Where: The Netherlands. When: Last semester. It’s 2:30 a.m. in America. It’s about 10:30 a.m. here in the Netherlands. I’m munching on some cheese and bread with nothing but saliva to wash it down—too late for coffee, too early for a beer. I watch the “Thirsty Thursday” tweets roll in as I sit in class. I experience the Dordt students YOLO stories as they get some sort of green fever and walk home saying how that was the “best one yet.” Come ten hours later, the exact same students will be tweeting about their headaches and skipping class because they went “so hard.”
Approach the same students in class and ask them how their Thursday night was, and I bet one of two things will happen: either they’ll tell you “fine” and walk away, or they’ll avoid the question completely. Why?
I’m not sure about how you were brought up, taught at Dordt College, or learned from life experiences, but in my short 21 years of life, I’ve learned two things about this. People are going to talk whether you’re doing bad or good, and hiding who you are and what you do will hurt you and your relationships far worse than honesty will.
Explaining to my Dutch friends why they weren’t allowed to post certain pictures on my Facebook was a joke to them. “So you’re ashamed of what you’re doing here? You’re ashamed of being friends with us?” Of course I’m not ashamed; I just don’t want to be judged, especially by my grandma or worse, Dordt College. Maybe this hits home for you, considering word around this joint spreads like wildfire and always seems to come back 10 times worse than reality.
It’s a messed up world we live in, and here we are, pursuing various life paths, each of us longing to become stronger in our love for Christ and for others. If this is the truth we’re seeking, then why are we forced to hide so much of our lives in fear of judgment and humiliation? At a place like Dordt, where so much emphasis is put on community, you’d think honesty would be appreciated a bit more than it is. In reality, a place like this, where we have to disguise so much, I’m not sure true community and fellowship is really possible. Think about it: who are your closest friends? The ones that you’re afraid will condemn your life choices, or the ones who will be open and honest and love you regardless? Some of the best friends I’ve had were made last semester, not only because I spent so much time with them, but because I could be completely honest with them and expect the same in return, and we were in a place where we were allowed to do that. Sure, being honest isn’t the easiest thing to do in life, but if you’re always doing what’s easiest, if you’re always completely comfortable, you’re doing something wrong.
I’ll be the first to admit what a blast “Thirsty Thursday” is and how much I love a good beer, and I hope I won’t be the last. This is where we get our hypocritical reputation. Here we are living one way, hiding it from the world, and then judging the people who are doing the same things but choosing to own up to it. What I decided last semester: people who demonstrate that unconditional love of Christ that are called to share with others aren’t going to spread rumors about my life because of what they see and hear about me. And the people who are should probably take a step back and look at their own life before sharing stories they just assume about mine.
Jennifer Van Der Hoek, Columnist