How I learned to be gracious toward myself and others
The very moment I sat down to write this article (the title already set) I got a call from a friend I love dearly. This friend told me that I’ve hurt and disappointed her in a situation that happened recently.
I felt shocked. I never meant to hurt her! I had plenty of good intentions by doing what I did but obviously, it ended in me having shattered her trust.
I was so terribly sorry! I was confronted with feelings of shame, guilt, anger, powerlessness – but all I could do right in that situation was to tell her how sorry I am and how much I regretted the way things went.
A couple of years ago, I would have felt overwhelmed with guilt and fallen apart by my failure.
I would have felt bad for days, walking around with that constant feeling of failure and sadness. I would have had a self talk that went something like this:
“I can’t believe how stupid I am! How could I not have realized that I should do things differently before? Those things always happen to me! I will never go far in my life, I always mess up situations! I am one great failure!“
Right after that phone call, still in front of my computer, I looked at the title of my article, smiling through some tears.
“How I learned to be gracious toward myself and others”.
Well. Actually exactly through situations like this.
Through moments when I am confronted with situations I messed up. Situations, where I have to recognize that I didn’t live up to what would have been right/wise or loving to do. Situations where others are hurt because of my immaturity, my ignorance or my perception.
The closer the relationship, the harder it is to face such situations.
There are two tendencies of how to react here:
- One can, as I would have done in the past, feel like a complete failure. . Be overwhelmed with guilt and shame, and blame oneself.
- The other way would be to never recognize our responsibility. To put the blame on any other person rather than to admit that we wronged someone, failed in our attempt to be that friend/parent/spouse/ boss/ or employee we want to be.
Today my reaction is very different.
Right there on the phone, I made sure to listen what my friend had to tell me. I told her how sorry I was that my ways of doing things did make her feel that way.
After I hung up, I did feel really bad and terribly sorry for the way I hurt her.
However, I refused to go on that guilt trip. I refused to put the blame on anyone else. Right then, I couldn’t do more to fix the situation.
But I knew by experience that this doesn’t change anything concerning my value and worth.
This, because I deeply know that I am not who I am today because of my perfection or my own righteousness.
It is not my capacity, my performance and my awesomeness that brought me here.
It is rather the other way round. Because I experienced God’s grace, His mercy and His compassion in my life, I am at a place today where I am able to live a fulfilled life despite the situations where I fail to be who – in this situation that friend – I want to be.
Today, such situations make me humble and deeply grateful.
They make my heart moved by the grace and compassion God has for me – and each and every person in this world.
Instead of blaming myself or others, I bless each and every person involved in such situations.
I thank God for his grace, His love, His goodness and His capacity to touch our lives, turn them around and bring them into harmony with Him.
God is not afraid of our failures and of the situations we mess up. He’s not scared of our humanity.
And I love that about Him.
I’m so glad that I have come a long way to being merciful towards me and others.
Of course, it still is an ongoing process and it sometimes involves tough decisions to stand above my feelings and take the right action. Still, God has been so gracious to bring significant change into my life, concerning that matter.
Instead of becoming discouraged and depressed, I am today able to grow from such experiences.
Instead of becoming bitter, I become more grateful, gracious and softhearted toward myself and others.
Instead of blaming myself or putting the blame on others, I take responsibility – and no matter the outcome of that situation, I will use it to grow, to learn, to mature.