The older I get, the more I realize what “grace” is all about.
Perhaps the older you get, the more you personally realize how fucked up you are, and how – for most of us – we never intended to be so dysfunctional. When you are a teenager, or a young adult, you look at your dysfunctional family and lament how you wish your parents were “normal” and paid more attention to you and didn’t make so many mistakes. It’s an ideal way of thinking, really, because you have NO idea what it is like to raise a child (or 5 children in my parent’s case). It’s hard to forgive your parents (or whoever it is in your life) because you just assume they could have been better (and perhaps they could have been) but you never take the chance to weigh in the circumstances and the variables that played into why exactly they were how they were, or why a certain event played out the way it did.
As I grow older, and I experience lapses in patience, bouts of fatigue and sickness that leave me bewildered and hanging on by my fingertips (so to speak), all the while having to take care of toddlers whom I barely relate with, I am beginning to “understand” how hard it is to be perfect… how utterly impossible it is. And it is, perhaps, out of a desperate need of grace (mainly from those I let down) that I am beginning to understand it more and more.
There are so many problems with the assumption that someone is “bad” and can be “better”.
Well, no. Let me restate that. Because it’s obvious that a man or woman who takes advantage of children in some hurtful way is indeed “bad” and needs to be “better”. Or a man or woman who cheats and steals is in fact “bad” and hurting others and needs to get “better”.
No, that’s safe to say.
So let me try again.
There are so many problems with the assumption that the reason someone is “bad” is of their own “evil” doing and because they have brought this on themselves and they just need to “make a decision” and they will get “better” – the old “repent”, or “turn the other way”.
Any assumption is dangerous, as every situation is different… but that’s exactly my point – every situation is different, and grace is needed in all situations because the fact is – we just don’t know. You don’t know if the “evil” terrorist just loves hurting people and from an early age made a decision to hate people and hurt people (probably not) or if over years of misinformation, misunderstanding, prejudice, judgements and assumptions – they are acting not out of trying to hurt others or be “evil” or “bad” – but they are simply doing what they feel is right.
My point is this, the more you know about the history of a person, the details behind why they are exactly how they are, the more grace you can have for them.
I think this perspective comes from having kids. I look at my girls and think, there is no way any of them could grow up to intentionally hurt (even kill) another person… but I know, it’s possible. Because it’s happened before. Children grow up, and some children grow up to be awful human beings who take advantage of others and destroy other people’s lives. But I DO NOT believe that these people wake up one day and make this decision to hurt others. I would argue it is mainly other people’s influence and actions towards an individual that determines how that person will turn out. Now, I don’t believe that 100% of the time, because I’ve seen people react differently to similar circumstances. One child may turn away from their abusive parents and find peace in a life far away from the hate and pain of their childhood – while their sibling might grow up to resent and hate their parents and allow that hatred to infiltrate their souls and fill them with the exact same bitterness that they were shown.
Maybe what I am saying is that I am believing less and less in free-will. OMG. I can’t believe I just said that… but more and more I am convinced that people are not to blame for the decisions they make, but instead they are lost, confused and ignorant to what is causing them to act a certain way. We are so unaware, most of the time, of the stimuli that are affecting the way we are… our mental state, our bodies health, the shows we watch, the people we hang out with… Grace is needed… grace is forgiveness, it is understanding, it is letting go of the “facts” of someone’s actions and looking beyond that to the person they could be if they were free from all the chains that entrap them, that shape (have shaped) them into what they are.
I believe there is a God that understands all things. An all-knowing God who sees all and forgives all. A God who displays grace to all people because that God knows exactly WHY they are the way they are, and exactly what they could be if the things outside of their control were different.
I’m not saying that people don’t get better, and that ultimately it doesn’t begin with an acknowledgement of “sin” or wrong doing, and a turning around / repenting sort of thing. Sure. But there is no path back to perfection (at least in this life)… and some chains are permanent… and I believe that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be like him… to accept all people, no matter how they are, or how they are living, or the things they do – we welcome them and love them and accept them. It’s not a behavioral religion – Christianity – it shouldn’t be at least. It is a LOVE religion. And love, and grace, covers a multitude of sins.
Live with more grace today. Let things go. Try it. I’m going to.