The last tenant: showing grace.
For me, the thing with grace is the troubling part where it comes off as patronizing, rehearsed, or even false. Lately I have heard a lot about grace. “Thank you for showing me some grace,” etc. That is usually very nice to hear, and I am sure many times the statement is heartfelt. The problem is what might look like grace is often just plain old common decency. Maybe that’s the real problem though: common decency is not that common, and what should be just mannerly is now seen as “grace.” Okay, I will put my soapbox away now.
The grace I think about when considering these tenets is not genteel. It is not second nature or just small talk. In this context grace should really mean taking a breath, calming the anger/anxiety the situation has aroused in you, maybe not saying what you really (really) want to say, and deciding to extend that person some goodwill. To rise above the anger/anxiety and communicate with the other person in a way that may not seem natural, if not completely opposite, from what I might think the situation calls for in response.
None of these tenets are easy, and we could spend a considerable amount of time arguing over which is the most difficult. But I suspect they are each the hardest, and most likely it depends on the situation at the time. Speaking with kindness, holding a boundary, being honest, and being positive seem to be more centered on what I will receive. How I am communicating so I can feel better about my side of the communication. Showing grace seems different in that I am extending something to someone who by my estimation may not deserve what is being offered to them. As I think about it though, that mindset is faulty for two reasons.
First, I need to remember just because I am offering someone something does not mean they want it or will even see it as something of value. Maybe this grace I am giving them is not seen as grace at all but a false or patronizing statement, if they can even really hear what I am saying at all. If that is the case, then this grace is nothing more than lip service and not the positive statement I believe it to be.
Second, and more importantly, I think showing grace really is ultimately for me. While it might seem like grace to them and they may appreciate it for how it was intended, I still receive the benefit of being mindful, saying something hopefully positive, hopefully honest, and hopefully kind. I still get the chance to be what I think of as a better person. Not better than the other person, but a better version of myself. If the other person reciprocates and our future communications are positive, then I receive that benefit as well. Like an investment in a more positive future.
When it comes to showing grace, for me it helps to try and think about how I would want this person to communicate with me if the roles were reversed. In my mind it is sort of like a teeter-totter. For us both to have fun we must push off about the same amount so we each get to go as high as possible, or to make sure we don’t bruise our butts. If I am showing the other person grace, then hopefully they will show me grace and we each get something positive out of the conversation. The more positive the conversation, the more likely future conversations will be positive. And the next thing you know, smooth teeter-tottering.
That said, first we must get on the teeter-totter. And that is really the issue, isn’t it? The split-second between the nasty thing they just said and how I will respond? How can I wedge grace in there to keep the anger/anxiety from taking over and saying what first comes to mind? In that split second, if I am mindful and practicing the other four tenets, then I think the chances that grace will be what comes out of my mouth is good. A split second does not seem like long, but if I was previously able to say something based upon an angry thought without hesitation, then logically I should be able to do the same with a statement of grace. I think it depends upon how much I practice, and how much I want to change. But in truth, sometimes the angry statement still comes out, and that’s okay. Sometimes nasty statements are met with an angry response, and perhaps deservedly so. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. You can always try again, and again, and again. That’s the great/terrible thing about life; it gives us so many tries.
My best advice? Take a deep breath, maybe even a few, really think about what you want to say and why and try to show some grace. And as you do that, show some grace to yourself. I mean truly, I think we can all use some grace, and we should begin with ourselves. Once we learn how to do that, maybe it will be easier to show that same grace to others. Thanks for reading.
Tony A. Potter is a Member of Ward Potter LLC, where he uses his experiences in general civil, trial, and appellate practice to represent clients. Tony received his Juris Doctorate from Washburn School of Law in 1994 and has been continually licensed to practice law in Kansas since 1995. Tony is a member of the Kansas Bar Association, the Wichita Bar Association, the Northwest Kansas Bar Association, and the Chair of the Wichita Bar Association Family Law Committee. His commitment to his clients was also recognized in 2018 when he was acknowledged as an “AV” attorney, peer-rated for high professional achievement by Martindale-Hubbell, and he enjoys a 10.0 rating from the Avvo attorney website. Contact Tony
Ward Potter LLC is a family law firm located in Wichita, Kansas. Ward Potter handles divorce, child custody, parenting time, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, visitation by grandparents, and paternity cases. The firm also provides litigation alternatives such as collaborative family law, mediation, and arbitration. The mission of Ward Potter LLC is to guide clients through changes in their families with empathy, excellence, and expertise. We strive to calm chaos and focus on the resolution, not the battle.