Please Help Me - Dental School Application

Dear Catholic Answers, I was just wondering… When you are in the process of making an important decision, and pray to God, how do you know what to decide? How do you know what God’s answer is?

For example, I have one professor in college, and I have been his research (Biology 199) student for two years. Ever since the first few months into research… I have this feeling in the deep pit of my stomach that he is jealous of me. I can’t explain to you the details. I can’t explain to you everything that has happened. So many details. But when he speaks to me, and sometimes when he looks at me, I feel it in the pit of my stomach that he is jealous of me. I have been praying about this for the longest time, asking, “God, Jesus, am I thinking too much? Is he really jealous of me or am I just imagining this? Jesus, please help me to know whether I should trust this professor. Jesus, is he jealous of me?”
I have been praying for so long, and this feeling in the pit of my stomach about his jealousy has caused me so much sadness and worry. My research professor speaks so nicely to me, but he treats me really bad. I can’t explain it to you, but deep down in side, in all three years of college, this man has caused me the most pain ever.

When applying into dental school, admissions really want to see letters of recommendation written by professors who have known the student for a long time, and since on my transcript they see that I have been in research for 2 years, it would be extremely weird that I don’t have a letter of recommendation from a professor under whom I have studied for 2 years.

I really need to ask him for a letter of recommendation, but I have a fear that he will write something awful about me to hurt me. I have been praying that God would tell me whether or not I should ask him, but I don’t know what God wants me to do in this situation. How do you know God’s will? I don’t hear his voice. I don’t get phone calls from Him. Sometimes I feel inclined to decide on way, but how do I trust my feelings? I feel this way one day and the next I feel another way.

Lately, after praying, I felt that I should just trust God and ask this man for a letter of recommendation and hope that he won’t hurt me by writing something terrible of me. But how can I trust my feelings? One day I feel that maybe I should ask him, but on other days I feel horrible. One day I feel one way, the next day I feel a different way.

I am thinking about dental school applications and they have caused me so much stress. I feel so stupid asking this professor for a letter when it is clear in the front of my face that every day when I talk to him he puts me down and talks down on me. Whenever I talk to him I feel like crying inside because he always… ugh, I can’t explain it. If I have all this negativity right in front of me, then why on earth would I trust him with my letter of recommendation into dental school? If he writes one bad thing about me, it would be disastrous.

On the other, can I afford not to ask him? Am I being too paranoid in thinking that he would actually insult me in a letter of recommendation? Research is such a big thing, especially to graduate schools, and I have poured my heart out for research. Please help me. Do you have any advice for me? I’m scared and tired. I have spoken to him before, and I have found out that he used to be a pastor, a leader of a huge church before he decided to become a researcher. He has also adopted four children, do you think it is ridiculous for me to think that a 40 year old man would bully a 21 years old student? Why would a 40 year old church pastor pick on a 21 year old student?

I’m embarrassed because I am an adult in college – 21 years old – and yet I am being picked on by my professor? How sad is this. How sad is this.

I would encourage you to speak to a priest for guidance in discernment.

Of course, I cannot tell you what God’s will is for your life. But I would caution against what I have heard called “an over devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Discernement.” For those of us who love the Lord and really want to do His Will in our life, it can be a temptation to want to hear a voice from above tell us what to do in every single aspect of our life. That usually leads us to be paralyzed into inaction as we continually wait and wait and wait.

Grace builds upon nature. God speaks to us through our nature. If you are feeling uneasy about asking this professor to write you a letter of recommendation, then perhaps you need to trust that you feel that way for a reason. If you’re the type of individual that is prone to paranoia, though, then that would change things. Again, this is why it would be best for you to discuss these things with a priest in person. He would be in a better position to give an honest evaluation and provide you with useful advice.

Keep praying. I will say a prayer for you, too.

Are you positive the teacher is not just trying to challenge you, to toughen you up by his comments to you? Some misguided people think that the best way to prepare an employee or student or their child for the big, bad world out there is to give them no leeway, no compliments.

Why do you feel it’s jealousy as opposed to dislike or indifference? Can you provide a couple of examples?

My next question is: are you female? Because if you are, there might be a possibility that he’s attracted to you…and as a way of displacing those feelings, he might be somehow villifying you or trying to find your flaws. I don’t know, just a guess.

Other than all that and the reasons, bottom line, you need his recommendation. I would say you are going to have to have a conversation about this. I wouldn’t say anything about your feelings regarding how he treats you. I would just ask if he could tell you how you’ve been doing, what he thinks of your abilities and then talk to him about needing his recommendation and see what he says.

Don’t let other people’s hang ups get you down. This is very unlikely about you and all about him.

May St Apollonia, patron of the dental sciences, pray for your discernment!


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