How often do we say grace, yet not think about or feel the words we speak? What does it really mean to be gracious?
What are the online Merriam Webster dictionary definitions for grace?
- 1 a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b : a virtue coming from God c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
- 2 a : approval, favor b archaic : mercy, pardon c : a special favor : privilege d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency e : a temporary exemption : reprieve
- 3 a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic b : a pleasing appearance or effect : charm c : ease and suppleness of movement or bearing
- 4 —used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop
- 5 : a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
- 6 plural capitalized : three sister goddesses in Greek mythology who are the givers of charm and beauty
- 7 : a musical trill, turn, or appoggiatura
- 8 a : sense of propriety or right b : the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful
The grace that I am referring to – and attempting to achieve is this: disposition to act with kindness, courtesy and clemency … clemency is the kind or merciful treatment of someone who could be given harsh punishment. That doesn’t necessarily mean punishment by law, but also the judgement we hand out to our fellow beings. We harshly judge that driver who cut us off, or the person who rubbed us the wrong way or someone who lives differently than we do.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I” doesn’t necessarily exhibit our graciousness. It all hinges on the underlying thoughts and feelings. Do you whisper “Better her than me!” to yourself? Feel pity? Shame? Or do you truly feel thankful for your lot in life, and empathize with those less fortunate? Do you say a little prayer for them? Wish them well, despite their hostility towards you? That – to me – is the underlying foundation of living graciously.
Have a kind word for someone who is down on their luck. I was out walking my two dogs last week when we came upon a lady walking her border collie mix. He began to lunge and pull on his leash while barking furiously at us. Her body language conveyed so much; she was defensive, shameful, overwhelmed. I was busy collecting and managing Carly and Annie from the other side of the road, but once passed, I turned to her with a smile and said “That was us a year ago.” She immediately softened – perhaps thankful that I didn’t judge or lash out and replied “Oh thank God! There IS hope?!”
I spoke briefly of my experience with Annie, my northern rescue, and what had helped us, namely a FB community group for reactive dogs. I told her that I had had great success, and while we weren’t at end of job, life was much better for Annie. She even got to join me on hikes where she would come face to face and nose to tail with strange dogs. This lady seemed so relieved that there was hope … and I gave her that. I could have reacted with my own rage and indignant behavior – I have done that – but … “there, but for the grace of God, go I …” I empathized with her because I have been there and done that, and been the dog Mom who felt helpless while my dog viciously barked, hackles up, while ready to do battle.
A curious thing happened as she relaxed … so did her dog! He sat quietly beside her as we conversed. After a few moments and a delightful exchange, we went our separate ways for our morning walk, both of us smiling – both of us smiling! How do you leave people feeling? Do you act ungraciously, and make their experience worse? Or genuinely reach out and try to make their life better, if perhaps for one instant?
It can be exceedingly difficult to be gracious in today’s world, but as my good friend Jack Canfield says “Event plus response equals outcome” (Jack doesn’t know it yet, but we are good friends).
When something happens, do you respond with grace or without? Never mind who is at fault. YOU – and only you – are responsible for your response. While you may feel some temporary gratification at giving them the finger, what you’ve really done is perpetuated the feelings of judgment, hate, anger and selfishness. And why put that out there so it can be flung back in your face at a later time? Karma is indeed, a bitch.
Fresh up tomorrow for our Canadian Thanksgiving … Saying Grace!