Have you ever tried to define Grace? We hear the terms, “God’s Grace,” and “Give some Grace,” but have you ever thought about what that really means? This month, while trying to give myself and others grace, I’ve done a lot of searching for what that truly means, to me. I have read books about Grace, and listened to Podcasts about Grace; and though I had a general idea it still has some ambiguity surrounding what that actually means, what Grace looks like.
Initially, my attitude towards grace was taking a non-judgmental stance, and perhaps cutting myself and others some slack. I would give myself grace and not be so critical. I would show others grace through my actions, through kindness, appreciation and gratitude. However, Grace is so much more than that. My dad sent my family a Ted Talk to listen recently by Jonathan Haidt, entitled Can A divided America Heal? In the talk Dr. Haidt discusses the Presidential Election and essentially ways we can all come to the table, together, to heal divisions in our country. Throughout the 18 minutes, what struck me most was his view of empathy. Dr. Haidt discussed the importance of empathy, and that ” you should get points for empathy when it’s hard to do,” and the relationship between empathy and Grace. In many ways, Grace is that same way; Grace is easy to give when things are comfortable. Grace is easy to have when things are going your way, and you are surrounded by people that think like you, and of which you share similar opinions. But that’s not when Grace really counts; that’s easy. You should get points, when it’s hard to give; You should get points for giving Grace when you are outside your comfort zone; that’s when you are really doing the deep work.
And when we move beyond the relationship between Grace and empathy and think more deeply about what Grace looks like, I think it just boils down to love. When I think of God’s Grace, I think of eternal love. When I think of giving grace, it’s just giving someone love, when they need it and how they will best receive it. When I think of showing love and Grace, I can’t help but think of a time when the tiny people and I were at the grocery store for our first outing of three, and I was overwhelmed. My oldest was probably around 20 months old and my littlest was a newborn. We needed some basics and I had to take the girls with me; It didn’t go well. By the time we hit the freezer section the baby was crying because she was getting hungry and the toddler was crying, because she probably wanted ice cream and well, that’s also because that’s what toddlers do. I was on the verge of tears, with my eyes starting to well up, and trying to keep my composure when another woman probably 20 years my senior stopped me. She said “It gets easier, I promise.” In that moment, she didn’t patronize me or condescending stare, judging that I couldn’t get my crying kids to behave in the freezer section. She just showed me grace, offering a complete stranger love and comfort; That’s grace. That’s a moment that was so small and probably insignificant to her, and yet it was a moment i’ll never forget. That’s what Grace looks like; it looks like love, and it can go a long way.
As Anne Lamott says “Grace is like spiritual WD-40.” Give something a little grace, a little love and it can probably be fixed. It changes us, heals us. Grace comes to you when you need it, where you are and changes you. So maybe when we think of giving Grace, we just think of it as spreading radical love. Love that isn’t judgmental, or earned, it’s love that is just given, without premeditation. Thomas Merton said “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy,” in essence our job is to give Grace.