I, like many people, have a need to be “right”. Whether I am having an argument with a family member over something insignificant or relaying a situation with a stranger where I feel I have been wronged, I will go to great lengths to prove that I am correct, justified, or validated in my words and actions. This personality quirk can be at the the very least obnoxious and often leads to arguments growing larger than they have to be. For the longest time I saw this dubious character trait as a positive. I was strong, I was in charge, and I wouldn’t let anyone take advantage of me! It was not until recently that I realized that this need to be right at all costs, to “win” an argument or to not acquiesce was a flaw rather than an attribute.
Although I was quite aware of how I interacted with others, I had an “aha” moment a few weeks ago during an argument with a teenager who shall remain unnamed to protect the privacy of the not-so-innocent. Due to several issues, not the least of which is our clashing personalities, we have difficult mornings around our home. These mornings are often followed by me justifying myself later, usually in long guilt inducing text messages which probably go unread. In the midst of one of these encounters, I simply had a thought to “choose grace”. Not to be right, or vindicated, or to “win” the battle, but simply to choose grace in the situation and go on with my day. Now, this thought and feeling didn’t last long, and there have been numerous instances since this one where I did not choose grace in any form or fashion, but it did propel me to more deeply explore the concept.
Grace is one of the cornerstones of Christianity and the subject of innumerable songs, books, and sermons. Those who have little to no knowledge of the faith can cite the words to “Amazing Grace”. But what exactly is grace? Quite simply grace is the granting of favor to those who do not deserve it. It is unmerited favor and unconditional love and from a Christian perspective, it is the one thing granted to us by God even when – and especially when – we do not “deserve it”. There is nothing we can do to “earn” grace and there is nothing we can do to to lose grace. It just IS.
As I read and studied more about the idea of grace, I began to realize that if God can grant grace to me, who am I to hold a grudge, seek vindication, or try to get even? The idea of “karma” is ingrained in our society, and our human nature much more supports this attitude than one of grace. Everyone gets what is coming to them in the end. If you do something to me, I will do something to you to get even. In my case, it is usually not that extreme; I simply I will hold a grudge until someone acknowledges that I was right!
That brought me to the question that still plagued me. If I am wronged – whether it is being “disrespected” by my own child or being rudely spoken to by a stranger, if I show grace in that situation, choosing to love and not “fight back” will that mean I “lose”? Or that I am being taken advantage of? And I think the answer to that is no. Grace has nothing at all to do with the recipient. Paul Zahl is quoted as saying that “grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures…”
Showing grace does not mean that we do not hold people accountable for their actions of course. As members of society, we have a responsibility to establish and follow certain rules and guidelines to live and work together. But “as recipients of grace, we are privileged to serve as God’s agents of grace.” (Justin Holcomb, What is Grace?) It isn’t easy but it also isn’t exactly an option.
How then can we choose grace when it seems that everything in us is telling us to choose to react differently? In the post “Grace for the Understanding” Jennifer Flanders offers the following acronym:
G – Grant Forgiveness Freely
R – Remain patient at all times
A – Answer evil with good
C – Consider others’ viewpoints
E – Exemplify Christ’s Love
Life is difficult in the best of times. Human interactions can be fraught with negativity and we are going to be on the “losing side” of arguments more often than not. By making a conscious effort to “choose grace” we can choose love, choose compassion, choose understanding, and choose to show to others the undeserving grace that has been shown to us.
-Karri Temple Brackett
March 19, 2019
The following articles or pages were referenced when writing this post: