Friday, 11 January 2013


My roommate, Lukas, recently asked me to define the word graceful as I used it to describe a friend of mine. "It will be interesting, I think, to hear a linguist define this," he said.

An interesting thing happened. I started to realize that, linguist or not, what I thought of as grace was much harder to explain in words than I had expected. And what's more, it became clear to me that grace has a different meaning to me than I think it has to most other people.

Physical grace is easy. It's a ballerina, or the movement of a gentle hand. But getting into the kind of grace that our hearts and souls exhibit is a little trickier. And being graceful and being gracious are two different things, at least in my mind. I learned this a few weeks ago, when a similar conversation came up with Jessica, with whom I discuss all things spiritual (for better or for worse...I think she'd probably tell you for worse).

So then, what does it mean when I say that my friend is graceful?

I think for me, being graceful is a matter of understanding who you really are and being true to that. Regardless of the things going on around you, a sense of grace allows us to make sure that we don't become monsters just because "the situation calls for it" or we forget ourselves. Grace is having someone in your face, screaming at you, and answering that you're sorry they're upset but that you really don't want to fight. It's refraining from doing something that isn't good or right, in your mind, even though the situation may be high-stress. It's not ranting and railing, because that's not who we are. Nobody looks back at their life, tries to define themselves and says, "Well, the essence of who I am is that I scream at people and feel angry all the time." Those are moments we lose ourselves, forget who we really are, and aren't able to show grace.

Now, by no means am I criticizing people who would yell back when someone shouts at them. And by no means am I saying we make a conscious decision to do this. I think that's the point. Grace is having such a deep understanding of who we are that we can't lose ourselves so easily. But I think everyone does the best they can. The guy screaming at you is doing the best he can, too. If he knew how not to be angry right then, would he not talk to you calmly and respectfully, rather than feeling so tense, so threatened, that he has to get in your face and scream? Who would choose that over peace, even if only for their own experience?

So in the end, I think grace is about calling on your soul, your deepest essence, and making decisions based on that, rather than the situations that you're surrounded with. Do I have infinite grace? Definitely not. In fact, this whole conversation began when I told Lukas that my friend had exceptional grace and that I should aspire to be nearly as graceful.

I am imperfect, and so are all of us (even my friend). But I think knowing it is the first step.


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