G is for Grace
Updated: Jul 13
“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.” Aristotle
Most people have heard of the phrase “Sunday’s child is full of grace”, but what is grace?
There are many different definitions and uses of the word grace. It can be used to describe the graceful movements of a ballerina or a swan gliding through the water, or it can be used to describe the act of 'gracing someone with your presence''. There are many other phrases associated with the word ‘grace’ too: ‘There but by the grace of God go I', 'She did it with bad/good grace', 'I was given 3 days grace'. Within these phrases there are implications of gratitude, attitude, a new chance or opportunity
“Grace releases and affirms. It doesn’t smother. Grace values the dignity of individuals. It doesn’t destroy. Grace supports and encourages. It isn’t jealous or suspicious.”
When you find life hard or realise that you have not made the right choices and perhaps need to ask forgiveness from someone; needing them to show you grace by not giving you the reaction or treatment that you ‘deserve’, grace is kindness, patience and understanding in action and we all need this.
“Grace is the very opposite of merit… Grace is not only undeserved favour, but it is favour, shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite.” Harry Ironside
“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” Saint Augustine of Hippo
Grace is clearly linked in with forgiveness (often for the apology you never received) and is an extension of the grace that you have been shown throughout your life
“If I’m not showing grace… have I forgotten the grace I’ve been shown.”
John F. Macarthur Jr.
So why aspire to grace?
"Grace means that all of your mistakes, now serve a purpose instead of serving shame"
We may not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have a choice as to what we do with what we are given and our responses to ourselves and others. We can’t control if other people will show us grace when we need it, but we can still deliberately make a choice to act with grace towards others and live intentionally.
“Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.” Saint Augustine
Grace isn’t something that can be earned, bought or controlled. It’s an act of unconditional love. By conscientiously choosing forgiveness and having an attitude of grace, not only do we benefit the other person, but we are benefitting ourselves mentally and physically and gain emotional freedom and liberation from the downward spiral of negativity that resentment breeds.
Resentment will contaminate the soul, distancing you not only from other beings but from your authentic self and the common bond that we have with each other. Grace and forgiveness are a fundamental part of living a happy, balanced, life of joy in alignment with your values. When we act without grace and are misaligned from our values, we create a dissonance and this can lead to illness within our body. We could perhaps, therefore, look upon forgiveness and compassion as medicine that is helping us to live a healthy life.
When we dwell on circumstances or people who have wronged us, the amygdala in our brain lights up and activates our “fight-or-flight” response, stimulating our adrenal glands to pump out cortisol (the stress hormone) and triggering our sympathetic nervous system into overdrive; if this continues or builds up through cumulative reactions, our heart will begin to race, our respiratory rate will increase, stomach acid will get pumped out and the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms will get switched off, putting us at greater risk of serious long term conditions.
Resentment prevents good health, but by choosing love and grace we foster positive transformation of the difficult moments in life that threaten cause us to react rather than respond. Grace, rather than self-justification towards ourselves and others, can lead to a very different, healthier life, in which we have no use for: resentment; righteous anger; a sense of superiority over someone else less ‘right’ than us; an attachment to ‘punishing’ someone or a need to have the last word, because we value our own peace of mind and our relationship with others over and above being seen to be the victim or proving ourselves to be in the right.
Finally to return to the swan, ‘The Ugly Duckling’ is a widely known children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen, about a duckling who doesn’t look like the others and is rejected and labelled as being ugly and different but who grows into an elegant swan. As well as highlighting the deceptive nature of first appearances, this story reminds us that true beauty comes from within. The swan symbol shows us that we all have inner grace and beauty and teaches us self-acceptance and self-esteem. When we accept ourselves and realise the beauty of living authentically, aligned with our values, we have the ability to change our world and the world of those we come into contact with.
“The higher a man is in grace. The lower he will be in his own esteem.”
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
Can you think of a particular repetitive scenario whereby choosing grace would lead to a healthier outcome for you and your relationships with others?
How could you respond differently?
How can you transform the moments of life, the ones that threaten to overwhelm and overcome you, into moments of grace?
If you want to reflect more on this subject, here is a link to get you started: