Lately it has felt like something has shifted. It seems to me that showing grace – whether to others or yourself – is no longer what we do. When did grace go out of style?
Grace vs Kindness
Although grace can include kindness, there is a difference between the two. Both are important. Grace is harder. Grace is doing things for others knowing that you will not get anything in return. It is the ability to be considerate of others in every interaction. Your purpose is to make their day more pleasant rather than less. You look for opportunities to lift up others.
In 2008, Western Oregon University and Central Washington University were playing in the girls’ softball playoffs. Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University hit her first home run ever with two runners on and began to round the bases. Around first base, she injured her knee and could not go any further. At that time, the rules of the game were that her teammates could not help her. A pinch-runner could be called in, but the hit would only be counted as a single. In an act of grace that stunned the crowd, two members of the Central Washington University team carried Sara around the bases so her three-run homer would count. This also meant that their team would be eliminated from the playoffs. What would you have done if you were the opposing team members?
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Showing grace to others
Opportunities to show grace to others are all around us. Think about others first – colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers. You have no idea of the struggles others might be facing.
I watched a young mom pushing her grocery cart down the aisle. She had a baby in a carrier and a two-year old grabbing things off the shelves as she was trying to get what was on her list. The mom kept saying sorry to everyone around her as the baby began to cry. I could see she had reached her limit. Someone had given me chapstick and I still had it in my purse unopened. I asked the mom if I could give it to the two-year old. She nodded. He loved it. I saw them at different times in the store and waved at the little boy who was still enthralled with his chapstick and got a thumbs up from the mom. It only took five minutes to ease someone else’s burden.
I have an alter ego named Betty who comes out when I am driving. She is not as patient as me and definitely not gracious. I noticed that Betty was fitting in with the other drivers – begrudgingly letting people into her lane, honking her horn when someone did not go as soon as the light changed, speeding around slow drivers. And if Betty does let you over, you better give her a courtesy wave. When did we all get so busy and self-important that we no longer show each other a little grace on the road?
I was skimming Facebook and noticed some not so nice language. Two of my friends, who obviously did not share the same political views, engaged in a discussion that had quickly deteriorated into disrespectful and disparaging words. When did having a difference of opinion give us permission to insult and belittle each other?
Grace in the workplace
Grace is not a word leaders use when they talk about their role. I challenge leaders to consider what grace could look like in their interactions with others.
Form your own opinions – We may hear things about people from others. Form your opinions based on your own experiences.
Empower others to get the job done without micromanagement – If your team can get the results you want, do they have to do it the way you would do it?
Help others learn from mistakes – Everyone makes mistakes. Create a safe environment that focuses on the learning and not on admonishing a mistake.
Take time to get the whole story – We may not have all the facts before we react. That can lead to misunderstandings and can impact relationships.
Supplement hard work with fun and humor – We all know that things need to get done in an efficient and effective manner. However, we also need to remember that we are all human. We need the lighter moments to recharge.
Grace for yourself
Why is it so hard to give grace to ourselves? We give others encouragement and tell them not to be so hard on themselves, then we turn around and beat ourselves up over the same things.
Change up your language and pay attention to how you talk to yourself. I was sharing with a colleague where I was with running my own business. I hung my head and told her that I hadn’t got it all figured out. Her response was, “yet”. I looked at her quizzically. “You haven’t got it figured out yet. But you will.”
Take a compliment with a smile. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to take a compliment? Someone gives us accolades and we come up with a bunch of reasons why we don’t deserve the acknowledgment, or we recount all the people who, in our opinion, deserve the compliment more than us. Try saying thank you and appreciate the kind words.
It’s okay to say no or change your mind. I excitedly signed up for multiple events for the same week that I already had several meetings scheduled, a plentiful task list, and was traveling at the end of the week. About mid-week I started to feel the pressure. How am I going to do everything I need to do? I gave myself permission to skip one of the events. I cannot tell you how much relief I felt after I made that decision.
Forgetting things? Messing stuff up? Wondering why you can’t do all the things you used to do? Not losing that weight fast enough? I bet you’re not the only one. It’s okay to show yourself some grace.
Be a “Grace Hunter”
I was watching a documentary called “The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story”. Kara was a wife, blogger, and mother with terminal breast cancer who shared her story of dying with grace, dignity and a sense of humor. At the end, when a family friend was describing Kara’s legacy, she described her as a “grace hunter”. She looked for opportunities to show grace all the time, moment by moment.
Kara’s story is a reminder that life can be hard. It can be messy. Her story is not about dying, but about living and choosing every day to show grace to others and yourself. Be a grace hunter.
Debby Neely is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation who specializes in leadership coaching and facilitation. Her business, Neely Coaching & Training, supports both formal and informal leaders in realizing their potential and in getting results. Their mission is to help you be the best you can be.