199. memories of my sophomore (HS) year
I’m not sure why or how it happened, but recently I remembered something, somewhat out of the blue. And it’s difficult to put into words because the details surrounding the memory are vague as well but I’ll just come out and explain what I can.
I’m pretty sure it was my sophomore year in high school. And, again, I don’t remember how or why I came to this decision. I’m pretty sure I had just been hurt or betrayed by a friend, but I can’t make out the details.
“Yeah, we get it already. You don’t remember. So what DO you remember?”
Okay, I remember making a decision to do my best to not hurt peoples’ feelings. And I remember now that, yes, I did make this decision after suffering some kind of very painful, personal blow to my self-esteem. And I remember feeling powerless at the time. I remember being angry about whatever had been done to me. And I remember thinking that I had a choice – I could plot and scheme and try to exact some kind of revenge, or I could do the opposite.
And I’m not sure but I think this all happened around the time I decided to get serious about my relationship with Christ. See, I went to a Baptist high school (Hawaii Baptist Academy) and every year they have this week long event called Christian Emphasis Week (CEW). During CEW, we’d have classes half day and then the rest of the day would be a kind of all-school Christian rally complete with special speakers and altar calls. It was during my sophomore year CEW that I decided to really get serious about being a Christian.
Looking back now, I can see that I had no idea what being a “serious” Christian meant other than going to church every Sunday. And so that’s what I did.
That year marked the beginning of something like seven years during which I never missed attending some kind of church service on Sunday. And I remember the first Sunday I didn’t attend service. When I was 23 or 24, due to a variety of pressures and stresses in my life at the time, I got fed up and burnt out with church and I stopped attending for a few months. That first Sunday, I remember thinking that it was going to feel like a really big deal but at the end of the day, it didn’t feel any different from Saturday and that made my weekend twice as long as it used to be. Sweet.
Anyway, back to my sophomore year. It was after this decision to get serious about following Christ, during CEW, that this emotional trauma (whatever it was) happened and I made another decision. Instead of seeking revenge, I would do the opposite. Whatever hurt I was feeling at the time, I vowed then and there that I would never do anything out of spite that would cause another person to feel the way I did then. My mantra became, “do no harm.”
You know, the speaker we had that year must have been a kick-ass preacher because I remember another big decision I made that year. Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was gaining an audience (at least in churches, which is pretty much where it remains today) and I remember starting a fledgling Christian music collection (albums, vinyl, LPs…remember those?). And I remember going into the music stores whenever I had cash to spend (which wasn’t very often) and I would always have to make a choice between buying a non-christian record or a Christian record. And this decision was made doubly difficult because there were no Christian music stations around at the time that were playing CCM and so if I tried to be spiritual and buy a Christian record, I had nothing to go on. I honestly don’t know how I ended up choosing the Christian records that I ended up buying – records by artists like Petra and Whiteheart. I think I just went with whatever covers looked cool.
Now at the time, my musical tastes were not very sophisticated. I remember playing the grooves off of my Wham and Nu Shooz and Duran Duran LPs. So you can see that I wasn’t the most discriminating listener in the world (and come on, I was in high school) but even then I could tell that none of the Christian bands I was finding were anywhere near as good as what non-christians were coming out with.
But again, that sophomore year CEW had an impact on me because even though I liked it more, I decided to get rid of a bunch of my non-christian records. I remember dividing up my collection into two stacks. One stack was made up of my Christian records and the non-christian records that I thought were not evil enough to warrant expulsion, and the other stack contained records that I would sell for cash – cash that I would use to buy more Christian records. And I have no idea what standard I used to judge between which non-christian records I would keep and which I would throw away (I mean how in the world did Chicago 16 get axed while Van Halen’s Diver Down stayed in?) but I let go of some records that I LOVED. In return I bought Christian records that I ended up hating – Russ Taff, Greg X Volz, The Rez Band. It was a pretty heart wrenching experience.
(Oh, and here’s a little side note for free. I was a part of a super-strict Bible study at the time and after selling some of my favorite records, I told the guys in my Bible study what I had done. And I was all stoked because I thought I had made this huge sacrifice for God but then the Bible study leader looks at me and says, “you mean you SOLD your records? That means someone else is going to buy that evil music and be corrupted by it.” Now how’s THAT for a guilt trip?)
Anyway, I tell that story to illustrate the kind of serious commitments I made that year. Some of them I still stick to (I’m still pretty anal about attending church every Sunday although I let myself off the hook if something else important comes up) and some I’ve given up (although there are a few exceptions like Sixpence None The Richer and Over The Rhine, I still think most Christian music is garbage and I refuse to buy in…a blog for another day, to be sure).
But I had completely forgotten about the decision I made to do no harm to others. And earlier this week, the memory of that decision came back to me like a kick in the head because it explains so much about why I am who am I today and why I act the way I do. See, last year I did a bunch of blogs about how confusing and frustrating it was to be a nice guy (see blog 29, blog 30, and blog 75 for a few examples). And the general tone of those blogs was anger because, truth be told, just because you do your best to not hurt others, that doesn’t give you a pass from being hurt yourself and I was angry because that’s a pretty raw deal.
But also, I think I was angry because I had forgotten why it was that I did my best not to hurt others. I had forgotten that decision I had made way back in 1987.
(A curious thing. Even though I had forgotten about that decision, last November I came to a similar conclusion about how to deal with hurt and disappointment. In blog 123 I made a new commitment to living a life of generosity and kindness. BTW, If you don’t click on any of the other links, click on that one because it’s a really good blog entry, if I do say so myself.)
And in conclusion.
I started this entry with the intention of just talking about my “do no harm” decision but once you open up a can of worms. . . When people asked me how I became a Christian, I tell them I accepted Christ in the 2nd grade (when I started attending Hawaii Baptist Academy) but I also tell them that I didn’t get serious about it until my sophomore year in high school. And I’ve only now, after writing and remembering all these things, come to realize how true that is and how profoundly the decisions I made then continue to
affect me today.