November 23rd, 2022
I love this time of year, because I live for times when light and dark are mutually strongest.
The holidays can be f—ing tough. Talking to others around a table, especially those who see the world differently than you do, can be extremely sensitive and difficult.
Kirsten Powers on Substack sent the perfect newsletter out today to help us identify and use a powerful tool: grace.
“In secular terms, I like to say that grace creates space for other people to not be you,” she writes.
“It’s critical to understand that grace does not mean ‘letting people say or do whatever they want with no consequences.’ It does not mean that you should be a doormat. In the Christian tradition, grace is defined as ‘unmerited favor,’ and that’s how I am using the word here. It means people don’t have to earn the right to be treated with grace. Grace is not just for people you like; indeed if you can find a reason to extend grace, it probably isn’t grace. After all, diplomacy is more meaningfully practiced with our adversaries, not our friends.”
I love this. I’m sure some of you are wondering: if I’m not a Christian, why do I follow Christian writers and listen to Christian ideas?
Because I practice what I preach, if you will. Also, I’m a big fan of Jesus, and some Christian ideas are actually pretty good.
“When you create this space, it’s not an endorsement of beliefs or behavior, but you refrain from judging, shaming, demonizing and dehumanizing others and see them as more than their offensive or problematic beliefs or behavior. It’s recognizing that people are doing the best they can with the tools they have — just like you.”
I often tell people that I do not believe in generalization; it turns individuals into a faceless mass, and that mass is easy to hurtfully target. She says:
“Grace helps you see that other people’s beliefs and actions belong to them, and that marinating in judgment, rage, hatred, frustration, and resentment toward them helps nobody. In fact, it harms you. If you are anything like me, it steals your peace, makes your body hurt, creates a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, causes anxiety, and in the worst-case scenario leads you to adopt the behavior and tactics you are trying to oppose.
“Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche warned that if you are going to fight the monster, you need to make sure that in the process you don’t become the monster.
“Grace creates a buffer zone between you and the people who are driving you to the edge and even causing serious harm. Practicing grace protects your energy, so you can put it toward something more beneficial than furiously typing mean tweets, raging at a family member with a problematic or offensive worldview, or screaming at the television every night.”
This is all excellent insight, and stuff I use day-to-day, that I wanted to share with you from a better writer than I am.
She gives three simple steps to remember at gatherings:
1. Use boundaries.
2. Facts and data are useless; use personal stories to connect to others.
3. Engage in healthy confict, remembering the boundaries you set.
It’s not easy. But it is more than possible; it’s actually hopeful.
I hope you have a grace-filled holiday weekend.