Bad Graduation Advice

Caps, gowns, toasts and speeches. It’s the season when graduates (and those of us attending graduations) get heavy doses of bad advice.

Find your passion, chase success, thrive in the real world.

This advice may not seem so bad on the surface but when you dig deeper, you start to understand what’s really being said.
Consider these famous quotes from recent commencement addresses:

“What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know.” – Oprah Winfrey (Stanford University, 2008)

“Don’t let yourself be trapped by dogma … which is living with the results of other’s thinking.” – Steve Jobs (Stanford University, 2005)

“As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.” – Michael Dell (University of Texas at Austin, 2003)

Throughout my life, I’ve heard too many commencement speeches focus on self-importance and self-achievement. But last weekend I heard a speaker who struck a different note. As I attended my daughter’s graduation from a seminary in Portland, Oregon, I heard her deliver a three-minute speech at the commencement banquet that was full of true wisdom.
Katie is a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mom of three; yet she continues to stun me as she graduated with honors, taking home the New Testament prize for Greek exegesis and the Outstanding Service Award. (She gets it from her mother, of course).

I’m boasting like a proud father, but Kate took no credit for herself. Instead, she joyously gave all the glory to the Lord.
At 5-feet-1, she spoke to the much-taller graduates in her class and reminded them that our lives should be all about Jesus, not ourselves. She’s honest about her failures, but full of confidence that the Lord will supply all she needs to live for him.
She gets her wisdom from the Lord, not from the world, so she can boldly proclaim her future based on his promises:

“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:5-11

Those are perfect words for any graduating season.

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” Charles is a former secular journalist, who has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He began working in the Christian world after seminary, becoming the fourth speaker of Haven in 2000. He and his wife, Janet, have written several books, including Missing Jesus.


  • Mary Dickens says:

    I like this post and was glad that I came across it in my emails today. Like you, I loved your daughters speech to her graduation class. God is so good to us and we miss his will everyday by focusing on ourselves than on the work in the kingdom of GOD that is set before us. May God continue to bless you and your family is my prayer.

  • Shirley Hodges says:

    thanks for sharing this !
    God’s blessing to you and your family.

  • Melinda blust says:

    Enjoy Haven Today and was really enlightened by how the world’s standards and opinions differ so much from God’s word.We sadly have ventured off and gone our own way and lived according to what we think and what we want.I pray we realize our dependance on ourselves and turn back to God, who is our very reliant ,the one to lean on, and faithful Savior

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