Whenever I think of the word “grace,” I’m always reminded of the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, when Clark asks Aunt Bethany to say grace at Christmas dinner and she responds, “Grace! She passed away 30 years ago.” Then Uncle Lewis speaks up, pointing to his mouth for emphasis, “THE BLESSING!!” Aunt Bethany nods as if she now understands, bows her head, folds her hands and proceeds to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Grace is a word that comes up a lot here at BlossomWriter because we all need grace on the journey of blossoming into our best, truest selves. But it’s also a word, I believe, requires some explanation because words like grace can easily lose their power when they are overused or not properly understood (Aunt Bethany being our case in point!).
Often the word grace is thought of in a purely religious context because we find the word grace throughout the Bible in reference to the mercy, favor and blessings bestowed upon humanity by God. In the Old Testament, the word grace is translated from the original Hebrew word chen, meaning “favor;” and in the New Testament, it is translated from the greek word charis, meaning “a gracious act.”
From a secular or modern standpoint, grace traces its origin to the latin word gratus, which is translated as “pleasing or thankful,” and is closely related to the word grateful. Perhaps this is why we refer to a prayer of thanks before a meal as “saying grace” or to people as “graceful.”
Here on the blog, I’ve drawn from both origins to define grace like this:
Grace is what we extend to others and ourselves when we acknowledge we are all human.
If you’ve ever messed up, failed, acted like a fool, or done something you’ve regretted, then you know the feeling of relief when someone says they’ve been there and done that, too. That’s grace.
You know the feeling of acceptance when someone extends kindness, or sympathy, or forgiveness, or generosity regardless of whether or not it is deserved. That’s also grace.
And you know the feeling of gratitude when you finally receive grace, whether it be grace you’ve extended to yourself or grace that has been extended to you by someone else.
Grace is always rooted in a deep gratitude for our shared humanity – the very thing that allows us to blossom into our best, truest selves. You see, without grace we’d fall down and stay down, we’d be lost without ever finding our way back home. Without grace, we’d believe that other people are more deserving, instead of believing we all are deserving.
We need grace for the journey because becoming our best, truest selves will always require us to affirm the humanity in everyone, including ourselves.
And if you’re thinking, humanity sucks. Think again! Humanity is beautiful and very good at its core. We see this in times when people rally together to stop injustice, or when people help promote the success or wellbeing of others, or when people are kind and generous to strangers.
Only when humanity lacks grace is it hard to see humanity as good, but the good is always there, just below the surface. And that should make us all the more grateful for the moments when grace bursts through and we experience our shared humanity together.
Which leads me to this: if you’re struggling to find worth in yourself or in others, try grace. Try extending the love, kindness, courtesy, blessing and forgiveness inherent in grace and see what happens. I bet you’ll be feeling like your best, truest self in no time!
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