It was Father’s Day. The pastor said to the fathers, “What is one word your children would use to describe you?” I thought of my father, and realized ‘honorable’ was the most fitting word. Then I thought of my husband who was separated from me at the time and wondered what one word my children would use to describe him? Next I thought about myself, what word would my children choose to describe me? How would I want to be described? The answer soon came to me. I would like to be known as a ‘gracious’ woman by them and others. I have always appreciated gracious women and men.
Graciousness comes from acting with grace in many situations. Have you ever watched people when they win? Some speak with a lot of self-flattery and say comments like how proud they are of their achievements. Some brag. Others give credit to those who have helped them achieve their success, including thanks to God. A gracious winner acknowledges the good things without overstating their part. Appreciating the ‘team’ who helped them achieve is a quality that stops them from believing ‘me, myself, and I’ is where it’s at. Be a gracious winner in all areas of life.
I got notice yesterday in an email that I didn’t win a writers’ contest, one where I really, really hoped for the prize, a scholarship to the Mount Hermon Writers Conference. I submitted five entries a year ago, and two this year. I will enter the contest one more year. I try three times and then stop. For the local paper, same thing. Three years in a row I submitted writings to become a North State Voices columnist for a year. Not a blip. Any contest I’ve entered has met with zero success. What is the message for me? Not a good one. And it always stings. I know I am not alone, another 98 writers were disappointed besides me. Today I wrote a gracious congratulatory message on the blog which had posted the winners. Be a gracious loser in all areas of life. You can do this though it requires much of you.
My friend sat across the table from me. We’d know each other since our freshman year in college. She was the crazy one and I was the side-kick. We’d had so much fun in college, hanging out together playing ping-pong with each other or the guys, going chicken-picken, eating pizza at Pietro’s, running around the car in a Chinese fire drill at red lights, getting together over break, and even having a mud fight on the family farm. Now we were talking about life changes. She was a caretaker provider for her mother. They had never been close. She said to me, “I have learned to extend grace to my mother, then I can do it.” That expression, extend grace, took. I find myself thinking it when in difficult circumstances. I can ‘extend grace,’ and it makes it easier. Extend grace to people in your life.
A week ago I read with interest a post about ‘deliberate grace.’ The blogger was discussing the benefits of deliberately applying grace in challenging circumstances as in making a choice to be deliberate in offering grace while working out relational tensions. Often the outworking of offering grace toward others, being gracious, is directly measured to the amount of grace with which we will deliberately incorporate into the situation.
Family and interpersonal struggles are rife with underlying tensions, bitter feelings, jealousies and resentments. But we are called to love. It may be easier to apply deliberate grace to that person as a way of easing into loving them. That does not mean you allow them to walk all over you, but it does mean you don’t have to win or be the top dog. Consciously employ deliberate grace to those you work with and your family members. Do it for God, if you can’t do it any other way. You can read Michelle Ule’s description of ‘deliberate grace’ here.