punishing the good

This is not the story of how good deeds go unpunished.

This is not the story of how good people are always on the bad end of the lucky spectrum.

And this is not a story of the good being bad.

No, this is an experience that I, and millions of others have all felt and encountered at least once in their lives. This is the root and cause of all lack of motivation to aspire and inspire and this, unfortunately, needs to be addressed.

I went to religious school from aged 7 until I was 14 when I decided that I’ve had enough of it. Being raised Muslim wasn’t anything bad. In fact, I cherished the idea of being Muslim because I felt like it was a religion that made the most sense to me and one that God truly listened to.

When I was 13, I remember taking an exam for religious school. We were to perform a proper set of prayers with recitation in Arabic and everything else including what to do next such as prostration, standing and so on.

I was raised a Muslim but not religious. I didn’t know how to pray until I was 20. I could read the Quran but never finished and it’s been at least seven years since I’ve touched one. I have a hijab set at home but never wear one out.

In a normal Muslim’s eyes, everything that I am is worth condemning for.

During this particular exam, I couldn’t perform the prayer. I didn’t know how to and all I did was just guess what to do next. I didn’t even recite anything because I had zero knowledge.

The examiners watched me with frowns on their faces for about 5 minutes before one of them stopped me.

“You’re a Muslim and yet, you don’t know how to pray?”

Her question seemed simple but her tone was clearly condescending to me.

Yes, as a Muslim, I did not know how to pray. Was it worth something punishing over when all I did to do was learn? Why are such behaviours punished for? This was a religious school and I was being questioned on my lack of knowledge?

From 14 until 18, I was devoid of any thought for my religion. I was embarrassed of it because I felt like I didn’t know anything about it and was therefore unworthy of mentioning or thinking about it. I avoided it like the plague. No, I did not abandon God but I abandoned all my persistence and motivation to learn.

When I was 10, I failed a maths test.

I was smarter than the school average and was sent to a smarter class but as a result, I was one of the weaker students in the particular class. I failed my maths test for the term and received 4/10 for my grade.

Everyone was rejoicing over their grades while I hid mine in embarrassment. My peers around me knew how bad I was and asked what my grade was but I refused to reveal my grade so during break time, they snuck to my desk and by the end of recess, my whole class knew my bad grade and laughed at me.

I cried on the way back to class and my teacher said minimal to nothing about the situation despite being aware of what happened.

Why am I being punished for trying my best only to fail? Why do I get laughed at for being bad at something I didn’t ask to be bad at?

When I was 12, I was in extra after school classes that my mother paid for. They were for my primary school leaving examinations and I was doing badly in maths. I was often the weakest in any maths class and this was no exception. Because of my lack of knowledge, I was rarely motivated to do any homework and to be given extra homework outside of school? This was worse.

I remember sitting in class, being asked by the teacher of how I could solve a simple fraction equation. I knew enough but I didn’t know how to solve it. I specifically admitted to the teacher that I was unable to solve it and I didn’t know.

She waited in front of the class and asked me to tell her what should be done step by step.

Even when I didn’t know the answer, I guessed. I recited off steps that I thought were familiar to the question and she didn’t write any of it down. Instead, she stared at me like I was stupid and shook her head in disbelief when I was done.

“Out of all that rubbish you’ve just told me, you could just do this and this and this.”

She proceeded to write her own answer on the board, embarrassing me further after I specifically told her that I didn’t know what to do.

Why am I being punished for trying to learn? Why are my good intentions being punished?

In my eyes, the world is against us.

Stop punishing what you want to see. Stop punishing the good intentions of the people around you.

“Look who decided to finally join us for dinner.”

“You actually finished your work?”

“How can you study so hard but still get a C grade?”

I do not think that it’s right to punish good behaviour despite how much it doesn’t match your expectations. People are trying and motivation should be given, not taken away. You should reward, not punish.

If it wasn’t for the teachers who saw my potential in secondary school, I wouldn’t be here where I am today. If it wasn’t for the teachers who inspired me to do so much better, I would have still been trying to find that lost motivation somewhere.

But not everyone is as lucky as I. I didn’t ask for my inspirational teachers but I got them. Some people beg for them but never get them. I plead to this world to stop disregarding effort for lack of skill and knowledge because we are all trying to learn something and do something.

Don’t be the one that takes it away from them.

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