Living & Growing: What does giving grace mean?

By Donna Leigh

Giving grace. I’ve heard that word a lot over the past few years, especially in relation to the trouble COVID-19 has caused each of us. “Give grace.” From the context of the speaker, I know what the speaker means and I agree. My interpretation from these speakers is “Give others the benefit of the doubt, we all know this pandemic has been hard and we can treat each other with kindness and grace.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grace as: “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification or a virtue coming from God and a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance and the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bible dictionary defines grace as: “help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.”

As many times as I have heard the term “give grace”, I think the word grace offers us the opportunity to apply its meaning to each individual or situation many times over and daily. As the world comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also begin to come out of the isolation the pandemic imposed. We have more opportunity to interact with others. We are finding that we have each dealt with the pandemic differently. Some vaccinated, some did not vaccinate, some boosted their vaccine, some experienced covid, some were politically motivated, some search science for answers, some pray, for each of these motivations there is a variety of variations and aspects as varied as each of us in our uniqueness’.

One of things I think the COVID pandemic has tried to teach me is that we each cope, survive and thrive in our own unique way. We may have similarities in our surviving and thriving, but it will not be the exact same as our neighbor’s experience. Only God knows what is in each of our hearts. But we can offer each other grace just as God offers each of us grace.

We each need grace from God, from our neighbor, from our family and even from ourselves. “Unmeritied divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration with God and sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance and being considerate or thoughtful, “help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ”.

When I was at university, I took a human development course. The professor began one lecture with the story of a high school girl who felt as if she did not fit in, she thought she would never be asked on a date or invited to be part of a popular group. Just before prom she was asked by a nice young man to attend as his date. Excited, she shared the news with her family, prepared for the big day by buying a dress, choosing a boutineer for the young man and looking forward to the evening. The evening of the event the girl waited anxiously, hardly daring to believe that she was actually going to prom with a date. Five minutes late, then 20 minutes late, then an hour late, her date never arrived. Devastated the girl was saddened, thinking she did not fit in at the school, that this was a cruel joke the young man had participated in at her expense. She took off her dress, and went to her room. Hours later, the young man’s father called the girl on the phone and explained. The young man had been on his way to pick up the girl, he had a corsage in the car seat next to him, he was looking forward to getting to know the girl and spend the evening with her at their high school prom. On his way to the girl’s house, he was struck by another car and was currently in the hospital, the first thing the young man asked his father to do when he was able, was to call the girl and let her know that she was not forgotten and why he had not arrived to take her to the prom. In a flash the girl’s perspective changed. From devastated to valued and then to concern for the young man. The girl offered grace to the young man and the young man to the girl and both received grace from God as they grew in their ability to be considerate and thoughtful. They looked under the surface and experience grace.

This story had us transfixed as the professor told the story, our emotions fluctuated with the girl’s — from devastation to concern to love and grace. The impact of this university experience has stayed with me over the years. It is a lesson to me to always try to offer grace to others, to look under the surface and even if I do not understand or agree, to apply grace, consideration, thoughtfulness and love. The reasons someone does something, the background they come from, the trials they have experienced, the illness they have, the circumstances they live in may not be our own, but we can offer grace. Each of us is different and each of us survives and thrives uniquely, which is why grace is so important to apply. God offers us each divine assistance, and consideration and help and strength. Paul in the New Testament taught that grace was important. He was on his way to the unknown in Jerusalem when he said other things did not matter but, “to testify the gospel of the grace of God”. (Acts 20:24)

May we offer each other grace and also experience the love and bounteous mercy Jesus Christ makes available to each of us.

• Donna Leigh is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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