I know I’m a bit late here with the whole “love” theme, it being February and most recently, Valentine’s day, but here at the Self Love Challenge the theme is “love” all the time. Now it doesn’t always have to be about self love, even though the purpose of this journey is to discover the act of loving oneself. But I’ve learned that self love contains many different parts. One being, obviously, loving one self. But the other part of self love requires us to love others as well. They work hand in hand and I think that is wonderful. Because if we only loved ourselves, we would be self-centered, and if we only loved others, we would be major people pleasers, which isn’t healthy. So there must be a balance. And balance is always key in everything.
Most recently, God has placed this whole idea of loving others on my heart. Sure, He wants me to love myself to by recognizing my own value and worth, but He’s been making it rather prominent that I haven’t been too in tune with loving other people. I’ve become too self focused. Always thinking about myself – what I feel, what I think, what I should do, how I should be. And while that is great for improving on one self and finding better understanding, it isn’t as helpful for loving other people. So I want to step outside of myself for a moment, or rather a few moments, because I believe it’s important to connect with others and have that gracious attitude that God is seeking me to have.
Having grace or being gracious is a vital quality to possess. I always used to get confused with the definition of what having grace or extending grace actually meant. I always believed that it was a type of forgiveness – mostly attributing to God in the sense that He extends His grace towards us when we mess up. But then I did a little research today, and after listening to a few sermons about it and reading a few different articles online, I’ve come to a better understanding of what it truly means to be gracious.
The basic dictionary definition defines grace as being kind, courteous, or polite. The bible describes grace as God giving us something we do not deserve out of His own kindness. However, through my own research, I have cultivated a definition of grace that I’d like to share. To me being gracious is showing a kindness to all. It is a humble attitude. It is a forgiving attitude. It is a patient attitude. It is extending honor towards others. It is being polite and in tune. It is recognizing that deep down there is goodness in everyone and finding a way to create that level of comfort with others so that their goodness will be able to shine through.
It’s quite a lengthy definition, but I feel it best describes the qualities of what grace exhibits. I must also admit, however, as effortless as the definition may sound when put into the terms I have described, it is definitely not an effortless quality to keep. We must make a DAILY conscious effort to be gracious, because after all it is not human nature to be selfless but rather self focused instead. And being gracious is the complete opposite of selfishness.
How can we be more gracious? This is a lesson I am currently learning, so work with me here. I am also learning that these principles of grace can be used towards others as well towards ourselves. So let’s show a little grace towards ourselves too (self love points!!).
1. We must extend more kindness to others. As simple as that sounds, it’s not. But we must try to be anyway. Instead of judging more, let’s step back and take on a new perspective. Instead of being quick to anger, let’s calm our wrath with a sweet word. Instead of showing hate, let’s show love instead. There are multiple ways we can extend kindness. Kindness can be as easy as just being polite.
2. We can be more patient towards others (and even ourselves). Take a moment to be more patient. Maybe someone isn’t having a great day, and acting a bit critical with you. Don’t take it personal. Extend grace. Allow for them to be human. Be patient with them and show them that patience by extending love and letting them know that it is ok that they are having a bad day or a bad moment. So what if someone is a little slow in your car lane. Be patient. It’s not worth blowing up over petty things all the time. Sometimes a simple act of grace can be the difference between showing love and kindness towards someone and making their day.
3. Be more forgiving. Just as God forgives us when we mess up, extend that same courtesy towards others. I’m not saying excuse their behavior if they’ve wronged you in some way, but I do believe we should try and forgive others for the sole purpose of finding that peace rather than building that bitterness. Plus, we’re all human (I say this again!). We all mess up. Wouldn’t you want someone to extend grace to you if you did something wrong? I also believe that by having a forgiving attitude, it helps build room for growth. Because then you won’t have that weight of shame upon you, and rather you would want to improve and correct whatever wrong you did.
4. Connect more with others. This is the one definition of grace I didn’t quite understand. What does being gracious have to do with connecting to others? It’s really about taking ourselves outside of ourselves by honoring the other person. When we honor another person we become consciously aware of how they are feeling, their needs, and what they are saying to us and then we can connect better with them, creating a comfortable atmosphere of connection. When we make it a point to pay attention to others, we are showing grace as well as showing the other person appreciation and respect.
5. Recognizing goodness in everyone. Being gracious means that we recognize that we are all human, that we all mess up, that we all make mistakes. It recognizes that there is an inherent goodness in each of us because God has made us in His image. Grace seeks out what is right before what is wrong. Another part to this can be when we do correct others when they fall short, we do it with love, another form of grace, because we recognize that there is goodness within them.
There you have it. My short little lesson on grace. I’m sure if you do your own research you can find out more about what grace means to you. As for me, I still need practice. I need to learn especially to be more patient with people, especially when they are being critical with me. This is my weakness. I know that when people are stressed or dealing with their own hurt, they can sometimes reveal that in their behavior towards m and I take it personal. However, I want to make a conscious effort now to extend grace rather than firing back with my own wrath. In the end, grace really is an act of love, whether to ourselves or others, because love originally comes from Christ who first loved us and extended His own grace to us.
The Self Love Challenge:
So Where do you fall short in the area of grace? Where do you need more practice? Ask yourself these questions. Maybe it’s with someone you love? A coworker? A boss? Yourself? Then consciously practice extending grace. You will begin to notice change from within as well – more patience, deeper gratitude, growing self love, and genuine connection.