Recently I was looking at some photos that, under normal circumstances, would not draw very much attention. A man and a woman and a small child were enjoying some family time at Dodger Stadium, walking the field, chatting with others, all behaving very properly and above board. Yet the comments and captions to these photos were harsh, warning of violence to happen to the man, and thinking that the woman was behaving in a sneaky way by having her son enjoy an afternoon of watching baseball practice with another man, a man who happened to be her fiancé, even though his father was a rapper who had to be sued in order to pony up for some child support. Family time is not as straightforward as it used to be, and for a single mom like Ciara, it must be a good thing that she has a fiancé like Russell Wilson, a man willing to take care of and encourage and be there for another man’s son. That said, it is stressful that such time has to be done under a harsh spotlight, where a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and would-be family man faces threats of violence because the woman he wishes to marry, a talented and very attractive singer in her own right, happens to be a single mother.
Not everyone is a rapper, like Future, or a singer like Ciara, or a Super Bowl-winning QB like Russell Wilson. Not everyone is of sufficiently high clout and status to be able to hobnob with other elite athletes, or wander all over a major league field. At the same time, not everyone lives such a life where one’s music is interpreted for double meanings, or where the decision to be an honorable man and not demand goodies or access to a bodyparty before marriage leads to criticism, as if it was a bad thing to be so self-restrained. Even so, the domestic drama of the stars reminds us all how unpleasant to see how we are viewed through other people’s eyes. With people talking about what kind of a street thug Future was, or how Russell Wilson was trying to be a good guy but that Ciara was being nasty by letting some other guy get close to her son and act like a father toward him, I am reminded very unpleasantly of my own life. I say that because seeing analogous situations to my own life is almost always an unpleasant thing .
All too well I remember being a small child of a single mother. My younger brother and I were more than a little bit ferocious as children sometimes are, especially children in extremely insecure family situations. Nevertheless, as my mother (and as Ciara as well) was not inclined to enjoy solitude, that meant my brother and I had a great deal of experience in seeing how men handled getting to know a potential blended family. I was a shrewd observer of such scenes, recognizing that some people simply do not like being alone, regardless of the fact that their situations are not ideal, while others are so wounded over past betrayals that they simply find it impossible to trust others enough to let them close enough for intimacy to be built up. The tension between fear and longing is a serious one, and one that blights all too many lives. How will young Future Jr grow up, knowing the enmity between his father and mother, and how will he judge the kindness and friendliness of Mr. Wilson? How will everyone involved understand that they live in a fishbowl, their behavior scrutinized by a wide and often unfriendly audience? How do the rest of us handle the scrutiny we face, given the circuses we are all a part of, which people munching their popcorn and making sarcastic comments and imputing evil motive about us to their friends and family, while smiling and pretending to be polite in person.
We live our lives within the tension between the real and ideal. We live it in the tension of who we are and how we could and should be. We live it in the tension between wanting to enjoy the quiet space of having a private life where we are entirely free to be ourselves without repercussions while simultaneously glorying in the influence of our example on others. Yet the influence we have on others depends on the way that we are seen and known, and that means there will be prying eyes, envious people seeking to stir up trouble, people who want to tear us down so that they can feel better, and people very critically observing us to see if our example matches our rhetoric, and if when we stumble we are honest and struggling sinners or diabolical hypocrites. We never know just how we look in other people’s eyes, unless they tell us. And even if they would tell us if we asked, sometimes we just don’t want to know. It is hard enough living with honor without having to worry about how one appears to others who look at us uncharitably, and who judge our every move as being the result of darkness in our hearts, and blackness in our character . And try as we might, it is hard to prove our innocence when everything about us has the appearance of evil, even where the reality of it is lacking.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: