Grace means favor, acceptance or, in its purest form, approval. Sometimes defined as ‘unmerited Divine kindness,’ it’s mentioned at least 69 times in the Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Bible, called Old Testament by Christians). Sometimes the word ‘grace’ is co-opted as a religious term – that we have to do something, like accept or recognize a particular deity – and then we can merit this kindness. I propose that ‘grace’ happens whether or not we believe in God. Grace is abundant. Grace is all around us. Like sunshine – the sun is still shining even when it’s raining and we don’t feel it. Grace too is all around even if we don’t feel it.
So how do we go about connecting to this ‘Grace’ concept?
My friend is really hard on herself, mentally berating herself constantly. If she said to me the mean things that she tells herself, we wouldn’t be friends! I reminded her that, as a human being, she was going to be inadequate, weak, highly-fallible, and therefore imperfect. She had to stop being so rough on her own psyche because not only was it damaging but also counterintuitive.
When we embrace our imperfections, deficiencies, and weaknesses, we can relax and stop the running judgment in our minds. That is how we can begin to accept a form of grace, or self-kindness. Just being aware of how our minds beat up our souls is a first step in becoming ready to accept grace.
While a rabbinical student, I lived in Israel for our first year of classes. I remember sitting in a park, watching a Palestinian man collect olives from a tree. He came with a blanket, placed the blanket on the ground around the tree, and then shook the tree until all of the ripe olives fell off. He then arranged the blanket like a satchel, to pick up the entirety of his lot, and walked away.
At that moment I understood grace. The man didn’t plant the olives. He didn’t own the tree. He just knew the olives were there so he collected them. Grace is an acknowledgment that we too can have olives if we are willing to accept them.
- When we behold a sunset – that is accepting grace. We didn’t make the sun set but can take it in and experience something masterful in nature.
- To sit and breathe deeply, experiencing the feel of breath in our bodies – that is grace as well.
- If we take time to behold and even smell the beauty of flowers all around us – that is another way we can experience grace.
Grace has no expectation of a favor returned. It just is and we can merit it by being present to it.
If you are looking for a great fiction novel to read, consider checking out the book “About Grace” by Anthony Doerr. http://anthonydoerr.com/books/about-grace/
The act of forgiveness is a form of grace
Forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, that is kindness in action. Like God, we have the power to give grace away. When we let go of past hurts and injuries by forgiving – that is an act of grace. Even just the act of loving someone despite their imperfections (and I know that’s not easy!) is a form of kindness and grace. Forgiveness is a gift we give away…to both ourselves and others – and that’s practicing a form of grace!
Sometimes people talk about “God’s grace.” What does that mean exactly? In religious terms, it means that God has interceded on our behalf to give us a favorable outcome. I propose that all outcomes are favorable, even if they don’t feel that way at the time. Everything that happens is a gift to us whether we choose to see it that way or not.
I had a friend who used to express grace in this way. She would sing “O thank you God” to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” in every situation. No matter what season, she would sing that mantra, blessing the situation as being exactly the way it was supposed to be despite her limited understanding. She truly believed that unconditional love and blessing were possible, if we were only open to seeing it. So she sang and taught me to sing as well. I suggest that you give it a try.
Grace is Abundant
Grace is love and acceptance of ourselves and everything around us. We still have to do the footwork (like collecting olives, we must recognize the positive stuff all around us!). We have the power to change our limited view from negative to gracious just by becoming aware and being gentle with ourselves and others.
So today I offer you the concept of grace. It’s not necessarily religious (unless you want it to be) but rather a universal concept. Kindness, self-love, forgiveness, and acceptance are all manifestations of grace in our world. My prayer for you is to become aware of grace and begin to recognize that it’s happening in your life.
Please let me know your experiences of grace either in the comments below or in an email. May you continue to be blessed with grace and abundance!
Another article about grace: