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Reframing failure: professor speaks about grace

At a chapel gathering in Lesesne Auditorium Nov. 9, Assistant Professor of History Dr. Corinne Gressang, who joined the Erskine College faculty in 2020, spoke about her competitive drive, her fear of failure, and her attempts to follow “the gospel according to Corinne.” She eventually realized that “God’s love and grace were more perfect than anything I could produce on my own.”

Gressang asked her audience whether they had ever failed at anything, telling them with a smile that anyone who answers that question with a “no” must be “either very lucky or lying, and you shouldn’t lie in chapel.” She told students that she wanted them to “reframe failure” and  “to look at what a blessing failure can be.”

The young professor cited her intense desire to outdo her older sister and her obsession with performing perfectly as evidence of her misguided approach to life. She worried about falling short, about angering God, but she persisted in doing things her way. She told herself she wanted to follow the rules, but she was actually bending the rules and following her own path.  Looking back on her struggles, Gressang said, “I didn’t really understand that God was after my heart, not necessarily the rules that I was trying to follow.”

When the futility of her focus on “the gospel according to Corinne” became clear, she knew “I had been living my life desperate to look good, desperate for achievements and adoration,” she said. “I put my identity in my accolades. When I fell short, I thought that I was not only disappointing my peers, but I was disappointing God.”

Gressang listened over a period of many days as her college roommate tried to memorize the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, repeating verses of scripture over and over again. Gradually, as she heard the words her roommate was reciting, she began to absorb the message of the passage. “Slowly, I began to realize I was not saved because of how perfect I am,” she said. “God loved me even in my times of complete failure.”

Read about more about Dr. Corrine Gressang, including her academic interests and approach to teaching, here.

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