Grace: disposition to, or an act or instance of, kindness, courtesy, or clemency; mercy, pardon; a special favor; the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful. (Merriam-Webster.com)
We talk about God’s grace, a dancer’s grace and being in someone’s good graces but we rarely use grace within a committed partner relationship or parent-child relationship. It’s really too bad that we aren’t talking about and acting on grace in these ways. Think about it, when you have messed up don’t you want someone to extend mercy or kindness? In your relationships isn’t it always nicer when someone approaches you from a place of being considerate or thoughtful?
I read a lot of other blogs and articles so I see people talking about extending grace toward kids in parenting, even if they aren’t actually calling it that. So for now, I want to focus on grace in committed relationships.
What the heck does grace even look like in a committed relationship? Well, most people naturally are gracious toward a partner early on in dating relationships but we tend to call that putting our best foot forward. It means giving someone the benefit of the doubt when there’s a choice to be made about whether the other person intended to be thoughtless, selfish or rude or whether they were just distracted or busy.
Grace means paying attention to the words you use in how you speak to your partner, about your partner and in your own head when you think about your relationship. As humans, we are ALL going to make repeated mistakes and we will all hurt other people (hopefully not intentionally). In my mind, grace is a form of forgiveness and acceptance that we are all flawed.
I can already hear objections that go along the lines of this: “But what if my partner keeps doing the same rotten thing over and over?” “Shouldn’t I have any expectations that my partner isn’t always distracted or busy but instead is thoughtful and giving to me sometimes too?!” Yeah, you know something like that was starting to bubble up when you think about your partner’s aggravating behaviors. Grace sounds awesome when it’s given to us but extending the grace, hey, that’s another story!
Grace and having expectations of working out trouble spots can go together just fine. In fact, when both partners are coming from a place of grace, smoothing out the rough spots goes better. Grace as an act of courtesy means that when we ask our partners to change their behaviors we are thinking about timing for discussions and how we phrase our requests. In a couple, as we are both working on things we do that make the other crazy, grace means being merciful in our judgements about how well the other person is doing and whether we look for what’s working instead of what’s not.
As an ongoing state of being, grace as thoughtfulness and consideration means we don’t just think about ourselves. It means we think about how our actions will affect other people whether it’s something small and mundane, like hitting the snooze button repeatedly when you get up earlier than your partner, or whether it’s big like making a solo decision that will matter in your partner’s life too.
There are a lot of definitions for grace at the top of this page. In relationships, I think the most important ones are clemency, mercy and forgiveness. So, when your partner forgets to do something promised or says something in a heated moment or is just walking around in a really crabby mood, extend grace in your heart first and then in your words. You would want them to do the same for you. I know I would.