One habit that I’ve been trying to cultivate is responding and reacting with grace. The specific moments that I’m thinking of happen most often between Betty and I but also occur at work and at church. Let’s say for example that one morning I notice that the garage door has been left open all night. The worry is not so much someone stealing something but that an unwelcome critter may decide to take up residence. Let’s also say that Betty was the last one home and closing the garage door was her responsibility. Not so long ago I would have responded by saying,”you left the garage door open last night.” While my tone of voice could convey grace or indignation the statement itself conveys accusation and judgment by assuming guilt.
Consider “you left the garage door open last night” in the light of the following verses. First, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6, NASB95) My statement about the garage door has more vinegar in it than salt; more judgment than grace. Consider also, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, NASB95) Did my garage statement edify and build up? Nope, it accused and tore down. Notice that grace is the goal of this passage as well.
Here is the habit that I’m trying to grow and maintain. Instead of saying something like, “you left the garage door open last night.” I’m trying to respond neutrally or put the issue on myself:
“The garage door was open last night.” (neutral)
“I asked you to shut it because my hands were full – remember?” Betty replies.
Oops, now I have another opportunity to apply grace. A deflecting response such as “no you didn’t” is again accusatory and judgmental. I may not recall Betty asking me to close the door or maybe I just forgot. Instead, I put the blame on myself, “sorry, I didn’t hear you” or “that’s right, I forgot.” By doing this I’m not only providing a pathway of grace for Betty but also for myself. In a way, it is fulfilling the direction of Jesus about humbling yourself by taking the lower seat (Luke 14:7-11). Walking in this manner requires a presumption of grace instead of an assumption of guilt. It prevents conflict and opens the door to understanding and forgiveness.