I’ve been thinking about grace lately: How little grace we offer to ourselves and to others. Maybe it stems from perfectionist attitudes about life and love or maybe we feel we just don’t deserve it.
Do you ever remember a time you just cut yourself a break and thought joyously that you didn’t have to feel guilty about that thing whatever it was?
Sometimes I think our guilt voices come from things we’ve been told or learned from watching others model such behaviors. Other times it seems they were just made up in the moment to torture ourselves or “teach ourselves a lesson.” We can be kinder sometimes to a stranger than we are to ourselves.
Did you miss your workout last week or not take your daily supplements? Did you splurge on an extra glass of wine or eat a huge piece of cake? Most importantly— are you still feeling bad about it? What about relationships? Is there that one person you love that you just can’t seem to communicate to without it ending in a fight or a disagreement? Do you get angry or raise your voice at someone you love and then regret it? As a parent do you feel like you don’t do enough for the kids and you work too much or haven’t given them the life you planned? Is your life not what you envisioned so long ago when visions were all we had, and reality was a long way off? Do you wake up some mornings profoundly disappointed with yourself and what you’ve accomplished at this stage in your life? Do you feel you should be in a different place, or making more money or making more of a difference?
It seems all the social media pages are blaring out perfect lives with amazing vacations and sexy significant others in perfect homes with amazing children graduating
from Ivy League schools with multiple majors. You may be struggling to decide what you next career path will be or if you should take the risk and leave your current job for another one that may or may not be better. You might wonder how everyone’s got the money to go on all those trips and probably something must be very wrong with you!
When you see that ground-up house renovation or the 25-year wedding anniversary with the “Barbie perfect” family it can make you question your worth or make you wonder why all isn’t wine and roses in your neck of the woods. Wonder what they do for a living? Wow, how does she stay that skinny? I never look like that in a swimsuit! I wish my kid would just go to school— any school! Then the voices start about yourself.
All my friends are in graduate school and here I am at home still. I must be a loser! They have such a lovely relationship; my husband and I just fight all the time. What is wrong with this picture? I don’t even have a boyfriend! I should leave my job. If I made more money, I could save more money and afford trips like the Jones’ do! I never traveled the world and now it’s too late. They don’t seem to work all that hard and have tons of money! What’s wrong with me?
The problem is no one sees the pain on the other side of those perfect pictures. The husband who spends all his time playing video games and won’t work enough to support his family but will stand still in his Sunday best for a beautiful family photo. The daughter who was forced into a major by her parents who told her she couldn’t make a living in art so she better study something in a “good school” so she could support herself. That first day of college photo is lovely but no one feels the pain of broken dreams or sees the tears. You don’t see the debt that renovation put that family in; the $120,000 renovation is now a second mortgage. That beautiful island trip that cost $20,000 plus for that family of 4 is now on someone’s credit card and another stress to worry about. No one sees the spouse that cheated on the other one three times, but they will both stand at the family reunion and play the game of “all is fine” over here.
You don’t know what lies behind the pictures. People don’t often reach out or share what lies behind the façade. We all come from different backgrounds and different cultures. To share or not to share? Did your family share or did they hide what was really going on and play the game of make it all look normal and ignore the pain and sometimes the abuse and shame that families are good at hiding?
And here is where the grace comes in: We all have pain. We smile over it and keep on going. We screw up and keep on moving. Why don’t we stop more often and realize we are all human and what that means is that for the most part, most of us mean well. We want to do good, to help those around us to be good parents and good spouses and good employees and good bosses. Life is crazy. When you see someone else it is impossible to tell what story they have to share, where they have come from and what they have to offer. Chances are they may be in a worse situation than you are and may need some grace.
Give it to them. Hold your tongue when you want to scream. Let them in when they need to get over when you are driving. Overlook the lateness if you can. That person in front of you probably woke up with the intention of doing his job and really didn’t mean to make you mad. That waiter didn’t mean to take so long to bring you that drink. All those FB posts are probably not 100% what they appear, and you don’t have to spend as much, be as thin or go as many places as all your friends do to still be a good enough person and valuable to society.
Your kids probably will still love you even though they didn’t go to the expensive school or the expensive camp this summer. Your husband may irritate the living daylights out of you, but he’d never cheat. And probably if you saved your pennies you could go somewhere nice and enjoy yourself and not go into debt. And more than likely if you haven’t found a graduate program that you are really passionate about, the one you will love will be there next year.
Give yourself a little grace. Forgive yourself at least one of your faults and frailties. You don’t have to be strong every single time. It’s OK to cry and it’s OK if you don’t really know what to do next. Probably if you aren’t where you think you should be at this time in your life, you made decisions along the way that got you here. Think of what you want to do next and make a road map to your next destination. Be brave. Think big. At the end of the day it is your life and you get to do what you want with it. Post your beautiful self on that social media and share a little truth with the world. Give yourself grace today and every day. It will spread and you will be kinder and make a kinder world for yourself and all of us. It is OK to be human and to err. What’s not OK is to guilt yourself for trying to achieve unrealistic expectations and even worse someone else’s expectations. As Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
And create some joy!