I have been giving grace a lot of thought. For me, grace is a concept that comes up quietly every once in a while. It makes me wonder if it is something even attainable or is already a part of me, but I cannot see it. There is the grace one sees in someone who has a way of carrying on about their day. They have a gracefulness in their manners, interactions, in the flow of their activities. They seem unhurried, unflustered, competent, and delightful. Of course, they dress impeccably as well. Most of the time, this feels so far removed from my reality. I have also witnessed the grace of someone who has had a significant loss and carries it, seemingly, with peace and dignity. But thinking and reading about grace, I have discovered that it has many other facets as well. There is the grace of humor in very trying circumstances. The grace of a stranger sharing an umbrella in the pouring rain. The grace of a supportive friend or sibling picking you up with a smile at the airport at 3:00am. This other kind of grace is as valuable and always accessible to us.
What Is Grace?
One of many definitions of grace is the unearned gift of acceptance, kindness, courtesy, love, caring, and forgiveness for our fellow human beings, as well as ourselves. It is an act of unconditional loving-kindness, and every single one of us can grant it. To be graceful with another is to open a space of ease for them. To be thoughtful as to what another person needs and not impose upon them judgment nor debt. One is empathizing with others without requiring them to meet criteria, judgment, or criticizing. It is an open-heartedness that allows pure kindness to emanate from one to another.
Grace is most needed and best understood amid problems, hurt, and even brokenness. Showing grace to others is a matter of dealing kindly with them, without judging whether it is deserved or not. We all need grace at some point or another. It only ever comes through as a gift, and when you receive it, you may or may not realize how much you needed it. But a gift it was, nevertheless.
We might think that the gift of grace is scarce. Yet when we look closely, we find that there are small instances of it throughout our days. Opening the door for someone who needs help, spending a Saturday picking up trash at a beach, or holding watch for turtles to nest safely. Being polite when a family member is crabby and proceeding to assist them, making a phone call to that friend who is having a hard time. Helping an older person by putting a box of water in their shopping cart. Both smiling behind your masks and six feet away. These are all gifts of kindness for the sake of loving-kindness. Grace opens our hearts, whether we are the givers or receivers of it. Within grace, we recognize that everyone and everything is connected and held to be sacred.
What can grace do?
Grace grounds and empowers life because of this recognition and respect towards everything and everyone. We are humbled to share the world with trees, humans, and turtles.
Grace gives us strength as well as relief when we feel its embrace. Kindness has never stopped being a superpower.
Grace gives evidence of hope for and to humanity.
Through grace, we give acceptance and recognition of others’ valuable existence. We all need to feel accepted, have unconditioned kindness, be recognized (to be seen) as we are. There is no better goodwill than the grace of being recognized and welcomed into our shared space. Grace is embracing someone, as is, to dwell in our world.
Grace can go a long way to repairing us and others. Let us forgive, even if they don’t ask for it; turn hurt into joy with humor; grievance into peace and a problem into a blessing.
Grace gives us the strength to turn in a better direction. Whether it be heaven’s or a human grace, it finds you where you are and takes you where you need to be. It has the power to transform you at the core of your being, moving you to a better place.
Grace can put us together again if we have become undone.
How we can invite grace into our day
We can invite it by accepting grace for ourselves.
We struggle between the person we are and the person we wish we could always be. Our challenge is to release the conviction that acceptance of our imperfections is impossible. We must lovingly accept ourselves as we are. Life’s gift of grace towards us is this: there is no need at all to question whether we are worthy or not. We are here, and that is enough. With humility, we acknowledge all others have been conferred this grace as well.
By sharing grace with others
We can start by finding ways to mindfully speak every day in gentleness. To eliminate or stay away from sharp, mean-spirited expressions. Beyond using gentle words with those around you, be aware of what message you are expressing – one of goodwill or judgment; information or gossip; resilience or despair; uplifting or deflating. Are our words filled with grace?
Show a genuine interest in whoever is speaking to you. Being present is paying undivided attention. Respond to questions when people ask you about yourself, ask a few questions of your own, and be interested in their response. Everyone wants to feel seen; give others that recognition. This applies to those we just met as to those we have known forever. Your complete presence is a gift.
We can give the gift of grace to others in the form of recognition (as in I see you), kindness, acceptance, presence, love, forgiveness, understanding, patience, acts of selflessness, goodwill, respect, and so many others. We all have infinite opportunities to be graceful every single moment. For my part, I will remain on the lookout for acts of grace, to witness all the possible variants of it. Which must be as variable and beautiful as we humans can be. Witnessing an act of grace, uplifts all of us.
And of course, I am going practice grace daily. Most likely tinged with humor and mishaps. But hey, we all have our signature style, even of grace.
I am sure that you have realized by now that you are much more graceful than what you give yourself credit for. It does not matter if you did not know what to say to your friend during a sad time, so you just sat with him and kept him company or if you were wearing your shirt inside out when you helped someone with her groceries. You were full of grace, and it uplifted us all.