Chances are, at some point, you’ve been wronged. Happens to all of us. People fail to follow through on a commitment, break something they borrowed, or forget to include us on an important email. It stings.
On the flip side, you can probably think of a time when you let someone down as well. Maybe you failed to keep your word, missed a deadline, or forgot about a friend’s party. Knowing our actions, or inactions, hurt another leaves us feeling just as bad, if not worse.
These human failures feel differently to us depending on whether we’re at fault or the one damaged, but either way we suffer. What we could all use is a little more grace with each other as well as with ourselves.
Extending grace is like throwing a lifeline. Grace liberates. It doesn’t excuse responsibility, but instead opens the door for understanding and offers another chance to get it right. Both parties have the opportunity to move forward without hard feelings.
The beauty of grace is that it’s unwarranted and undeserved. It is not offered out of compulsion but rather out of generosity. That’s why grace puts us at ease.
The Relief of Grace
I was driving on a narrow road near our home recently when I noticed a trash receptacle at the end of a driveway protruding into the lane I was traveling in. The container was the hard plastic type that sanitation trucks grab with the big claw and hurl overhead to empty.
A car was headed toward me in the other lane, so I couldn’t cross the center line as I went around it. I thought I had enough room to pass safely without hitting the object, so I kept moving forward.
A loud noise and the dangling mirror on the passenger’s side proved my assessment inaccurate. I felt terrible. Not only was the car damaged, I had no idea about the trash can. Once I reached a place to turn around, I drove back to the house where the incident occurred.
My heart raced as I knocked on the front door. How would the person inside respond? With understanding? With anger? No way to know.
A young man opened the door and stepped onto the porch to prevent his dogs from running outside. I explained what happened, apologized, and offer to pay for any damage the incident caused.
He smiled real big, looked toward the roadway at the garbage can, and then glanced back at me. “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a trash can.”
I offered again but he was already headed back in the doorway. He assured me it was not a problem.
Relief washed over me as I walked back to the car. He didn’t know me. His response could have been entirely different. I was clearly in the wrong and would have been glad to pay for any damage I’d caused to make it right. This gentleman didn’t even want to check for damage. He brushed the incident off like it was nothing.
The kind man extended grace to me.
Extending Grace to Others
It’s easy to get caught up in a moment and lose our cool when we’ve been wronged. Another driver pulls out in front of us in rush hour traffic, someone shows up late to a meeting, our co-worker doesn’t respond to our email. All these things can get under our skin if we allow it.
The person should know they let us down, right?
What we fail to consider is the other person might have a perfectly good reason for not following through with the commitment. They could be dealing with an unexpected emergency, resolving a customer issue, or being delayed by a traffic snarl.
Most people really do have good intentions.
Extending Grace to Ourselves
Often, we’re harder on ourselves than we are on others.
I’ve certainly had my fair share of meltdowns because of something I did or failed to do. There were times when I was excessively hard on myself over minor mishaps. And I wasn’t even aware I had a choice otherwise.
Immediately after the incident with the trash receptacle, I caught myself falling into the same pattern. It was then I realized that this was my default response. But this time, I also recognized I had a choice on how to respond. So, I decided to intentionally offer the gift of grace to myself.
Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, it costs money for the repairs. But accidents happen. It’s life. I purposely decided to take responsibility, address what happened, and move on with my day rather than grovel over my failure.
I share this experience with you because it was a shift in awareness for me. And my hope is that if your default reaction, like mine, is to feel bad about yourself after little mistakes or minor failures that you’ll recognize you have a choice. You really do.
When we give the gift of grace to another, we offer a reprieve. When we extend grace to ourselves, we forgive our past failures and delays, and move ahead with a much lighter load.
Today, someone may let you down. You may even wrong another. If so, stop for a moment and determine how the soothing balm of grace could be applied.