This is a post from my old blog http://www.dcunderground.org.  It’s kind of longish and was originally written as an open letter to the business people I knew.  While on writing hiatus, I’ll be migrating some of my personal favorites to this site. 🙂

Grace, from what I know, is a peculiarity of Christian ideology that is so deeply imbedded and vital to the Christian world view that one cannot enter a church without hearing the word.  Graham Cooke goes so for as to state that Grace is so important that God will place people in your life to irritate, annoy, and otherwise make your life difficult so that you may develop a character of graciousness.

Regrettably, or perhaps as is to be expected, Grace is also the most commonly misunderstood tenant of my faith.  However, as I have come to understand the concept, it is not merely a spiritual or liturgical concept, but a corporate one as well.

First and foremost, let me explain that grace is NOT a lack of accountability in which all failures or wrong doings are forgiven and left alone.  Rather, it is a different style of accountability that first requires the one being held accountable to be completely open and honest and if necessary (for example, in a case of systematic dishonesty) genuinely repentant.

Can Grace be abused?

The answer is “no.”  While we could be tricked and fooled by disingenuous repentance a time or two, the pattern of wrong doing is self evident and would eventually prohibit grace.  Realize however, that at any time, in the face of genuine repentance, Grace can, and should, be extended and received.  Also realize that Grace as a spiritual principle, is similar but operates slightly differently and not confined or restricted by the individual.

Those who extend and receive grace are instantly held to the highest standard of integrity.  The community comprises of both those who receive and those who offer grace with people being on both sides on more than one occasion.  As such, the success of the repentant, and the trust of the offended are communal concerns.  Every person, regardless of whether or not they were directly affected by the actions that require grace are equally responsible for offering it, for something that hurts an individual of community hurts the community.  Similarly, one must ask what circumstances allowed the repentant to transgress in the first place?  Doing so is difficult and uncomfortable, because just as injury to the individual hurts the community, so transgression by the individual implicates the community.

One might argue that the bottom line of grace is “shit happens, get over it.”  Doing so however, would oversimplify the matter.  Yes, problems will arise and no matter how carefully the best laid plans are executed there will be crises eventually, and things will go wrong.  However, to say “get over it” implies that the sources that lead to problems are ignored and as such given room to grow.  This is unacceptable.  This will ultimately lead to the kind of culture we currently enjoy in which apologies are not good enough nor are they accepted at face value; where people are afraid to be honest for fear of reprimand, or ridicule; where openness is met with the firm vindication that something is a “non-issue”; where platitudes are assumed to replace action.  In such an environment, the absence of grace will eventually lead to an implosion in which the community dissolves in the face of an inability to function.

Grace is trusting where no reason to trust exists.

Grace is equalizing and focuses on a community and not an individual.

It is important now to make a distinction between a community and an institution.  An institution, while reliant on people for its continued existence, may exist separate of the personalities and inter-personal dynamics of the individuals who comprise it.  Even in those cases in which significant personnel changes, lead an institution in a new direction and possibly change its character, such changes are the exception and not the rule.

Dissimilarly, a community is entirely reliant on the people who comprise it for its character.  No individual is so insignificant that their departure or growth cannot impact the community.  Such change is in fact necessary for the continued survival of a community.  As such, the individual can never be forgotten or ignored for any reason, and to suggest that doing so could be for the good of the community is in fact, counter-productive and could cause deeper harm than healing.

Finally, we are left with two choices or agreements that must be made.

  1. Individuals must choose to see value in one another and to commit to the community.  This commitment must be long-standing and must expect to see trials.  However, we must also commit to seeking solutions, opportunity, and progress rather than focusing on problems, obstacles and shortfalls.  In other words, we must commit to be being people of genuine encouragement over disgrace.
  2. Individuals must choose to give and receive grace.  While grace focuses on the community, it is the responsibility of individuals to give and receive it.  To that end, each person must take time for some self reflection and ask “what manner of person am I, and what manner of person do I wish to be?  Am I the person who is angry, arrogant, and annoying?  Or am I the person who can extend grace, commit to bringing out the best in others, and put myself aside for the sake of others?

Grace is an attitude, a mindset, a lifestyle.  A choice.

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