Grace has many meanings, some religious and related to God’s forgiveness; others elicit images of fluid physical movement. One definition is about a quality of character, defined in my dictionary as ‘courteous goodwill.’ It is this latter meaning I am thinking about; what grace can offer a relationship, both for individuals and the world in general.
You have grace if you behave with kindness in all situations and maintain your own integrity regardless of provocation or slight. Grace is being true to your best self.
You have grace if you can acknowledge the strengths of others – to yourself, to colleagues and friends and perhaps also to adversaries even if this means that your own strengths appear less by comparison. To actively demonstrate a genuine interest in another person’s stories, struggles and triumphs that too indicates grace.
Sometimes people are asked to have the ‘good grace’ to apologise. Saying that you regret an action, overreaction, mistake or simple misunderstanding goes a long way to repairing a relationship. I may have quoted this before but it is worth repeating ‘an apology doesn’t mean you were in the wrong and the other person in the right, it means you value the relationship more than your ego’.
The origin of the word grace is connected with gratitude and therefore lies in counting your blessings rather than bemoaning what you do not have. It is being generous spirited, able to share and cooperate rather than deciding that you need more than others – whether this is stuff, status or reputation. I look to Denmark as a nation blessed with grace. I am sure there are exceptions but all the Danes I have ever met have been warm, friendly, inclusive and collaborative. It is not surprising that there is not only more equality in that country but Denmark also has more wellbeing than any other state in Europe.
Grace as a character quality might be analogous with physical grace, in that those who have it move through the waters of life smoothly and with elegance, not treading on the toes of others or creating too much self generated turbulence or noise.
Grace doesn’t appear easy but those who have it are both liked and respected for their authenticity. They have a clear and strong identity and no need to prove themselves by being self-absorbed or vainglorious (what a word that is!). I guess many people reading this will be like me – finding grace elusive but working at it – though probably not using the term. I warm to the idea that rather than being we are becoming. Maybe I will learn to be more gracious before I go!
This is such a far cry from those who reach the headlines, famous for their greed, lack of ethics, raw ambition and negativity. And as those who don’t make the news often model themselves on those who do so this has increasingly become an acceptable way of being. The concept of grace encapsulates a range of qualities that promote healthier relationships at all levels – and therefore more ethical behaviours in public life. Maybe it’s an old fashioned quality whose revival is overdue? What do you think?