John Crist and Duplicity of Intention
Several days ago, reports surfaced that popular comedian John Crist isn’t as harmless and wholesome as the Christian persona he portrays–although perhaps the above .gif should have been a clue. Allegations of sexual manipulation, harassment and coercion, and what he admits as “destructive and sinful behavior” continue to come from multiple women.
At BEHAVE, we typically focus on bullying rather than sexual harassment. In many of these cases, opposing camps set up their preferred narratives and hashtags in advance, and the individual stories of exploitation become minefields riddled with casualties from the insensitive. But, this issue is especially important as we enter the holiday season. Stress increases, people let their guard down, and holiday parties combine alcohol and power imbalances. Just because you share a cubicle wall with that co-worker all year doesn’t mean you know and should trust them deeply.
That’s what we mean by the “duplicity of intention.” People may have much different goals than the ones they portray publicly. Although they felt weird about what was happening, several of the women involved with John Crist thought he wouldn’t do anything inappropriate. “What is your intention this evening?” might not be the smoothest start to a date, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. We’re reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” which explains how sometimes we need to trust our gut to analyze a situation and form conclusions different from what our conscious mind can process. (For more about the conscious mind and the sense of self, see our previous post).
No Simple Solutions, But…
The answer is not to stand stiffly with pepper stray in hand at the first sign of an awkward social situation, nor is it to compartmentalize life into Tinder and non-Tinder (or non-Christian Mingle). The John Crist story documents numerous instances over many years. It seems that a majority of the woman expected to harmlessly flirt with a celebrity they admired. Because of the Christian culture shared with John Crist, they anticipated side rails, airbags–whatever metaphor best describes safety systems in place.
Pathetic as it sounds, we have to build our own guardrails, and we’re not speaking to potential victims only. Bosses, pastors, even social media personalities need to implement accountability systems they can’t thwart. What use is an ineffective boundary? If I fall, I want a sturdy nylon net to catch me, not a waffle fry from Chick-Fil-A. As we’ve seen, a false sense of security increases the chance for harm. Start with finding one person you can trust to call you out. There’s much more that we could add for the sake of completeness, but what are your thoughts?
Lastly, if someone has shown destructive patterns, believe them. Is your boss pushy, refusing to take no for an answer at work? Why would they be any different late at night when everyone else has left the office party? Don’t tolerate it. Before you give someone a second chance, wait to see a change in behavior. Otherwise…