I got the word “grace” tattooed in my handwriting a few years back thinking it would be a constant reminder for me to give grace to others; to be more understanding, less critical of people and situations I may not understand. It seemed like a very trendy Christian girl thing to do and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Except maybe that one time where I introduced myself to a complete stranger who’s name happened to be Grace, and I blurted out at a louder than acceptable decibel level “I HAVE YOUR NAME TATTOOED ON MY BODY!!” in true awkward Alisha fashion… truly believing we could become best friends.
We did not become best friends.
Grace was my ‘word of the year’ when I got that tattoo and I was convinced I had figured out the exact reason why God had laid that on my heart. (And isn’t that SO something we do?) ‘@God, thanks for the cool word you spoke to me, I’m going to get this word tattooed and/or order a $60+ giving keys necklace to remember it, and here’s how I’M going to apply it in MY own way in MY life and when everyone asks ME what MY word is about I can tell them MY version of the story!’ Guilty. Still love the Giving Keys, though. 😉
I have to imagine God does more laughing than judgmentally shaking his head at us in those moments where we think we know but we have no idea what He’s really up to. Because He’s a good father, and don’t the best fathers always have a great sense of humor?
So along I went in my quest to give more grace, and it turns out, I was doing pretty well. In most situations, it was easy for me to give grace. I can give grace to the stranger who just cut me off on the highway, because maybe they didn’t see me, or maybe they had a rough day. I can give grace to my friend for being late to the restaurant we were meeting at for dinner because she fell asleep and kind of forgot our plans. I can even (sometimes) give grace to my husband for forgetting to take out the trash two days in a row because he has a lot on his mind.
But God started to quickly reveal to me that there was one person who I consistently failed at showing grace to.
I wasn’t speaking kindly to myself, I was constantly blaming myself if things didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. Even if I was shrugging things off externally, nothing was ever good enough for my inner critic. I certainly wasn’t treating myself as someone who was created in the image of Christ and had her identity firmly rooted in Him.
I think that maybe, somewhere in between our carefully selected words of the year and our bible studies on humility, many of us as Christian women have become more comfortable with self-loathing, than we are with giving ourselves grace. I was struggling with this false humility that focused more on how much I fell short than how much God filled in all the spaces in me that may be lacking.
In my delusion, I was still making things all about me. When people gave me compliments, I felt the need to dismiss them quickly, but I would replay them over and over in my head in order to feel ‘good enough’. On the flip side, a quick word of criticism or the lack of complimenting, left me spiraling. I was drowning in comparison, and it left me gasping for the approval of others… for someone somewhere who could give me the sweet oxygen of validation and meaning.
It wasn’t humility, it was pride.
And it wasn’t a lack of grace from others, I was the only one depriving myself of that.
Humility isn’t humility at all if you are still the main focus. If you are truly humble, you can give yourself grace, you can give yourself permission to fail because you aren’t worried about what it will do to your pride and reputation. You’ll sleep well at night and be at ease with your thoughts because you know your identity is in Him and not in your accomplishments, talent, beauty or in reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself. You don’t need to strive, to achieve or excel, because your focus is more outward than inward.
I’m not sure who first coined the phrase “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection” but that line has been freeing to me. I write this as someone who still has to remind myself to live this way daily. I also read a quote recently that said “Speak to yourself as if speaking to a dear friend” – which is something else I am trying to put into practice. It is not something I have mastered, but something I’ll continue to fight for.
Today, let’s make an effort to walk in more grace and humility. Let’s look to Jesus for our validation, and focus more on His goodness than our failures. At the end of the day, we are chosen, and He has already given us all the grace and acceptance we will ever truly need.
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10 MSG