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I Didn't Know the Test was Today!

Have you ever failed a test? I don’t mean like a low C or a high D, I mean like a for real F?

My sophomore year of college, I took two semesters of Latin American Studies. I had to have a foreign history elective and that was all that was available when I went to register. It is a really good thing that I’ve never needed significant knowledge of Latin America to be gainfully employed, because let’s just say, I STRUGGLED for my D- both semesters. And to be honest, I’m not sure I even earned those grades. I don’t remember passing a single test.

I do remember coming to each exam thinking I had enough knowledge to at least squeak out an “average” grade and yet the results always seemed to be the same…F. And in my day the F cut off was 50, which meant I was mastering less than 50% of the content every single time. The fact that I’m still twitching a bit about that more than 30 years later is evident of my trauma around that course.

What causes us to fail tests? I’m sure there are a variety of answers but two that stick out to me are:

1) We weren’t expecting it.

2) We weren’t prepared.

Pop quizzes are the worst, right? At least if an exam is on the schedule you have the opportunity to cram and attempt to retain the knowledge, but when it comes unexpectedly, you either know it or you don’t. And if we do know a test is coming and still fall short, the only explanation is that we didn’t study enough or we studied the wrong thing.

So why do tests matter? Because they reveal our level of mastery or identify areas that need attention. The whole purpose of a test is to distinguish between what we’ve learned and what we haven’t.

Although I haven’t been in an academic setting since 1994, I failed a test recently. Not a school test, but a spiritual one. And not just around a general area I’ve never given thought to, but one that I teach on frequently. In fact, I’d dare say it’s the topic I’ve covered the most when speaking to groups. I KNOW the right answers. I KNOW how to fill in the blanks. I should definitely ace a multiple-choice version. But it seems my application isn’t quite there. And it was a pop-quiz…I wasn’t expecting it and I wasn’t prepared for it.

So, what subject sent me back to the classroom?

Comparison and jealousy.

I was scrolling through social media, unaware that a test was coming and there it was. I saw someone else being acclaimed for something I wanted in my life and in a matter of moments, I failed the test…a big fat “F”!

Here’s how it went over a period of four days.

Reaction #1 – Questioning: Are you serious? Why does she deserve that?

Reaction # 2 –Self-Loathing: I’m not good enough…I should just give up. She’s better at this than me.

Reaction #3 – Pride: I’ve been faithful – why aren’t you blessing me too?

Reaction #4 – Defense Mechanism: I just need to hide her profile and avoid seeing anything else.

Reaction #5 – Frustration: I’m done trying. It’s not worth the disappointment.

Reaction #6 – Critical Spirit: I’ll criticize and belittle her – find all the flaws to make myself feel better.

Reaction #7 – Manipulation: I’ll tell my friends and family expecting that they’ll make me feel better or join in my criticism

Reaction #8 – Awareness: Oh, wait, this is a test. I’m failing, miserably.

Reaction #9 – Reaction: Regret, then remorse, then repentance.

Reaction #10 – Response: I’m headed back to the classroom – I’ve got so much more to learn.

As much as I hate to fail a test, especially this one, I am so grateful for a God who doesn’t throw up his hands and give up on me. I’m grateful for conviction and for the opportunity to continue to learn and to grow. I’m grateful for the previous times I’ve failed because each time it gets a little easier to dust myself off and try again. I hope this is my last test in the comparison and jealousy class, but I bet it isn’t and I bet I'm not the only one still trying to pass this class.

We all have a “Latin American Studies” in our life. An area that no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to master it. But the good news is that unlike a professor in a college course, our teacher gives us as many chances as we need and we get to take the class over and over again until we get it. That's what GRACE is.

One of my favorite quotes is “Learn from the mistakes of others. We won’t live long enough to make them all ourselves” by Eleanor Roosevelt. I hope my story gives you hope and maybe even reminds you that you never know when a test is coming. Prepare yourself, and maybe you'll avoid failing an upcoming test in your own life.


Stephani Cook is a life coach, speaker, writer, podcast host and the creator of On Purpose Coaching. Through On Purpose Coaching she helps others to improve relationships and to discover intentional abundant living. She does that through group and/or individual coaching, live event speaking or Enneagram workshops in private and corporate settings.

To connect with Stephani about the possibility of coaching or speaking to your group or organization, visit her website


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