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We can label others as stubborn or hypocritical. When we encounter a new idea we might be prone to classify someone as heretical. We think, “That family is too busy” or “I wish they took better care of their yard.” If someone finds a new job, the boss may call them disloyal. We get irritated if we think someone is disorganized and we can feel smug about ourselves if someone is, according to our standards, incompetent.
And the list continues. In a culture of judgment we could line up ten people and come up with a label for each one:
- too pushy
- too passionate
- too talkative
- too quiet
- too blunt
- too nice
The problem with this is that judgment only compounds more judgment. Once ungrace gains a foothold, it opens the door wider for more ungrace to make a home in us. It becomes easy to welcome only those who measure up to our liking and dismiss those who do not. In a household of ungrace the standard of perfection is determined by personal preference. In ungrace, the basis of friendship is arbitrary, so even those who are welcomed for a time can easily become unsure how long they will be welcome.
In a household of grace, nobody is expected to be perfect and we are freed from the slavery of appearing to be so. In grace, we do not need to be thought of as smart or well-spoken. We do not need to impress others with our connections to famous, wealthy or powerful people. We do not need to impress by our degrees, career, or accomplishments. We do not need to be thought of as right all the time, creative, helpful, wise, fun, or easy-going.
In grace, there is an indifference to what others think but this indifference is neither smug nor dismissive of others. Instead, it is an indifference that is also (paradoxically) open to critique.
Ungrace says, “Screw you and leave me alone! I am who I am and if you don’t like it, tough.”
Grace says, “Well, I am who I am…imperfect, still growing. I hope my imperfection doesn’t drive you away, but if it does, I hope that one day you will find your way back to accept me as a friend again, imperfect as I am.”
In grace, we can be anonymous. Others do not need to know if we are generous or kind. It’s not about us.
In grace, we do not attack others if they say something that seems “off.” Instead, we approach them gently and ask them to tell us more, to help us understand, to wonder about the very thing they said that rubbed us the wrong way. In grace, we try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Grace is humble, open and gentle. Grace gives others the benefit of the doubt, looks for common ground. Grace inclines itself to accept, to welcome, to make room for others. Grace is expansive; in grace, our hearts become wide open spaces, vibrant, filled with life.
Grace and ungrace: the difference between life and death. May we grow in grace.
Grace and Ungrace
reflections by Troy Cady