January 16, 2017

Giving Grace


It's possible that I need to tattoo this word on my wrist, or the back on my hand. Some place I can see it all the time. I feel I need a near-constant reminder these days to give myself, and others, Grace.

I've been going through a rough patch. Which is why you haven't seen my typical new year's post about resolutions and goals yet. I have several ideas and have started writing, but I'm in such a...I can't even think of the right word...blue period?...that I can't bring any of those ideas to fruition. Yet. Those posts will come. Just later. So instead of staying silent and, well, kind of suffering on the inside, I decided to write a post about Grace.

Grace isn't a word I've used often in my life. For me it always meant 'something you say before you eat dinner'. But a friend used the word with me a while back, using a different meaning, and it kinda stuck with me. Of course, I looked it up to see what exactly Grace means. Grace has more than one meaning, but here's the one I'm talking about:

Gracea :  approval,  favor <stayed in his good graces>b archaic  :  mercy,  pardonc :  a special favor :  privilege <each in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage — Rudyard Kipling>d :  disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemencye :  a temporary exemption :  reprieve
See that one I highlighted for you? We're talking here about granting kindness and clemency to ourselves and others. Giving ourselves (and others) a reprieve, a pardon, if you will. But there's a little something more to the word Grace than just that. Because I could use the word kindness or mercy or clemency. But none of those words capture what I'm talking about in the same way as Grace.
Grace is a different color. Grace is the color of a brilliant sunset on a warm summer's night just after a heavy, quenching rain. It is somehow both brilliant and soft. It is reds and oranges and pinks and purples. It is an easy watercolor swath. It is gentle and elegant.
Mercy is harder, colder, more icy greys and blues. Clemency might be brown. And kindness is lighter, maybe a buttery yellow. But Grace, Grace is different. 
I imagine Grace being granted with a gentle touch to the top of my head by Ghandi or Mother Teresa or some mystical medicine man. But in fact it is something that we need to give ourselves, and each other, all day, every day. I think maybe Grace is always the answer. No matter what the question is. What do you give yourself...
When you make a mistake? Grace.When you forget to do something? Grace.When you break something? Grace.When you yell at your kids? Grace.When you eat the cookie instead of the apple? Grace.When you binge watch Downton Abbey instead of cleaning the house? Grace.When you don't get everything done on your to do list? Grace.When you're not perfect? Grace.
And when your kids don't pick up their toys or when they talk back to you? When the driver in front of you doesn't know how to drive? When your spouse comes home from work in a bad mood? When your friend doesn't ask about the big thing in your life? When the waiter is terrible? When the checkout clerk can't work the register?
Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace.
Another way to better understand the idea of Grace, is to understand that it is the opposite of judgment. And when you're just starting out, if you've been in the habit of judging yourself and others at every turn, it can be a hard habit to break. But it is just that: a habit. It is not truth. It's just another bad habit, like snacking whenever you sit on the couch and watch tv. It is nothing but a habitual recording in your mind. And you have the power to turn that recording off, to record something new.
Whenever you find yourself jumping to judgment, catch yourself, just as you feel that frustration rise in your chest. Step back from the moment. Take a deep breath. And challenge that thinking. Is this really a big deal? Will it help anything for me to get mad at myself or another person? What if, instead, I give myself (or the other person) a gift of Grace?
Usually you'll find that if you challenge the thought that's leading to judgment, you'll find that it's really not that big of a deal. So I dropped a dish and it broke. Is it really that big of a deal? Is anyone severely hurt? Will the world come to an end without this dish? Or can I show myself a bit of kindness, the way I would a friend. Hey, no big deal. Don't worry about it. I can buy another one. It's okay.
Because it is okay. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to not be happy all the time. It's okay to not be perfect. You're human. Mistakes and changing emotions and imperfection is kind of the whole point.
It's okay. You're okay. Just as you are. Imperfections and all.
Until next time, bestow the gift of Grace on yourself and those around you. You'll be glad you did.

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