Costly Grace as a Survival Tactic: Finding Happiness Despite the Pain and Suffering

Costly Grace as a Survival Tactic: Finding Happiness Despite the Pain and Suffering March 28, 2017


Forgiveness is such a little B****.

I mean, saying it more eloquently, forgiveness, it’s a double edged sword. If you forgive, then you feel as if they win; if you choose not to forgive, you then feel and find the truth within the platitude saying, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Many times as a pastor, I’d be constantly asked by congregants “How do you forgive…?” And I’d tell them, “The same way you get over your ex: you sleep with as many people as…” No, I’m only kidding; I only said that sometimes. But, my better answer was oddly less acceptable for the average person to hear. I’d tell them the only path to forgiveness is one that involves not further feeding into whatever it is causing and/or encouraging you to hold on to that sense of un-forgiveness; it’s nonlinear, undefined for each person, and for each one of their individual problems.

At times this is involves nothingness; other times it involves what Anne Lamott refers to as a “radical self-care.” That is, stillness, silence, prayer, long walks, meditation, finding whatever it is that brings you joy and doing just the right amount of that. And, many times, within our prayers, long walks, or meditations we gain clarity; the trouble with this is, some times the answers to our problems are not our preferred solutions.

But I think the discipline in being able to do this is what some theologians might call “grace.”

A Sociopathic Grace (Cheap Grace)

In a society driven by this thing called instantaneous gratification we’re surrounded by people selling us mostly poison. Whether it’s microwaveable meals filled with sodium, toxic negative messages from the media, promised 4-hour work weeks, or a televangelist preacher making falsified-feel-good-promises… these all sell because we’re all looking for a shortcut in life that will solve all of our problems.

As we all know, and have come to find out the hard way, 99.9% of the time there is no easy solution that will lead to a lasting type of meaningful transformation. It’s bizarre in that, we know smoking, fast food, and, yes, even televangelist preachers aren’t helping; yet, their stock keeps rising and we keep on consuming. While only two of these are unequivocally proven to be literally killing tens of millions, all three of these are most definitely selling us a lie: “If you give us your money, attend our event, then you’ll be happy.”

If the grace you’re drinking isn’t leading you towards freedom, then its safe to say that’s not grace, and that you’ve been fed poison.

Yet, we consume and/or attend, and then we find ourselves now with less money and some how more unhappy.

It’s more sad than it is shameful, in that we’d rather believe in the boogey man professed by a good looking, well-spoken, pastor than take the road less traveled in order to find meaning.

Why is this?

It’s quite simple and actually 100% understandable.

Pain, or the avoidance of. It starts with the experience of such, leads to the wrongful coping mechanism of censoriousness; which becomes overwhelmingly depressing and so we wind up dissociating (read: not caring; feeling nothing; embracing indifference); dissociating (for the non-psychopath) then becomes an inevitable impossibility and so we then find this falsified sense of safety in consuming products, believing false prophecy, and/or feeding addictions that are said to make us happy, however temporary it may be.

A Radical Grace (Costly Grace) 

It’s the differentiation between sociopathic grace and a radical grace. A sociopathic grace is what your typical megalomaniactic pastor uses to justify their neurotic sociopathic behaviors; it is what pushes you down, convincing you that in order to be brought back up, you need to imbibe their falsified bullshit gospel. It’s exactly the method in which cult leaders and abusive men utilize to entrap “their followers.”

But, again, we know this.

Which is why I agree with AA in that it takes a power greater than ourselves, in order to over come whatever it is that has us entrapped. It’s this power that leads us into a true radical grace; a grace that gives understanding and clarity in acknowledging this theological type of heresy; while also lending the ability to not react viscerally, but instead possess the strength to consciously choose to act lovingly; that is, without reinforcing whomever’s sociopathy.

You see, the misconception is that forgiveness and grace are these temporary moments we experience; this, as I’ve found is incorrect. Forgiveness and grace are lifestyles we choose to live out on a daily basis; it’s a lifetime commitment to consciously and autonomously choose to embrace discipleship (as opposed to just simply writing a check, or attending a service). It’s delving into community, embracing a wise type of vulnerability, feeling the pain of life where necessary, while understanding when it’s become unhealthy. It’s dulling the both sides of the blade of what we thought to be forgiveness, and allowing us the strength to put down the sword, and freely move on with our life.

33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

– Jesus (Luke 14:33)

If it’s cheap, and easy, then don’t expect to find lasting change or meaning; again, that’s empty.

This is what Christ meant when referring to salvation. It’s not a life after death, but a life before death. It’s a salvation that is already, but not quite yet.

Question is, “What is it that’s hold you back, and keeping you from being free?”

[p.s. speaking of the cost of discipleship… I’ve got two extra copies of Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship – if you’d like a copy, and are definitely going to read it, then hit me up over on my Facebook and send me a message with your address]

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment