I think grace is a concept that is really hard to pin down. What does it really mean? It is kindness? Is it a connection to God? Is it a synonym for poise? I think it’s used in all these ways – and many more too.
I saw Elizabeth Gilbert speak last September in D.C. and one of the unplanned messages of her talk – which came from someone wanting to give her a gift – was about receiving grace whenever it’s offered.
She said otherwise the energy flow is broken.
I think if you view grace like that – it’s something to receive, it’s something to which you should be open, it’s something that you should see as a gift – it doesn’t matter how you define it. It can be God, it can be love, it can be kindness, it can be thoughtfulness or it can be something else – or maybe some combination of all of the above. I know a lot of people think many of these are the same thing, and some people don’t, and it’s okay whatever you believe. I think it’s almost refreshing to have a concept like grace that is so open to interpretation that it’s both personal and universal without any controversy either way.
This idea of accepting grace has been in my head for a year now, and what I know for sure is that it does not matter how you define it. All that matters is that you know it when you see it and that you are open to it at every opportunity. What matters is that your first instinct becomes to accept it and welcome it rather than shut it down and think you should not have it. Sadly, that’s many of our gut reactions on this.
Two months ago now – eleven months after I first started thinking about this – I had an experience where I had a feeling grace was going to be offered to me. I was not expecting it (that’s really important to note), but I practiced in my mind what I was going to say in case it was offered. I wanted to be gracious. I wanted to be open. I wanted to practice what I preach (and a couple weeks earlier, I had been vocal in preaching it with friends). I did NOT want to interrupt the energy flow.
And, despite all of these good intentions – and even a rehearsal in my thoughts – I was not as open to it as I should have been. I had to stop and self-correct in the middle of my response. I said the thing that I think is the worst thing to say when grace is being offered to you: “You don’t have to do this.” And of course the response was – because I’ve said it myself when I’ve been the one trying to offer grace: “I know I don’t have to, but I want to.”
And that’s it. Right there, that’s grace.
And I don’t want to interrupt that. And I don’t want it interrupted when I’m trying to give it.
So, that’s the challenge. Recognize the gift of grace. Recognize that it’s an ongoing possibility no matter the place or group. Recognize that to accept grace, you may have to let go of something else. Recognize that grace is (among so much more) a hug or a kind word or a generous offer or a treat of ice cream – or in my example above – a complimentary oil change!
You can see and have grace everywhere if you’re open to it. Recognize that the more we pause, breathe and create space between our reactions that the light dawns on us faster. And with that light comes the grace. And then we’re more open and more grateful – and I think also more apt to offer grace too.
And that’s definitely an energy flow I want to encourage.