In case you haven’t caught on to this yet, we are not all perfect. In fact, none of us are perfect. In fact, all of us are imperfect. In fact, the very best of us do imperfect things often enough.
If you are a touchy, titchy person, you will have plenty of things to be upset about. If you are a ‘huffer’ you’ll have plenty of things to huff about. If you are a gossip, you’ll have plenty of things to gossip about. If you are a corrector of manners, you’ll have plenty of things to correct. If you are fault finder, you’ll have plenty of things to fault.
But if you are any of those things, you are a person who doesn’t know how to Give Grace to People. You are an ungracious, fault-finding, judgmental person.
In simple, practical terms, giving grace means cutting people some slack, accepting their imperfections and overlooking them. It means not being too demanding of others, recognising that each of us is also imperfect, so we give grace in the same way we need others to give it to us.
Let me note here too, that if you point out other people’s faults, or become annoyed by them, or think less of them because they are not perfect, you have stepped into the realm of ‘judging’ others.
Jesus personally warned us not to do that.
“Do not judge, or you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
[I looked at the problem of judging others in an earlier post – 30. Judge Not]
I often note my own limitations and how much I need people to give grace to me. As a pastor and itinerant preacher I am often in situations where people approach me to discuss one thing or another. Those people often assume I remember who they are and what we talked about the previous time we met. I probably offend many people simply because I am not good at remembering people, or names, or things I have discussed with people or prayed with them for.
When people begin telling me their story, often when there are others waiting for me to get to them, I can struggle to follow the person’s incoherent ramble about details not at all relevant to what they want me to help them with. I might easily jump in to clarify what I think they are saying and find I have missed the point that is more important to them. I wonder how many times people have felt miffed that I wasn’t listening, when I may have felt they were taking too long to say what didn’t need to be said, and keeping others from being helped. Hmmmm.
I find that people give a lot less grace to others when they are tired, or feeling under pressure, such as by a deadline. I expect there are many more frayed nerves and hot tempers on the approach to a pressure moment, than there are at a back-yard party.
There are many people who are not of ‘good will’, having their own axe to grind and carrying unresolved issues that make them somewhat obsessive over certain things. Those people tend to be toxic wherever you take them. They need specific help and will probably never accept the kind of advice I am giving here, until they have been healed and set free.
I am sharing these thoughts for those who are of good will; people who have some control over the way they react and behave. I urge each of you to make a specific point to Give Grace to People. Giving grace is much like loving others, which we are commanded to do.
I know that some of you are very direct and somewhat intolerant. You may be so distracted by someone else’s habits that you are agitated by them. You’re the sort of person who will go to someone and say, “What you do really bothers me and it makes me think very little of you, but despite all that I’m giving you grace.” Hmmm. That’s not what giving grace looks like.
Truly gracious people don’t need to focus attention on themselves. They realise that life is not about them and how they feel or what their internal reactions to people and things might be. They know they are to love the other person, even if that person is unlovely. They know they are to bless and not to curse. So it’s not important that they signify to the other what it is that bothers them. It’s not important to bring attention to their own thoughts and feelings.
However, that does raise the problem of people whose actions are inappropriate or who need to be given guidance about some issue. Maybe they smell bad, or talk too much, or fret, or are wasteful, or rude. There could be a myriad reasons why someone’s actions are not up to standard.
In such situations your starting point has to be ‘grace’. If you are resentful, offended, repulsed or similar, then your attitude has become a problem and any attempt you make to help the other will be spoiled and tainted by your own reactions. Start with grace and find grace in your heart for the other. Care about them and see any correction of their issues as a genuine attempt to bless them, not your attempt to show you are more genteel or live to a higher standard.
It may well be that some people won’t take counsel or that you are not the person to assist them. In those cases do what you can to help them, but let your commitment to give grace be the focus.
Note that your personal standards are part of your own problem. Many of us hold specific standards because someone drummed them into us. At times others have mocked or taunted us over our lower standard and we have lifted our game, but at the same time begun to pour scorn on others who are where we once were. It is said that people who give up smoking can be quite intolerant of others who smoke.
And here’s the punchline for those who won’t give grace. Failure to give grace spawns evil roots in your heart, mind and life. Those roots are of a wicked plant called ‘bitterness’ and the roots tend to permeate your whole life and spoil your interaction with others, causing you to be offensive and to lose out as a result.
Note the Bible warning about bitterness ….
“Pursue peace with all men …. Be careful that no one falls short of the grace of God (failing to receive it and failing to give it to others), so that no root of bitterness will spring up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14,15
Like it or not, you have no alternative but to live a life in which you constantly Give Grace to People.