February 11, 2015

Top Ways That Undeserved Favor Benefits All

It’s a fact of life: numerous people have set ideas on how others should act, think, speak, and look. Another detail is that few of us can measure up to every single expectation put on us by religious organizations, schools, groups, and cultures.

Most of us try to live in a socially conscious manner. However, some people may fall short. Anyone can be blocked by physical or mental limitations. We may have chronic challenges; or, we may be going through temporary trauma. When all’s said and done, most of us don’t measure up to “perfection”.

The famous English playwright, William Shakespeare, often addressed this issue. Here are some Sparknotes  quotes taken from Act 2, Scene 2 of his famous tragedy, Hamlet (Hamlet is speaking to Polonius):
  •  (original Shakespeare) “Use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape whipping?”
  • (No Fear Shakespeare [modern English] version) “If you pay everyone what they deserve, would anyone ever escape a whipping?”
Was a more profound life truth ever written?! Let’s face it: all of us are imperfect; therefore, we all deserve punishment. Humanity generally falls short of the “ideal”. In fact, few people can agree on the definition of “ideal”. It can vary from group to group, or culture to culture.

Given that fact, how can we all get along? The world is becoming more diverse and complicated daily. As a result, we’re bombarded with constant examples of people who don’t want to interact in a healthy manner with others. They prefer to judge and condemn. The rest of us will find there’s only way to ensure healthy relationships of any kind: give and receive grace (aka undeserved favor) where possible.

What does “undeserved favor” mean? Loosely translated, it signifies compassion (or mercy) that isn’t earned. For example, if my kids disrespect me or annoy me, I may not feel that they deserve kindness in return. Yet, since I’m their mom, I will try to react to their uncomplimentary behavior with compassion. I will remind myself that they are tired, sick, or hungry.  

How Does Grace Work?

The practical application of grace is that we allow people their harmless quirks, temper tantrums, and limitations of any kind. “It is what it is,” as we often hear today.  In other words, there’s not much we can do about certain situations; so, we should just accept them. Please note that I’m not advocating the acceptance of attitudes that may be harmful, dangerous, or openly disrespectful. What I’m referring to is petty annoyances.

None of us are perfect--even at church; I’m certainly not.  Yet, I recently discovered that fellow church members see a positive side to me. I will share an uplifting example of a recent incident at my church when grace was shown to me:

About 25 parents of teenagers were gathered in a room, seated in a circle of chairs. We were told to write our names at the top of a blank sheet of paper. Next, we would pass the paper to the person on our right. Then, the paper would get passed to every person in the circle until it was returned back to us.  Each individual was asked to write a compliment on the paper as they received it. In this manner, every person in the room received 25 positive written affirmations.

Examples of the compliments I received include the following: “organized”; “strength under pressure and trial”; “kind”; “You are wonderful on the piano”; and, “always helping others.”

My Conclusion

We all deserve a “whipping” because we’re all imperfect.  Wouldn’t the world be a kinder, gentler place if we tried to find even a few positives in the middle of what appears to be a sea of negatives? 

I highly recommend this 5-star Christian book: Not Just on Sundays,by Bonnie Lyn Smith. It uses scriptures and personal examples to demonstrate how we can show ourselves, and others, grace.

When was grace last shown to you?