustomed to it as a gal can be, I guess. I’m disturbed most by the leers from the men I pass in the driveway. I imagine they must be thinking to themselves, “Shoot, I missed one!” Keep driving, fellas. I’m not a stripper. Nothing to see here.

The one person who refuses to get used to this unfortunate situation is my boyfriend. If we decide to get together for lunch, he won’t pick me up. He has to drive right past my office to get to our lunch spot, yet he makes me meet him there. He works for a large company, and he’s concerned that someone will follow him out of the parking lot and see him turn into the driveway of Hot Babes and Cold Brew. He won’t have the opportunity to explain to them that his girlfriend works there—no, not there … behind there—and that he’s not, in fact, going to see strippers on his lunch hour. I tease him and say he’s a bad boyfriend for not picking me up, but he says he’d rather I think he’s a bad boyfriend than have people he doesn’t know think he’s immoral.

Most of my life, I was told that I shouldn’t care what people think of me. Clothes don’t matter, what people say doesn’t matter—all that matters is what’s true and what’s in my heart. These thoughts all point toward the idea that other people shouldn’t influence my self-esteem, which is correct. It’s difficult to truly stick to, but it’s correct.

As I grow in my faith and become more expressive about it, it seems that more of what I do is scrutinized by my peers. It’s almost like being a celebrity—as soon as you slip up, everyone knows about it. As Christians, we have room to mess up and to be forgiven, but not everyone understands that. They look at everything you do as a testament to how a Christian should live. That’s an excellent reason to try to live like Christ, but it’s a harsh reminder how hard that is.

Even a simple thing like driving to work has me judged by the people around me. People are judging my morals immediately. But how do I know they’re judging me as a Christian? Oh … because my license plate holder says “God is Awesome!” People who are driving behind me and don’t know that I work at a different company could be saying, “Oh, God is awesome, and that person’s going into a strip club? Hypocrite!” Maybe they’re saying it, maybe they’re not, but I think about it all the time.

Does the world’s perception of a Christian matter most in this case or is it only what I know in my heart to be true? I don’t want to do anything to give Christians as a whole a bad name, but I can’t very well quit my job, either. Do I take my “God is Awesome!” off completely to save my reputation during the daily 60-second drive in and out of my work or do I just drive faster and hope no one can read it?

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The funny thing is that the people who would be judging me on my morals aren’t always non-Christians. The people who are probably most concerned with whether or not I’m pulling into a strip club are probably other Christians. I know I’d do the same thing if I saw someone else with a fish on his car turning into the club’s driveway. I’m not even sure that I would stop and think, “Oh, maybe he’s making a stop at our office. Or maybe he works at one of the other businesses back here.” Even being a person in the same situation, I’d immediately think, “Why is that fish car going to the strip club? How awful!”

That, my friends, would make me a hypocrite. I’d be judging other people in the same way I’m complaining about being judged. I’m sure I’ve done it. That’s not a great feeling.

If I have to choose between the truth and what the world thinks, I’ll take the truth. Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Why would I care what a world like that thinks of me? I’d rather know in my heart that what I’m doing is okay with God than worry what the guy driving behind me thinks. Life has all kinds of little quirks that can’t always be accounted for by everyday moral standards.

Plus, sometimes these quirks work out for the best. It’s unfortunate that I have to work near a strip club, and maybe some of the people who see me pull in mutter something nasty under their breath. But maybe someone’s started to turn into the strip club, spied my license plate holder and thought better of it.

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