I used to hate it when people said grades don’t define you.
I certainly felt defined by my CAP (cumulative average point). It’s a grading system that decides whether you’ll graduate and how well you’ll graduate. It decides your pay grade, the amount you can save in ten years, the house you can buy, whether or not you get a car, whether you can send your kids to university, whether you can provide for your parents …
“CAP doesn’t define you” sounded a lot like a platitude to me. Saying that does not make someone who just flunked something feel any better. In fact, it makes us feel like you don’t understand.
As a student, I entered university to learn and to have a good time. So I didn’t think CAP would be a problem. I was told that when I got to university I would enjoy what I did – I thought that meant I’d do good in it too.
When I was in Year 1 and the grades weren’t that bad at the end of the first year, I wasn’t too bummed. I still enjoyed learning at the end of the day. Year 2 ended and the grades had began to plunge: I enjoyed myself, but it started to weigh on me that my CAP was a bigger influence on my life than I had thought it would be.
It was Year 3 where my CAP had plunged to the point where anymore of a drop would prevent from moving on to Honours Year. Terrified, I wondered that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this after all – or maybe I didn’t trust God enough. Maybe I should have studied harder (though I honestly studied my head off).
To appreciate the still small voice, it has to be contrasted with the fire, earthquake and wind.
My brain kept beating itself up that I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even that I was a failure to my parents or society. To everyone who knew me, I was happy, enthusiastic and even somewhat of an achiever.
But I knew I had failed myself. I failed despite all my hours of hard work. I failed in living up to an upbringing that had taught me discipline and resilience.
I failed myself, and I couldn’t live with that.
Above all, I was questioning where God was in all of this? Isn’t Jesus supposed to define me?
Where was He then? Where was He when I honoured Him, put Him as my number one priority … And yet I felt like He failed me? Where was He at my weakest?
I thought of Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 19). All alone, he was running for his life. And Elijah asked God where He was in his time of need?
The Bible says that there was a great wind, then an earthquake, then a fire – but God wasn’t in any of them. God was in the still, small voice. He was there. He was always there.
To appreciate the still small voice, it has to be contrasted with the fire, earthquake and wind. If I never had any trials, I wouldn’t understand what it means to know God is there for me. He is my gentle whisper – my comfort through it all.
It’s true that your CAP will decide a lot of things in life. But Jesus defines me: I am a child of God.
Nothing can change the truth that the still small voice of God will be there in every wind and fire and earthquake that comes my way. So while CAP may play a role in deciding things like how much I earn, it is God who directs my destiny.
So, maybe don’t tell people it “doesn’t define them” in a way that makes it seem like you’re shrugging off the reality of their disappointment or pain. Tell them instead that it’s okay to grieve and feel pain – it’s normal to be sad and frustrated about failure.
Let them hear the still small voice of Jesus through you, telling them to go on. CAP, grades, accolades … These things are important, but they will fade away someday.
Only God’s gentle whispers – His Word – never will (Matthew 24:35).