When you smile and you’re happy, and the person you meet is having a bad day, maybe it will change that

I believe in god, in a god. I am from Ecuador, most of the people are Catholics, so I was raised Christian, and I did the sacraments, but when I became a teenager I started to think in different ways. I would say I’m not religious, but I’m…like…spiritual, I don’t know, I try to keep that side of me open to every belief in general. Reading would be why I started to be more open. That made me a very critical person, not only with religion, but with everything.

Four years ago, I had a relationship with a girl who was very religious. It was kind of difficult in the beginning, because they try to keep with religious people because they want to marry, and they want to follow the rules of the Bible and everything. And I wanted different things. But she also taught me a lot of things. I feel my relationship with god improved a lot during this period. I always try to talk to god, and see the good things, the bad things that I’ve done, what can I improve, or discuss my problems. And for example, when I was with her and I had a difficult time, she would give me advice, would keep saying that I have to trust in god and talk to him. Sometimes I followed her advice and started to feel better in general. But I didn’t become more religious. Religious is like believing in what the religion, the leaders say, and following that looking at anything else. And spiritual is trying to be a good person and distinguish between good and bad, and trying to be critical, not following certain rules that someone else poses. It’s something that comes from inside of you, and you feel it, and you are not trapped or forced by somebody else.

I think you know what it means to be a good person from the inside. Many years ago, when I started working at a bank, I began a training program where we talk about philosophy and ethics. It was kind of difficult, and I think you will never find an answer. But it was interesting, and to see what other people believe. There were very religious people and it was difficult for them to talk about these things, what is good and bad, what does the Bible say…some people even cried, because we were talking about very sensitive topics at a philosophical level, they started to question a lot of things, and then they start to realize that they could have been wrong. The program was really weird in fact, because when you start working in a bank, you don’t expect to cover these kinds of topics. It was a German group that has some banks in Latin America, and they have a very different philosophy. The aim of the program was that people became aware of their notions of good and bad, because the bank was aimed at development in these countries, and in the banking sector you find a lot of things…credit, everything associated with the financial sector, Wall Street…all these sort of things. That’s why they believe that to make us think more independently and critically is good for us.

I always try to be a good person, and I am always questioning what I’m doing wrong and right. For example, being a good person is not harm other people, help other people, try to be happy. But I sometimes feel…I feel I have a really different and strange personality. When you first meet me I am not so easy-going. And when I just came here [at university in The Hague], and see particularly this one person who was really open, she was very smiley all the time…I feel that’s a good way to be a person because when you smile, and you’re happy, and the other person you meet is having a bad day, maybe it will change that. And that’s something I realized I was not doing, and that would be interesting to do, but it’s difficult for me, because of my way of being. And I started to question, okay I always try to be a good person but when I’m with this face, not happy, maybe it’s difficult for the other person, they start to think that I’m kind of angry. And I feel I’m not helping the other person.

Another thing that causes me problems is that I also know that I have emotions, and doubts, and sometimes I can make mistakes.

My family and friends expect me to be Catholic, like everybody. I keep saying that I am not Catholic, that I don’t follow the rules of the Catholic church. So even though I try to be a good person, when I tell them that I’m not Catholic, they think I’m a bad person.

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