Why is it that we are able to extend grace to anyone but ourselves? A friend or colleague forgets a to do something or has to cancel on a playdate or has laundry on her couch when you stop by and it isn’t even a blip on our radar. When someone in your life is in need or we have to fill in a gap for another, we extend help without a second thought. We accept genuine apologies with grace. But... (and you knew there was a but coming, right?) we (and I am using the collective we because I know I am not alone in this) don’t extend that grace to ourselves. We don’t give ourselves that flexibility to in our daily lives. We don’t even expect it from others even though we know we would freely give it to them.
Two experiences this week have made me think a lot about grace and how we experience it. I wrote to a friend about my bad experience with a new medicine that was supposed to calm my anxious mind but instead hyped me up like speed. Seriously, and here is where you can laugh, someone who could spend all day on her couch racked up 11,000 steps before lunch! Even just standing in line at the store, someone said you look like you are riding a motorcycle. It was not a fun experience for me. However, not only did several of my colleagues extend grace, but a friend that I emailed to ask for prayer came back with a beautiful message. The last phrase has really stuck with me. "You are so HARD on you".
I think that is so true of a lot of us. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Expecting so much perfection that we either make ourselves miserable or exhausted. I am not talking about the drive to do better or be successful or work hard. I am talking about the need for perfection that drives us to do so much and be so much that we don’t have room for grace for ourselves when we are tired or sick or just need to curl up with a mystery novel for the afternoon.
The second experience was on Monday Night. I bumped into someone that had hurt me a long time ago. It is that kind of hurt that is curled up in your head and makes you feel nauseous when you see them. As he came toward me, I knew I could extend a small amount of grace (maybe faked). I smiled, welcomed him and asked how he was while made small talk. As I went to excuse myself, he stopped me and told me he knew what he had done years ago had hurt me; he had done it maliciously with no excuse and that he was truly sorry. He said and I quote, “Every time I see you I get a little nauseous.” I refrained from saying, “Me, too.” I was, in that moment, able to extend real grace and accept his apology and move forward. I bet money that next time I see him I won’t have to fake grace. It made me think of people I have hurt along the way... whether maliciously or accidentally. The hurt was enough to make me avoid them if I possibly could. Do I think grace would be extended to me if I stopped them and genuinely apologized? Do I expect grace to be given?
Grace is a tricky subject. We are quicker to give it to others, but are often surprised by it when it is given to us, even if we have asked for it. I think as I pay more attention to grace in my life I have decided it is an exercise in multiplication –not subtraction. The more you extend it to others, the more you accept it from others, the more you may be able to give to yourself.
-Nancy Lee Zimpleman
Great insight Nancy Lee! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!
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