By Rajmund Dabrowski
When going through my library recently, a book dedication by a friend caught my attention. Sending me a copy of Authenticity, A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Thomas Dubay, S.M., she wrote: “Ray, you taught me more in a conversation about authenticity than I had learned in a lifetime. . . Pam.” Kindness and generosity of thought is what makes Pam a special friend.
Pam ignited a moment of reflection on my own personal pedigree that makes my quest for authenticity my “every breath you take,” as Sting would have it, and conclude that taking stock of what makes me who I am sync with what others seem to see in me as valuable. To start with, of course, I am special to my mother. I am special to Grazyna, my wife. And I am special—unique—to my Maker.
Thomas Dubay explains the meaning of authenticity in a life of a Christian. He identifies authenticity as “reality without sham.” We are “authentic to the extent that [we] live the truth.” The authentic person “conforms his mind, words, actions to what is. His mind reflects reality, and his speech reflects his mind.” Quite a poignant conclusion in a so- called “post-truth era” we have entered into lately.
It’s tough to live up to it all and be called authentic. And there is more. An authentic person “is patient when suffering rejection for he knows that those who live fully in conformity to Christ Jesus are sure to be persecuted.”
The uniqueness of my own identity is a composition of what I inherited from my ancestors—not just my parents but also those who influenced them—and the culture they grew up in and engaged with. On reflection, I have concluded that I lost much of my early innocence, a feature of a once small boy named Rajmund. I was not afraid to express myself freely, not being restricted or confined to what was proper and correct.
The authenticity of the early days was later replaced by grooming, education, by watching and emulating others, as well by a mosaic of influences of the whole environment and culture. But not all was lost. Some influences brought out the tapestry of values that became my own, including beliefs and traditions. My own convictions took root. Rajmund was as authentic as his talents, walk, and talk synchronized.
Barely 14, I recall an event within a couple of weeks of being successfully enrolled in Jan Zamoyski Liceum, a well- known and historic public high school at 30 Smolna Street. The school had nearly 900 students and was located just across from our home and the Seventh-day Adventist church in central Warsaw, where my father worked.
On one September Monday morning in 1962, I was called out to stand in front of a class of 35, to be questioned about my absence from school on Saturday. Answering respectfully, I repeated my convictions about Sabbath observance. The teacher called for Mr. Jan Gad, the school principal, to come and question me, too.
Mr. Gad, who I later found out lived in an apartment building next to our home, was a tall stocky man, and his larger-than-life presence commanded respect—and for us youngsters exuded fear. Later, a school chronicle would refer to him as an “excellent principal,” who said that a “school is like an orchestra. You need a good conductor, good team and a good music score. A melody will then sound beautifully.”
On that Monday morning he exercised his conducting skills on me, and for the benefit of others, it appeared.
Even today, I well recall being slapped across the face. Hot tears appeared—a reaction to this sudden and public humiliation. I was experiencing first hand an act of violence by someone in authority. That moment is etched firmly in my memory.
Among high-pitched angry shouting, I still recall some- thing said about atheism and that my unpatriotic behavior would not be tolerated.
My parents were summoned to hear that I was expelled from school.
Thus ended my enrollment in Warsaw’s premier high school. I was kicked out of school, but for a good and—in my opinion—positive reason. What followed was my parents negotiating a move to a different high school, just a few hundred yards away, and still within walking distance from our home.
My new lease on student life began at the Jarosław Dabrowski Liceum on 1 Swietokrzyska Street. I liked the fact that a Dabrowski would be going to a school named after another Dabrowski. Little did I know it then, but just a couple of hundred yards away was the Holy Cross Church where Michał Belina Czechowski, a trailblazer of the Adventist international church mission, and a precursor to J. N. Andrews and his mission to Europe, was ordained in 1843. His life story became a research project during my university days.
Back to my authenticity. On reflection, the Jan Zamoyski Liceum event was my first lesson in human rights and non- conformity. My Adventist culture no doubt influenced my decision to make a stand that day. My DNA, however, is rich with the building blocks of those who for generations before me chose not to conform—to be authentic whatever the cost. To speak the truth—even the unpopular truth—and not be afraid to do so, .
Such moments like the one when I said “no” to a school’s conformity, continue to allow me to be assured that in authenticity, I am a “total lover of God,” as Thomas Dubay would say.
Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of Mountain Views.