Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the one where i try to tackle it all with grace.

{photo by Le Portillon}

I am hard on people.

This blog, like much of the Internet, is edited and compacted and personal, and those carefully-selected adjectives result in a place where my life’s stories are broken down into small, digestible bits, often written with pretty, tied-in-a-bow conclusions.

So the stories I post here may not show you that I am hard on people.

I hold the people I love to high standards, and when those standards aren’t met, I become disappointed. I grow withdrawn and distant. I reevaluate my relationships and, in turn, become hard, guilty over the harshness of the standards I’ve met. (That’s a good thing, I suppose, that I set high standards for others, but I do, at least, set the same standards for myself.)

Last week, a friend and I were talking about grace, about what it looks like in day-to-day life, about the impact we could make if we all chose to show a little more of it.

Because, yes, I am hard on people, but the truth is, I’m not alone.

We’re all pretty hard on each other.

And sometimes, we’re justified. Sometimes, our feelings and our reactions and our responses to people’s behavior? They’re deserved. People disappoint us, and our guards go up, and honestly, isn’t a little boundary-setting a good thing?

But there are other situations where I wonder what life might look like if we just cut each other some slack.

I’m at an age where a lot of my friends are becoming mothers, and as I listen in on conversations and sit at shared dinner tables, it hits me that even now, even before their children are old enough to walk or talk, the judgments have begun. A friend of mine confided that of all the things about motherhood that are hard — and there are many — it’s this constant comparison game, this discussion about education and working at home versus working away, that takes its toll. It’s impossible, she said, to keep up, and I wondered: Where is the grace?

As I listen to women with children barely big enough to escape their mothers’ arms debate the pros and cons of public school versus private school versus home school, my heart hurts a little, because really, is that anybody’s business? Isn’t it a mother’s (and a father’s) job to figure out what’s best for their child, one day at a time?

The Internet, I’m discovering, has only made matters worse.

Last week, I contemplated quitting my Twitter account because I was so sick of the ongoing debate over the Kony 2012 campaign. (Clueless? Try here.) I am an opinionated person. I have a Twitter account and, for heaven’s sake, a personal blog where I spout off pretty frequently on things I need to get off my chest.

But I wonder if there is really good or value in constantly spouting off what we think, maybe without ever thinking at all.

We are so quick to pass judgments, to be hard on people, to tackle issues of the heart, when the truth is: We all are in need of grace. (And I’d wager to say it’s hard to know someone’s heart over the Internet.) 

Those mothers trying to figure out how best to educate their children? They need grace.

The non-profit organizers who have devoted their lives’ work to bringing aid and hope to the children of Africa? They need grace.

The friends who have been hurtful and rude and condescending? They need grace.

And look: There are practical boundaries that need to be set. If a non-profit’s ideologies make you uncomfortable, don’t send them money. If someone you loved has hurt you until you can’t take it anymore, offer your forgiveness (remember: reconciliation doesn’t always mean renewed relationship).

Mostly, what I’m suggesting is just a little more grace, and while we’re at it, a little less cynicism.

In our dealings with the bumbling waiter or the loud-mouthed friend or the struggling mother or the person whose blog post we just don’t agree with: Grace.

Is it easy to offer grace? Is it deserved or merited?

No. It’s not.

Grace can be hard, but I believe its rewards are far greater than those offered by cynicism or yes, even criticism.

I can be a critical person. I am hard on people. I am working on it.

Because, really, I just want to be known as someone who offers grace.

I am in such desperate need of it myself.


Erin said...

Oh I'm glad to read that someone else feels the same was as I do. Some of my friends are new mothers and I cannot believe some of the conversations I am hearing. But my judgmental-ness is just proof that I need to work on giving them grace, and need some myself.

Anonymous said...

"a little more grace" ... love it! :)

Lauren said...

This is a much needed blog post - seriously, it is much easier to be a critic of something or someone than to actually believe in something or give grace. I know that I'm totally guilty of it, so this is a much needed reminder for myself - thanks for posting (and please don't leave Twitter - I need a friend out there! :))

Cheryl Kozachenko said...

This hit me straight in the heart because I am so judgmental on everyone I in my life and even strangers. What makes it worse was that I have never thought to give them grace. Thank you for this much need reminder of compassion!

Cheryl Kozachenko said...

Thank you for this post. It was like a slap in the face that I really needed. I'm so judgmental on everyone around me (loved one or stranger) and its horrible. I'm ashamed that I haven't thought to give them grace. Thank you.

Kristin said...

Oh Annie - you are so right here. We are so desperate for grace ourselves, yet hand it out to others in 1/8 teaspoon miserly measures. Thank you for the reminder to be conscious of reserving judgement and giving Jesus instead.

Leslie said...

Your timing is right on as usual. So much goodness in this post. Yep, I love it times ten. I've been shown so much kindness in recent weeks and honestly it has shown me much nicer and gentler I need to be. I'm starting with my husband.

Julianne said...

You have put to words exactly what has been on my mind lately regarding a lot of different topics. It's nice to know that someone else is feeling the same way and can express it so beautifully! Thanks for the reminder, Annie! :)