What is grace? Why should we care?
Grace is giving someone the “benefit of the doubt,” so to speak. Believing the best about a person instead of the worst. Even if the person makes a mistake, being willing to forgive and look past what they have done.
We all would like grace extended to us. Picture this: you wake up in the morning and your children are all screaming. They won’t calm down and they don’t feel well. But, you have an appointment to get to, so you get them all dressed and fed and to your appointment. They’re melting down and you’re losing your mind. At one point you grab one child’s arm and sharply scream, “Stop that NOW!!”
People watching who don’t know what your morning was like might think, “Wow, that lady is a bad parent! I would never treat my kid that way!” I’m sure everyone has seen someone say/do that to their kid and had that thought. But step back. What if they knew what your morning was like? Would they sympathize with you? Most of them would, because we all know parents aren’t perfect. But without that knowledge, it just appears that you’re an angry, impatient person. Would you want them to assume that, or extend grace and think “Wow, she must have had a rough morning. Too bad.”
I know that when we’re having a bad day (Bekah only wants the purple cup, no others; she won’t get dressed; Daniel won’t let me put him down; Bekah spills her breakfast on the floor instead of eating it; Daniel is freaking out as I try to strap him into his car seat and Bekah’s not listening to a word I say) I sometimes yell at Daniel to BE QUIET and yell at Bekah to SIT DOWN so we can just go! I wonder what the neighbors would say, and hope that they would extend grace and not think I was a bad parent.
We all need to remember that what we are seeing everyday is only a small snapshot of someone’s life. We don’t know the whole story. We find it easy to look at other people and pass judgment based on a single action, but we shouldn’t. We should think about what “might be happening” instead and offer grace: a smile, a nice comment, or even just a nice thought. It can make someone’s day better to smile at a stranger and say, “We’ve all been there.”
With people we know it’s even more important. We might know their stories, but we still need to extend grace. It’s easy to look at someone, especially someone we’ve admired and respected, and when they trip up, lose our admiration and respect for them. But no one is perfect (except Jesus!), so we need to see them as fallible, as we are, and offer them grace and a hand to get up.
A story that honestly really has stuck with me is one I heard in our small group on a video we’re watching (I wish I could remember the name of it, but I can’t. It’s on relationships and done by a famous pastor). A man gets on a bus with three young children. He sits down and faces the window and ignores them. Meanwhile, they’re running up and down the aisles, shrieking and being a general nuisance. He does absolutely nothing to stop this. Everyone on the bus is uncomfortable and unhappy about this and assumes he is a bad, unattentive father. People keep looking at each other, trying to decide what to do. Finally, someone taps the man on the shoulder and says, “Sir. SIR. Your children are being quite a nuisance. Can you please settle them down?”
The man turns around and gives the person a sad look, and says, “I’m sorry. We just came from the hospital. My wife, their mother, just died.”
Then what happens? Nothing has really changed, except that the bus now knows that man’s story. A man who gets on the bus and lets his children behave that way on an ordinary day might be annoying, obnoxious, inexcusable. But given that his wife just died, it is completely understandable that he might be too numb to care that his children are shrieking, and they’re too grief-stricken to be quiet. Grace is what is needed, not annoyance.
So next time you see something that makes you go, “Hmm…” instead of judging the person, try to think about what might be going on that you don’t know, and extend grace.
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