Devastated, I stared at my quiz score. Never before had I ever failed an exam of any kind (with the exception of my driver’s test, but that’s a story for another day). It’s okay, I told myself. It’s my first week here at college. I’ll do better next time. But the following week’s quiz resulted in an even worse grade.
What I hadn’t understood until that second failed quiz was that the reading assignment for each week’s lecture was due before the lecture, not after. This was completely backward from high school, where my mom taught us the lessons and then had us follow up with the reading assignments. I learned the hard way that at college – or, at least at the college I attended – the reverse was true.
It was really humbling to fail the first two quizzes of my college career…and in English class, of all places. I never thought of myself as an exceptional student, but English grammar was one area where I usually did well. I worried that if I couldn’t even pass English, I would certainly fail in all my other classes.
Of course, once I figured out what I was doing wrong and corrected it, things went much more smoothly, and I ended up graduating a semester early with a respectable GPA.
From this experience, I learned four things about failure that have helped me better appreciate its place in my life.
Failure of some kind is inevitable.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys failure, but everyone has failed at something at one time or another. It’s a natural part of life, and, if we let it, failure can become a fantastic teacher. Although I didn’t know it back in college, those first two failed quizzes taught me persevering despite failing.
Failure can be either our foe or our friend.
We have to decide if we’re going to run from failure or learn from it. In college, since I was stranded 3,000 miles away from home with no transportation, running from my failure wasn’t an option. So, I figured out the problem, corrected it, and learned from it.
Failure can push us to do greater things.
When I failed those college quizzes, it motivated me to study more diligently and to make sure I’d done my homework in the appropriate order so that I had already covered the material I would be tested on. If I’d found college work to be easy, I might not have studied as hard or learned as much as I did.
Failure can help us make better choices.
Because I started off that English class with poor quiz scores, it forced me to be diligent to study well so that my overall class grade wouldn't suffer. I chose to study over spending time in leisure activities. In the end, that rough start probably caused me to do better in that class than I would have done simply because I was motivate to develop good study habits from there on out.
I don’t know that any of us will ever love failing at things. But since we know it will happen – probably many times! – at some point in life, we can keep a good perspective and use it to our advantage and thus causing failure to become the key that brings us success in other areas. If we choose to accept it, learn from it, be motivated by it, and be bettered as a result of it, we can transform something bad into a blessing.
It’s yet another way that the Lord can bring forth beauty from ashes.
Your turn: Have you experienced failure? If so, in what form? What did you learn from it? How did it change you for the better? Share in the comments section below! I’d love to hear your story.