My own journey (part 1)

I grew up in a christian family, where prayer was more than a daily activity before meals. For many years, trusting in what the people around had told me, I tried to talk to god, relate my emotions and existential concerns. Especially at an earlier age, many of the adults in my life had some relation with church or else they never spoke about related topics. Also because my father was a pastor.

However, things didn’t often work out the way that I prayed. I didn’t have an easy time relating with peers my age, at least in school, felt mostly shy and awkward. Teachers recognized somehow that I wasn’t stupid, but that didn’t make for an easy way through school either.

Early on, my father judged me to have “perceptual disorder” as I didn’t well respond to his obedience based instructions. Over time, I grew to harbor low self esteem and would often engage in escapist behavior (mainly eating cereals), with my mind dimly aware of this fact. But the desire to change grew.

Around the age of 14, I started to take action. I was a bit chubby at the time, so I had been wondering whether my unpopularity was partly due to my outside looks. Still at church, I would walk all the way there, roughly 4 kilometers. Things at school got much worse, but later on, I changed to a new grade and got a new chance. I was still unpopular, but would help some fellow students in math, which earned me appreciation, while my determination in soccer, earned me respect. 

Because of my temperament, I knew that I would be kicked out of school, unless I decided to go full in on it. That was what I did. I started to fully engage myself in the learning process, whatever the subject. I was naturally skilled at math, but I also developed passion for languages. English and, somewhat, Latin. I would even ask questions without raising my hand, and more than 95% of the time, teachers would answer, sensing that I really wanted to know. Luckily, my questions improved over time, so it became less and less embarrassing.

Besides school, I put a lot time into sports, exercising with weights, running with my neighbor and friends, and also cycling on my bike. I really felt elated, and for the first time in my life, I could achieve positive impact and improvement, rather then unfulfilled hopes. During that time, I grew in many ways, I even became one of the top students in my class. My transformation even baffled one of my most dignified teachers, who spoke about my positive transformation in a friend’s class.

Earlier, before I changed classes, I had been an outsider, often bullied, at times physically. I used to come late to school so as not having to pass through the corridor where I would be pushed around. One time, many guys surrounding me, spiting in my face and humiliating me. Now I had become strong and much more confident in myself. The next time I ran into the strongest of those bullies I challenged him. He came back a few minutes later with a friend. I think he had been doing kickboxing for several years, but when he called out to me I went straight ahead an punched him in the face. He didn’t come to school for a few days and I was good. I didn’t need to carry grudges, because I could defend myself (at least in this situation). Later he changed to my new class and I made peace with him.

I really wanted to grow, however things came to a stop. My math teacher, didn’t want for me to start going to university taking physics / math classes while still in 10th grade, my parents, especially my father wanted to force discipline and obedience onto me, obedience for obedience’s sake. When I had found a way to be self reliant and confident, he didn’t get along with me at all. One day he kicked me out of the house.

The next years until graduation were dark. I was going to a boarding school for people with high-IQ, to be away from home. Yes, I still had some interesting experiences and encounters, but inside, I had lost hope and was looking for an answer. After having left behind religion, being abandoned and alone (except for an uncle who was there for me). Ultimately, I am glad to have survived that time.

After school I took some time to think and process. I had still hope that I could find help externally, but soon abandoned that enterprise, because hardly anyone would be willing to devote the resources I would need to rebuild myself. For one thing, I needed to face the demons from my past. Forgiving others and myself (having fought back one of the people to bully me earlier, with him staying away from school for a couple of days, made this much easier, because I wasn’t doing it from cowardice:)). This really made things much easier, especially when I realized that in many situation I could have done things differently and the person I was becoming actually did things better.

It was all a question of looking at what was uncomfortable, complaining even, only to realize what my own desired action or outcome was and then coming to terms with reality. Facing the pain would let me remember the next time I was in a similar situation to make a better choice, rather than running away from my feeling, perpetuating a bad choice.

In this context I remember a conversation I had with my father one day, sitting in a cafe I pointed out some guys that had bullied my elder brother and myself in school. My father replied: “look where they are now …” (indicating them with a car and some girls), to which I replied “No, now I would fight back”. Maybe that’s the greatest difference between me and my father / family of origin. I wanted to face the truth so I could change for the better. I had learned to trust my own processes. He, as a pastor, wanted to make people feel good about themselves. And looked away when his sons where bullied. 

Jesus saying “… do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5, 39).

When asked by someone “to requite resentment with kindness, how is that?”, Confucius replied “With what then do you requite kindness? Requite resentment with justice, kindness with kindness.”  或曰:「以德報怨,何如?」子曰:「何以報德?以直報怨,以德報德。 《論語 憲問》



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