Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The grace continuum

I think we've all heard statements like this:

If only we were as forgiving of others as we are of ourselves.

This sounds great unless you find it difficult to forgive yourself.  I think we fool ourselves into believing that we always give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but for many that's not the case at all.

I've actually seen it in every possible combination:

  1. Those who lavish grace on others, but cannot cut themselves any slack 
  2. Those who will easily forgive everyone, including themselves 
  3. And those overwrought folks who don't let anything slide

I'm fairly certain that I want to be somewhere between the first and second one and I'm definitely certain that I don't want to be at the extremities of either side.

I frame it this way because I want the definition of what I'm talking about to be as broad as possible.  We can all point to our moral code and call a person out for being wrong and probably should more often in our society.  But the issue of grace applies in more than just moral wrongs.  It applies to faults, weaknesses, ignorances, projections.

Now I know "grace" sounds like a church word and it is, but for my non-believer readers, just go with this simple definition: unmerited mercy, kindness or forgiveness.


It's a fact that if the world lived up to my standard, the world would be a better place.  Right?  We'd all live in peace, love and harmony.  Wait, that's not true?  We're pretty weird about the way we dole out grace.

Watercooler conversation will tear apart the annoying co-worker.  People will then go home from work and then find nearly identical traits in their own children and overlook them without a thought.  Individuals will vocally condemn the greedy politician but live a lifestyle that seeks to take what others have, even to the point of a husband or wife.

The problem I often face comes when the standards that I've set for myself--that I need to set for myself--are too high for me to reach.  If I'm to honestly weigh my thoughts, words and actions against my ideals, I fail daily.  That's why grace is so important.  It allows me to hold an ideal that's bigger than myself.  Bigger than my boss's disapproval.  Bigger than my wife's frustration.  Bigger than the fear of God striking me with lightning.

And if it's true that I'm going to believe in grace for me, than I must believe in it for others.  There's no way I could ever know all the struggles, fears, insecurities, thoughts and reservations of my fellow man.  That same man will cross my path today and do something that makes me absolutely furious.  Or at least it would without grace.

The day is filled with 1,000 battles.  People like me will get frustrated when they don't win all of those battles, or at least win them with the result they envisioned.  The truth is, if I had the perfect peace of mind that I feel I should have, I probably wouldn't be up in the middle of the night writing this blog post.  I need sleep.  I can spend the next 24 hours showering blows on myself for not "winning" this first battle of the day or I can extend a little grace to myself and get ready to face the next 999.

Where do you find yourself in the grace continuum?  Head toward the end with more of it.  Not only for other people, but for yourself as well.

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