I recall one of the incidents that first made an impression on me while I was yet half-heartedly vying for acceptance into the university I attended. It was during my interview, after sitting for the post-UTME examination. There were three of us, all girls, assigned to a particular panel. After we exchanged pleasantries with the members of faculty who’d been introduced as our interviewers, the questioning began. One of us, however, had a muslim background but claimed to have every intention of switching ‘religions’ should she be granted admission. When asked her major reason for selecting the institution as her primary choice, she responded, and I quote; “I just love the way they do things here. The discipline, the rules, the environment, everything! But most especially, I just want to come here so I can know God and become a Christian”.
I looked at her then. I didn’t understand.
What did coming to a particular institution or organization have to do with giving your life to Christ? I wondered. If she’d realized and understood how much she needed Jesus in her life, she should’ve accepted Him as she got that understanding. Period. I mean, why delay? What was her assurance that she wouldn’t be getting to meet Him face to face on the other side even before the school’s resumption date? It gave me a little concern, honestly. She wasn’t just saying she believed the University would be of use in aiding her understand and grow in the novel faith she’d maybe just been adopted into; that would have been workable. What I understood from her repeated words was that she really liked the school and would be willing to align with whatever behaviors were prevalent therein, and even switch from her faith without much coercion if necessary because of how much she liked everything. I sat there wondering if she was just pretending and saying what they wanted to hear, or if she’d forgotten that Universities were primarily learning institutions…not revival centers and what not.
That was my thinking anyway.
Now I’d never met the girl, I knew nothing of her background and even less of what her reasons were for responding the way she did. I just thought that maybe she’d gotten a misconstrued impression of things as a result of what the school had been portrayed as to her at a prior time. But hey, you never know…
Currently anyway, I find that a lack of understanding concerning some essential truths, wrong impressions that may be absorbed from hearsay and stereotypes, or just plain ignorance, might still be issues in the way many institutions or settings are regarded by many members of the general public. The way I see it, a good number of individuals (at least from accounts related and persons I’ve interacted with) tend to see schools similar to the one I graduated from, or Christian bodies and organizations, as some form of ‘last resort-quick fix-rehabilitation center’. I.e. the kind of place you might send someone when he or she seems pretty much hopeless.
Note, and I reiterate, it appears to me that ‘a number’ may possibly have this mind set.
Now that doesn’t have to be entirely negative. There are many encouraging testimonies of how lives have been changed, issues have been successfully dealt with and lots of other encouraging testimonies of stuff happening in the lives of various individuals, after everything else proved abortive; maybe by reason of what they experienced, heard or learned from some school, ministry or organization. That’s awesome. But then, what happens to the percentages that don’t seem to change even after similar experiences, or whose issues yet persist despite the so-called positive environmental influence? Not necessarily, might I add, because they are a higher caliber of difficult but more like whatever challenge is producing the undesirable characters or attitudes are not adequately understood nor appropriately addressed. Good question. What I’ve seen happen is this, when repeated attempts to render supposed ‘help’ to this category of persons prove abortive, then they may have to be given up on or depart lest a spread of their behaviors infect others. It then appears – unfortunately – as though all the ‘faith’ and ‘effort’ and even prayers put in for that person or persons to change, were a waste of time, thus further engraving in too many minds that the ‘unfixed’ person really is beyond repair (at least in that setting). My thinking is, such an approach is messed up. One thing I have come to know with certainty is this:
A place does not change a person. (I doubt it ever has, and I doubt it ever will).
Of course there are different levels of change, different contexts, different aspects of an individual’s life where change can occur and what-have-you. I can choose to freely adapt to a new environment, I can choose to align myself to foreign norms and behavior patterns, I can also choose to suppress or deny my original character or mode of behavior for reasons best known to me. Nevertheless, I’m the one choosing to make one adjustment or the other…not the place. The environment may play a role in influencing my decisions, but that does not make them any less mine.
Imagine someone purchases a freezer and sets it in the center of his living room. He puts foodstuff in it, all sorts of nice, fancy and costly edibles and goes to bed. In a day or two, the whole living room starts reeking and he peeks in to find everything decaying. He gets upset; bangs, batters and beats on the thing. He repeats the same for about a week and after he’s gotten so frustrated with the waste of his effort, time and resources, he calls the group that sold the appliance to him and it turns out the fellow never even plugged in the freezer to an electrical power source. They also suggest to him that perhaps the kitchen would be a better location for his deep freezer.
Let’s take a moment to ‘#smh’ for the freezer guy please.
Similar illustrations have often been used to show that sometimes all the ginger and energy we throw into things may be yielding futility because we’ve skipped a fundamental necessity in the whole process. You can’t build if there’s no foundation, you can’t say something is cooking if you haven’t even lit a fire, you can’t run without learning how to walk…the freezer can’t freeze if you’ve never plugged it to a power source.
To be continued…
P.s: if you have thoughts to share on this subject – or perhaps a related experience, I’d totally love to read about it in the comment section (and I’m sure others will too). 🙂