When I think of the people I admire, they all have one thing in common: they are graceful even in the face of adversity.
I think of my friend Caroline who while facing a brand new cancer diagnosis took great care in the way she conveyed the news to her loved ones so that they would experience the least amount of suffering. I think of my friend Anna who while dealing with financially-draining lawsuits that threatened to ruin her family, insisted on hosting special gatherings at her house for friends. I think of my friend Yasmin who even while facing soul-crushing questions of faith and her life’s direction still makes the time every day to think about and reach out to those she cares about.
And it’s not just the ones facing serious battles. I also deeply admire the grace shown by people simply surviving the everyday grind. A notable example is Lisa Berry, whose to do list makes me dizzy, yet she still genuinely enjoys her interactions with customers and colleagues and makes a true effort to be present and engaged with her loved ones (including me! Thank you, Lis!).
I think about grace and how to embody it. Obviously, some people seem to be born with an inordinate amount of grace. For the rest of us, I am beginning to think we can become graceful by creating some space between what we are experiencing--the turmoil--and our approach or response to the people around us.
Sometimes this means taking a breath in the middle of a confrontation to see the other person’s point of view. Sometimes this means straightening up our backs and then cleaning up a mess with as much composure as we can muster. Sometimes it means accepting that we're overwhelmed and then kindly asking for help; or realizing we messed up and then asking for forgiveness. Sometimes it means taking a second to acknowledge we are all doing the best we can and we can never know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. It always means taking a little time to be present for the people we come into contact with--even if we’re in the middle of a harried day--while remembering they may have it worse than we do, and they may need a smile more than we know.
The thing about taking a deep breath taking a step back, remaining present and taking the time to be cordial is that it pulls us out of our own stress and misery. So, while trying to shine grace on others, we are actually doing ourselves a favor. We are extending that same grace onto ourselves, if you will. Interestingly, it is at this point, when we have some separation from our turmoil and we have connected with the kindness within us, that we are best equipped to address the issues that are troubling us.