Don’t Believe the Devil: Life Is More Than A’s

“Let me begin by saying that attending Benedictine College was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Jami Haren, who, with Hannah Voss, was one of two Benedictine College valedictorians in 2018. “The people that have touched my life and the experiences from the past four years have shaped and blessed me in more ways than I can describe in this short speech.”
But then she continued with a reflection on what it means to be a “straight A student.” Her words follow.

As I was pondering what I wanted to say, one thought that struck me was that I was chosen to speak today because I got straight A’s. And, to be honest, I did not feel like that was enough to qualify me to be up here, speaking to all of you.

I’ve spent my four years at Benedictine trying to convince myself that it’s not about the grades.

I’ve gotten A’s my whole life. There were times when I thought, this is it — this is going to be my first B — the prime example being Dr. Sienkiewicz’s Ecumenism class during my study abroad semester. And, to be honest, part of me wanted to get a B, so I would see that, after it happened, I was still alive and the world was still running. Apparently God had other plans.

My anxiety about grades is a symptom of a more fundamental issue, that many human beings struggle with from time to time: We tie our worth to our accomplishments. We forget that it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it.

This past semester, I was blessed to be able to discern and live with the School Sisters of Christ the King, while student teaching in Lincoln, Neb. Sometimes I would spend extra time at school to get lesson planning or grading done.

After coming home from those long days at school, the Sisters intentionally did not ask me, “Did you have a productive day?” They knew that was a horrible question to ask a teacher! It seems like no matter how much you accomplish in a day, there’s always more to be done. So instead, the Sisters simply asked, with smiles on their faces, “Did you love Jesus today?” And if I could say yes, then I knew it had been a good day.

The devil is the father of lies, yet it’s so easy for us to believe him. To combat these lies, we first have to recognize them for what they are.

If you ever hear a voice in your head whispering, “You’re a failure,” or “You’re not good enough to be loved by anyone,” or “Nothing you do will ever be good enough for God;” if you find yourself listing all the reasons why you shouldn’t receive the blessings God is giving you, then know that these thoughts are from the father of lies. And these are not the words of Jesus Christ.

I have struggled, and still struggle, with these thoughts. To be attacked by these thoughts is part of having a fallen human nature. And it’s a daily, sometimes hourly, battle to fight against them.

But the Word of God, the Word of Truth, has something very different to say, and can give us the strength to persevere in this struggle. Some verses that have played a pivotal role in my ongoing discernment are the first verses of Isaiah, Chapter 43. As I read these words, hear them as if they are being spoken to you, personally.

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
And formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the water, I will be with you;
In the rivers you shall not drown.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned;
The flames shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.
Because you are precious in My eyes,
and glorious, and because I love you.”

Please know, graduates of the class of 2018, that you are God’s own. He has called you by name. You are precious in His eyes, and He loves you.

God bless you.


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.