Negative feedback

Last week I received in the mail alumni magazines from the two colleges I attended, Hamilton College and Wheaton College.  It was a poignant reminder of the education that I missed out on by leaving Hamilton for Wheaton.  As I do when I am reminded sometimes, I grieved a little bit for the education and the experiences I could have had.

When I decided to transfer to Wheaton, I believed that spiritual life as a Christian was more important than anything.  I feared that if I stayed at a secular college, I would spend all my time merely treading water as a Christian, never moving forward in my spiritual development.  As it turned out, I spent most of my college life treading water intellectually.  Although I have regret about that, I can’t discount the spiritual journey I went through, or the things I learned there.

I learned a lot from my college experience at Wheaton, mostly as a result of negative feedback rather than positive feedback.  For one, I really learned to appreciate diversity.  In the welcoming environment of Hamilton, I didn’t see why diversity was necessary.  I knew plenty of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, atheists, liberals, and international students at Hamilton, and I didn’t understand why they were always making a big to-do about tolerance and acceptance, since they were accepted on campus.  I myself am an ethnic minority, but I didn’t get why diversity in any of its forms was important, until I went to Wheaton.  There was no tolerance or acceptance, much less welcome, for most of the above.

When I became an atheist and realized that Christianity had given me a feeling of shame and an obligation to be ashamed of things that were not shameful– things like being a minority, and a Democrat, and a woman, and other things for which I am even less to blame– only then did I finally feel like I understood diversity.

Another lesson I learned through negative feedback as a biology major was the importance of sound science and the importance of evolution as a unifying narrative.  And the rich intellectual joy of learning for its own sake.  And I learned a lot of lessons about how not to treat people.  Still, I feel like I missed out on some important lessons that can only be learned through positive feedback.

I loved Hamilton dearly when I was there.  But I love it even more now, as I have more appreciation for the experience I would have had there.  I am becoming more and more the type of person who would appreciate it.  Is it better to long for opportunities that you don’t have, or to have opportunities that you don’t want?  Who could have known?  Still, I love the person I have become and the things I have come to care about.

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2 thoughts on “Negative feedback

  1. Danie

    I understand the feeling of not being accepted. When I entered a Christian college last year in Texas, the thought of racial tension and struggling with my faith were two things that never crossed my mind. If anything I mistakenly thought that being at a Christian University would strengthen my faith and bring me closer to God. However I became lazy in my faith because I began to think that going to chapel and going to Bible classes was enough to attest for my dwindling walk with God; I later realize that my relationship with God could not be handed over for someone else to take care of. So I completely understand how a Christian university can make you question your faith, especially being a minority like me and see the unspoken segregation where minds and hearts should be connected. I feel sad that being a Christian made you feel ashamed of who you are. I have talked to a lot of people, my friends, about God, Church and religion and they have expressed the same view point that you have; There seems to be more judgment than acceptance in the body of believers; Jesus’ fundamental teachings of love have turned into rituals with many regulations, a made up process rather than built relationships with everyone one comes in contact with. That is a reason many have fallen away from God or have experience doubt and lukewarm attitudes in their faith like I did. I am sad when I see Christians hating on homosexuals, minorities and atheist; It goes against everything that Jesus taught and died for. We were called to love not judge others, at least not in a way that is degrading, but in words that build up others in a gentle way, after all no one is perfect or has all the answers because we are all just searching, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists…ect. Christians have the benefit of a carried relationship with our Creator being one of the main differences. Like I said I am sad that being a Christian, or being in that environment made you feel ashamed of being who you are, I am not going to pretend I understand or do not question a lot of what the Bible said, but I know that ever since I have been in Christ I have found more reason to be proud of who I am; Haitian, adopted, Christian and so on….It is in Christ that I have found my worth, and my only shame comes from giving in to the world…I would love to hear more about your Journey from Christianity to Atheism and the thoughts and questions that got you there. Sorry for the long response ☺ God bless.

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