Grace has long been one of my favorite elements of human compassion. I learned quite a lot about it as a child in the rooms where Jesus’ gospel was taught and I hear-tell that C.S. Lewis even touted it once as the single most significant thing that Christianity contributed to humanity. Christianity is big on grace and it must be since it also promotes the idea of original sin. Alas, after years of life outside of the church (and that more abundantly) I have come to the conclusion that grace is certainly not limited to religion, nor is religion the only avenue for grace to be expressed.
The idea of grace implies pardoning, giving someone clemency, demonstrating mercy, showing favor where perhaps favor is difficult to find. Within the matrix of Christianity, grace is an absolute necessity since, according to its storyline, humans are born evil and only the grace of god can save them from eternal damnation. The redeemed cannot get into heaven without a full pardon of the sins they committed because they are inherently evil. Really, Christianity doesn’t contribute grace to the human race so much as it defines our existence so narrowly that grace must be included or else there’s no point in living at all.
Outside the realm of religion though, grace takes on a more simplistic role: we all make mistakes, it is a human attribute. The right thing to do then, the sensible thing to do is to be gracious to my brothers and sisters, since I myself am I need of grace from time to time (I painfully acknowledge that I am not perfect either). Considering that what goes around comes around, or I reap what I sow, or karma is a bitch or a blessing, I am always willing to delve out grace with enormous generosity. We can all have a bad day, for instance, so I if my husband is particularly cranky one day, I am willing to be patient with him because I certainly have my days too and I would hope he extend s the same mercy to me on those occasions. I am known to have been lenient upon receiving the dreaded ‘red alert’ note from one of my son’s teachers, they’ve been few and far between, and we’ve focused more on the lesson learned rather than the transgression itself. If a colleague makes a mistake on some work gig, I am quick to forgive since I know I make some colossal blunders myself. If a fellow driver cuts me off, I extend all manner of grace because I know damn well I’ve done the very same thing myself, sometimes because I’ve been pre-occupied with this or that thought. Extending grace is a simple matter of acknowledging that at any time, we are capable of committing some unintentional infraction and a pardon by our peers is the one gift we can count on in order to move on from our mishap.
Grace enables the wheels of existence to operate without grinding and grating on each other. When there is a lack of grace, the excruciating noise is unbearable and harmful to our soul and our civilization. Do you recall the brilliant youngster with a stellar academic career who was expelled from school over an accidental chemistry explosion? Like the uncomfortable screech of fingernails on a chalkboard, this injustice, this utter lack of grace, drives us to escape and scream ‘Stop!’ at the same time. Grace would see, instead, a curious youngster whose imagination and inhibition is a gift to our future.
“Grace finds beauty in everything” sang an Irish crooner once, and I could not sum it up any better. We always have the option of heaping it upon our brothers and sisters; indeed they are in need of it….not unlike ourselves. We can afford to be generous with this favorite human trait of mine, especially knowing that we’ll need the generosity of others at some point ourselves.