“But the tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me.” ~ Lord Alfred Tennyson 1809-1892), poet
There are several definitions of grace. According to Merriam-Webster, the four most common definitions are: 1) unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, 2) disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency, 3) an ease and suppleness of movement or bearing and 4) a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks.
The definition I will be concentrating on in this article is: “grace is any genuine act of love, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and favor to benefit or serve another for no other reason except to extend goodwill – especially when unexpected or unmerited.” It is an unconditional love that is given in unlimited supply that cannot ever be lost or taken away. It is a benevolent force that is available all the time for anyone who desires to experience its presence.
To live in grace asks us to appreciate ourselves and others unconditionally and to act accordingly with kindness and compassion. When I was a young girl, my grandfather used to say to me, “I could care less if my granddaughter grows up to be nice. What I care about is that she grows up to be kind.” He believed that niceness was a social condition of behaving certain ways in public that pleased others. Anyone can falsely behave ‘nice’ – however, kindness is an act that cannot be imitated. He would tell me that at the root of kindness was grace, “which always cares about the worthiness of other people and honoring them through compassion and forgiveness.”
As humans, we long to be esteemed and valued for who we are. Unfortunately, we’re recognized more for what we accomplish than we are for what we contribute that makes a difference or, for what it has taken us to make our contributions. To make matters worse, we tend to place a lot of set rules and regulations, but then judge ourselves and others very harshly for not living up to our expectations. Instead of extending grace to ourselves and others, we end up retaliating and/or attacking because we feel wronged or suffering.
When we appreciate the grace that is extended to us by others or that we extend to others, we move from harsh judgment to diminishing and absolving personal guilt and shame from the inside-out. We place our hearts and focus on enhancing our own worth and others’ worthiness. Grace affects our heart and sense of self worth. For example, when you are angry with someone, watch them relax and open more in an un-coerced response when you show them compassion and kindness instead of arrogance or retaliation. Grace applied thoughtfully contributes to the quality of another person becoming more of who they are. It moves our heart to receptivity and uplifts us with something good that just happened. For a moment, it brings us closer to the divine. When we are appreciating grace in our lives, the moment of closeness takes us deeper into our heart and soul. From here, we know grace as a gift that invites a positive response to:
Accepting that humans are imperfect, flawed, insecure and vulnerable.
Knowing we have the capacity to achieve an altruistic expression based on love for humanity.
Living authentically with profound courage and vision.
Teaching and inspiring through wisdom and insights.
“Grace isn’t an act of giving; it is an opening in receiving. For in the moment that you receive grace, you are standing in the omnipresence.”
In receiving grace, we then find it in our hearts to extend grace as the gift given to another which opens their receptivity to goodwill. Opening to grace is the answer to emptiness, discouragement, disillusionment, hopelessness and helplessness. Acts of grace can restore our strength and the goodwill can uplift us from despair and destitution. In the presence and deeper appreciation of grace, it extends itself to heal, warm, and comfort us in love and through the stillness of our heart. From out of our hearts, into the hearts of mankind.
“It is good for us to think that no grace or blessing is truly ours till we are aware that God has blessed some one else with it through us.” ~ Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), American Episcopal Minister