While vacationing in South Carolina, my wife and I showed up at a local wings place to have dinner with my cousin and his wife. The place was packed, so the only table we could find was in the bar. This meant a constant flow of cheap beer quickly erasing any trace of inhibition in the room. When my wife, Julia, left her seat to visit the ladies’ room, she had to squeeze through a tightly packed ocean of college students congregating around the bar. And as she did so, I observed one of them reach out his hand and squeeze my wife’s rear as she passed by. This wasn’t just a little pat, mind you. He palmed it and clamped down like he meant it. Wow.
I thought to myself, “Hmm. I think I now need to kill you.” I started to rise from my seat. My cousin, who was older, wiser and quite familiar with such confrontations, grabbed my arm and quickly convinced me not to make the mistake of causing an altercation with someone surrounded by a dozen of his friends who were younger, stronger and drunk. So, adhering to his Obi-Wan advice, I sat back in my seat—fuming.
“How dare that guy?” I thought to myself.
But then a second thought crossed my mind. “Why am I reacting to this as if Julia is my property? She’s not. This guy doesn’t have me to answer to. He really has her to answer to.” She returned to the table and just laughed the whole thing off. It was appropriate for me to take her cues and just move on as well.
The next morning, we arrived at a marina where Julia was scheduled to go parasailing. (I do not parasail. No, sir.) When we walked up to the counter to check-in, who do you think was working the register, but Mr. Butt-Grabber himself. Of course, he didn’t recognize us, which shows just how inconsequential life was for this guy—until today. Julia got suited up and went off on her parasailing excursion while I waited for the next hour. And like George Bailey pacing the hydrangea bush with Mary Hatch’s robe in his hand, I thought to myself, “This is a very interesting situation. A man doesn’t get in a situation like this every day … this requires a little thought here.”
The guy was working the counter alongside several college girls, and he interacted with them the way I expected—playing the alpha male role with innuendos and sexist comments. Classy. His co-workers responded to him with plenty of eye-rolling.
Should I call him out in front of everyone? Should I scare him a bit and make him beg for my forgiveness? Should I sucker punch him? No, I needed to do this a little differently. So, I started by chatting with him a bit. The small talk went on for several minutes about school and summer jobs. And finally, I simply said to him, “You know, I was at Wild Wing Cafe last night, and you fondled my wife as she walked by.” And I just looked at him with a subtle grin on my face, allowing the awkwardness to really sink in. His eyes quickly stared at the ground, “Oh my gosh. I am so sorry. I am so sorry, sir.” Ha, he said “sir.” Wow, it felt incredible. He was absolutely at my mercy. What do you do with that?
I said, “Hey, you don’t need to ask for my forgiveness. My wife isn’t my property. She’s her own person with her own dignity. It was her whom you offended. So, here’s what you could do to make things right. When she returns to the marina, I think you should apologize to her.”
“Yes, sir. I will, I will.” And he scurried off to the end of the marina to wait for her.
I then made my way to the car and waited.
About fifteen minutes later, I see Julia walking up to the car with the biggest smile on her face. She opens the door and hops in.
“You’ll never guess what just happened. I just ran into the same guy who grabbed me last night, and he completely apologized to me. Isn’t that crazy?”
And I responded, “Wow, that’s amazing. What are the chances?”
We drove away.
I can tend to be a reactive person. Our emotions ignite when someone offends us, or when we witness an injustice. I remember the Bible always telling me that anger, if you’re gonna have it, needs to be slow. I get it. Imagine what would have happened to that guy if I allowed my anger to flare up. Correction. Imagine how badly I would have been beaten if I allowed my anger to flare up. The slowness of my anger not only spared me a lot of unnecessary pain, it also led to mercy and a truer form of justice.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Steve Wilson