Our grandparents and parents always taught us that kindness matters, courtesy matters. If you can treat someone more courteously, with more respect, and live more graciously, then you must. But what does that mean, exactly, to live graciously? The truth is, there’s no one right answer. A gracious life stems from taking many steps consciously. Your happiness and spiritual peace depend on following those steps through. Consistently. Intentionally. Graciously, even. So what does a gracious life look like? How can you increase the grace if your existence, inside and out? Here are a few of our favorite tips.
Living Graciously Through These 3 Easy Steps
In this article:
1. Let Go of Guilt and Shame
Not everyone agrees on the definitions of guilt and shame. Some think they’re very similar. Others think they differ greatly. In general, guilt means a feeling of responsibility or remorse. Shame, on the other hand, usually refers to uncomfortable or agonizing emotions related to wrongdoing. Guess which ones are helpful to your spiritual journey?
If you guess neither, gold star. Both guilt and shame, whatever definitions you choose, hold you back. They hurt, take up space where better emotions ought to be living and keep you from living a life that’s beautiful and useful to others.
Wherever possible, it’s time to let them go. If you’re guilty of something for which you have not yet apologized, then apologize. Assuming you truly bear responsibility, that is. If you feel ashamed because you can make a situation right and haven’t, do something with that shame. Otherwise, let them go.
Holding on to either is a form of negative egoism that takes you out of the moment and leaves you less receptive to the needs of others. That’s no way to be gracious…to yourself or anyone else.
2. Forgive Others Easily
We don’t like to forgive. Humans, as a general rule, have a bias toward their own pain and perceived wrongs. Often, if someone injures us, we want to make sure they know it before we are willing to move on. That’s natural, but it isn’t helpful. To live graciously, forgiveness is key. How do you practice forgiveness? Admittedly, it’s not an easy skill, but here are several tips:
- Switch the focus from them to you. Ask yourself what you did wrong and what you can fix.
- See others as human. Find your compassion for what they’re going through and experiencing.
- Let go of your fear.
- Get over your sense of justice. If someone isn’t ready to apologize, they won’t, so stop trying to make them.
- Reconnect to your spirit, and remind yourself of the person you really want to be.
- Learn to be like water, moving to fill your current container instead of fighting against your surroundings.
There are, of course, many other techniques to keep in mind if you’d like to live a more forgiving life, but these are the main ones. One aspect most people miss, however, is the fact that all of these apply to self. Much like letting go of shame and guilt, you can’t live a worthwhile life if you’re always raging against yourself. So apply some of those same teachings to your own heart, and you’ll likely live a life fuller of grace.
3. Prioritize Others
Putting others first is an idea inherent in forgiveness and in letting go of your own guilt and shame, so you can serve them best. Nevertheless, most people don’t know how to do it. That’s because we have an inherently entrenched idea that putting others first means a life of slavery and blind devotion. Or, in some cases, we believe we must put ourselves first in all things in order to show love to anyone else.
These ideas are all partially true. You must listen to your inner self and honor it, or you’ll never be able to do for others in life. And you shall be willing to serve them without compensation, especially in the case of children or parents or others in need, who don’t have much but love to give back at the moment.
Here’s the missing link: Putting others first means stepping back from your own priorities and theirs, and seeing what’s truly needed. You’ll put others first in the sense that by taking the long view, you can best help them. However, no picture is complete unless it includes you. If you’re not there, you can’t know how to honor yourself, how to keep your mind and body sound.
You can’t know whose needs are more important at the moment: Yours? A child’s? The refugees’ across the sea? Any of these may take top billing at some point, but not at others. To prioritize others means to look at both your needs and theirs through the same lens, and make the decision that’s kind and just.
We may not always instinctively have the ability to define grace, but as the good Justice Potter Stewart once said, we know it when we see it. Living graciously inside and out is usually fairly simple, so long as you quiet your inner self long enough to hear the voice that’s speaking to you. Do that more often, and your life is bound to become more gracious, inside and out.
With the aim of living graciously, do you know what it means to be courteous towards those who don’t deserve it? Let us know in the comments section below.