What is grace?
We all need a helping hand sometimes.
Often this helping hand comes from someone in a position of authority and power; someone who can give us what we desperately need at little or no effort on their part. When we get what we want, we call that grace.
(For Grace in the religious sense, please click here.)
Grace is the hiring manager giving the job applicant that job. It is the publisher accepting the author’s manuscript for publication. Your loved one saying yes, s/he will marry you. Grace is the city official giving your company that construction contract. And the lodge member finally being approved to be initiated into the next level. In short, grace is any time a more powerful someone gives aid, comfort, or opportunity to someone on a lower level, even though they don’t have to.
The giver of grace generally expends little or no effort in doing so. Or, in the case of two candidates competing for grace, it’s no more effort to choose George over Joe — so George gets the job even if they were both equally qualified to begin with.
One strategy for getting by in life is to figure out who you need grace from and making sure you’re nice to them. Develop a long-term relationship and you’re practically guaranteed getting all you need.
Paying for your grace
What is expected back from you when you are given grace? It may be as little as appreciation and friendship. Or a return favor may be wanted — such as a little cash back under the table when your construction company wins the bid. (The trick here is that the city official awards a contract that the taxpayers pay for, while the return favor goes to the official him/her self. A nasty little way of stealing from the city treasury, but it happens all the time.)
If you don’t give the source of your grace what s/he wants back, you can expect your grace to dry up. But if you just clueless about what’s needed from you, you will fall from grace again and again and never know why. In Hannah Green’s book I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, she talks about “the surprise of the inevitable” where a series of nannies quit. They are highly insulted, and she must apologize to every one of them, about what she never does find out.
Perhaps she never responded appropriately to the grace they gave her? Perhaps no one ever told her what she needed to say to stay in their good graces? Perhaps she never knew there was anything at all to do in the first place? This is the sort of thing that no one ever explains to you because it’s “obvious”. But sometimes it’s not obvious, and it’s a problem that can’t be fixed because no one ever reveals just exactly what was done wrong.
Grace in the religious sense
Grace in the religious sense works the same way. In some branches of Catholicism, you can’t work your way to salvation — you have to convince God (or a saint) to choose to grant you their Grace. It’s the choice of the Grace giver to do so; you can plead, you can try to convince, but you cannot force the issue. (Oh, and be sure you don’t sin.)
By contrast, this sort of Grace can buy you a ticket into Heaven; or if you are really lucky, a seat in the afterlife at the right hand of God.
In “Pure Land” Buddhism, the faithful do not seek redemption through meditation — the emphasis is on worship, and the reward will be being reborn in the next life into a Pure Land — where life is pleasant for all who dwell there.
Amazing, isn’t it? 😉