The word “grace” has made a recent run into our modern lexicon because it was used by “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison, a 20-year veteran of the show. A contestant on the show was catching grief on social media because a photo surfaced of her dressed up in southern, antebellum-era fashion at a college event. Harrison, when pressed to condemn the girl, instead asked for “a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion” for the young woman.
The resulting criticism ended Harrison’s gig. There was no grace for the man who asked for grace for another. Maybe it’s because people don’t understand the concept. When you extend grace to another, you aren’t justifying their actions or behavior. You’re not making excuses or justifying. Giving grace simply means that you grant margin to the faults of others, to allow them to fail and then to grow. It’s an acknowledgement that we, as humans, do not have perfect records.
I’ve been on the receiving end of grace – many times. My life, including my speech, conduct, or thoughts, doesn’t always hit the mark. When I lose my head or lose my way, my friends and my family gently guide me back home with love, encouragement, and grace. That’s grace.
When we honor the fundamental character of others, understanding that they will stumble, then it gives all of us the opportunity to recover from our weakness into strength.
We need to Give a Little Grace.
Fighting to be seen
I didn’t need a shopping cart or even a basket. The only things I need at the store was some coffee creamer and a gallon of milk. I slid into the line at the grocery store applauding my in-and-out plan with a clear five-minute goal. But then to my left, she came at me, a woman with two masks and a face shield on, shaking her head. She was talking, but I couldn’t hear her. But I understood what she was saying. She felt I had cut her off and cheated my way into the line.
My two items meant a 45-second check-out. Her cart was full and I’m sure tucked in her clutch were several coupons just waiting to be redeemed. Just out of efficiency, I should have won the race.
I could have argued that I had the right of way. I could have shown her the two items in my hands. I could have stood my full height and towered over her slumping frame in a show of animal dominance that men often try to do.
But then I looked at her face, worn and weary from going at it alone. Or maybe taking care of a husband at home or raising her grandchildren because her daughter is haunted by her own demons. The rent is due. The vaccine list hasn’t reached her yet. She watches TV and everything is another news alert meant to scare and the mere fact that has to go get groceries is terrifying. No, she’s not going to order online. Too many buttons. Too many flashing ads. And it never works.
So, I stepped aside and with a smile, I gave up my rightful place. Give a Little Grace.
Fear of the Unknown
A coworker of mine expressed some opinions that were out of line with her character. They bordered on conspiratorial and were disrespectful, even dismissive of management. Then some of the comments were directed at me. This individual is the consummate team player. Until now.
But the backstory is that we are undergoing a massive reorganization and with that comes uncertainty over the future. Where will we work? What will do? And the ensuing concerns over security and providing for the present weigh heavy, let alone the retirement years.
The frustration is born out of fear. I get it. Many of us are working long days, often without human interaction, holed up in our homes in our quiet neighborhoods. Throw in some winter weather and the walls move a little inward with every passing day.
She’s not the only one. Lots of people have uncertain jobs, positions that have disappeared thanks to shutdowns and crackdowns. It’s bad enough to lose a job, but when the authorities force you to stop working and then wave cash for your inconvenience, little chunks of your soul disappear every week.
I could have reacted against her, pushing back, dispelling the lie. At first, I tried to reason with this person, but the frustration was too strong. So, I chose to Give a Little Grace. And we were both better for it.
Our contempt for one another
This long night has stretched into months and now a year. Isolation. Masks. Distancing. Rules. Disagreements. We are all just so tired of it. And every day the narrowness of our opinions grows smaller and our patience with others thins. It’s not looking good for our world.
If we don’t begin to embrace Grace, we will devolve into sheer and utter contempt for each other. We are living in a modern society that is at war not against a foreign enemy, but against itself.
Jon Tyson in Beautiful Resistance talks at length about how our society is working overtime to devalue others through our contempt. We claim superiority, a moral outrage over the actions of others, measured against a self-written standard code.
“Those who fail to meet that standard, whether it be moral, ethical, aesthetic, social or related to competence are devalued based on their failure to comply with the norm,” says Tyson. “All atrocities, including the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, started by lowering the value of others and justifying the right to dismiss and ultimately destroy them.”
Our only way out
Tyson is right. It’s not just about The Bachelor or old movies and books that don’t measure up to today’s standards. It’s not about a new wokecabulory that is cleansing our institutions. It’s not really the swarms of Internet hooligans who dredge up past misdeeds or twist words into pretzels of shame measured against the superior Newspeak. Ultimately, it’s about our lack of honor for one another.
Honor is such a forgotten, even ancient term. But it’s about showing respect toward each other, even when it isn’t always earned. We should honor both the stranger and the familiar, the oppressed and the blessed, the old and the young, the enlightened and the fool. When our lives begin and end with honor, we benefit the world us.
Forgive each other. Let things go. Think about what others are going through. Don’t go out of your way to find personal offense.
Extending grace is not always easy. But it is our only way out of this mess.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13, NIV).
Give a Little Grace.