Updated: Jul 31, 2021
Grace is one of my favorite words. In fact, I love it so much; it’s my firstborn's middle name. I chose Grace as her middle name because I wanted her to know that I will always give her grace. I thought it would serve as a good reminder for me as well!
If you were raised like I was, you are probably very familiar with the word grace. God's grace was mentioned in church almost every Sunday. Grace was the prayer we said before meals. Grace is a term I still use to describe someone’s elegant appearance, and grace was a term my mom used when someone we loved blessed us with their presence. However, as I grew older, I realized grace is so much more than a church word. Perhaps the most significant thing I learned about grace is that it doesn't matter what age you are, if you’re religious, what your sexual preference is, or where you stand politically. Like love, it is something we are all worthy of, we all need, and we should all give more of.
Grace is a gift. Grace is favor. Grace is letting go. Grace is understanding. Grace is forgiving. Grace is extending your hand. Grace is non- judgmental. Grace is selfless. Grace changes relationships. Grace chooses compassion. Grace ignites purpose and changes stories. At its core, grace is unconditional love in action. In fact, threads of grace are woven throughout the world’s tapestry and can be found everywhere, from historic Bible stories to present-day Hollywood movies.
One of my favorite examples of grace is found in the Bible and is a parable Jesus told. If you’re one of the ones that grew up as I did, you may be familiar with the story about the prodigal son. It’s about a son that ran from home and his obligations. He spent all of his inheritance early and partied until he had nothing left and was eating with pigs. His only option for survival was to come home, and he thought he would be shamed and in trouble. Instead, his father welcomed him back without hesitation and with celebration. His father chose grace.
Luke 15:22 tells us how the father reacted. It says,
“But the father said to his servants, bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.”
His father’s love for him never changed. It remained the same whether he chose to punish his son upon returning or not. However, he chose grace – unconditional love in action - and it changed everything.
Other stories of grace in the Bible include Noah, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Rahab, Abraham, Ruth, David, and more, including the ultimate gift of grace when Jesus willingly died on the cross for our sins. In fact, the closer you look, you will find grace wrapped up in every single book of the Bible. And guess what? Grace changed the story every time.
One may argue that the Bible and Hollywood have little in common, but the stories they tell are similar when it comes to grace. Examples of grace can even be found in numerous movies, including Home Alone, Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, Lord of the Rings, and many more.
One of my favorite movies growing up was The Lion King. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but the story of grace is even woven in this Disney classic and simple enough for children to understand. In the movie Simba, the cub leaves home to run away from his overwhelming problems and mistakes. After years of forgetting his past and living a new worry-free life, he eventually realizes he needs to go back home to help save the pride land. He expects to be shamed and unwanted, but instead, he is greeted by his family and friends, happy to have him home. Together, they save the pride land. He received grace and was welcomed back with open arms. If his family and friends had rejected him or punished him for his past mistakes, the pride land would have been lost, and his relationships would have been severed. Grace changed everything.
Grace is something that is found in everyday life, too. Sometimes it’s big, and sometimes it's small. Regardless of the size, we all know what it’s like to have debt forgiven, a warning given instead of a ticket, and a second chance at a broken relationship. In fact, one doesn’t need to go to church or even be a movie buff to know how powerful grace is - and to know it should be extended to everyone. Why? Because we all need it.
As a parent, I need grace every day. I mess up a lot. I yell, I lose my patience, I spend too much time on my phone, I can be selfish, I burn food, I’m constantly late, the list goes on and on. But regardless of my mistakes, there is no better feeling than while tucking my children in at night, they wrap their arms around me and meet me with unconditional grace and love. They don’t hold grudges or shame me. They extend their arms regardless of mess-ups. Shouldn’t we offer the same to our children?
The answer is yes. Giving our children grace is one of the most important gifts we can give them.
Giving children grace not only means you consider their hearts and acknowledge their individuality, but it also teaches children they matter. It doesn’t ignore or excuse bad behavior. Instead, it offers loving guidance through a healthy relationship.
Grace chooses compassion and according to an article found on the Children’s Mental Health Network, compassion is important for a variety of reasons, including physical, mental, and emotional health. Author Laurie Ellington, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Zero Point Leadership, explains it's powerful effects She says,
“Compassion activates the parasympathetic nervous system as opposed to the fear response. It lowers the heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation levels in the body, boosting the immune system. It has even been shown to increase the length of telomeres, the caps at the end of our chromosomes that are associated with health and longevity. Compassion triggers the mammalian caregiving system and causes a release of the hormone oxytocin, increasing feelings of trust and cooperation. We see that this need to emotionally regulate is not just within ourselves, but between each other as well.”
With this in mind, picture this scenario. You still love your child even if they are throwing a temper tantrum. Sitting with them, trying to understand why they're upset, and helping them calm down so you can address the issue, is extending grace. Becoming angry and punishing them for it is not. Your love for your child doesn't change doesn’t change regardless of how you choose to deal with their temper tantrum but extending grace will improve your relationship and bond.
One of my favorite quotes is from a Kids In The House video. In the video, ADHD specialist and Author Edward Hallowell, MD, EdD, explains why bonding with your child is important. He says,
“By far, the most powerful force in life for development, joy, confidence, health; is the force of connection. At its most distilled, we call it love. I think that the bond between parent and child is the single strongest emotion in all of human existence. Then it spreads out into what I call a connected childhood. It is the greatest gift you can give your child.”
I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of giving my children the greatest gift, especially if it helps them succeed in life.
A personal example of extending grace was when my daughters were roughhousing and broke a souvenir we acquired on a trip to Amman, Jordan. My husband and I were devastated. To be honest, my first reaction was to put all of them in timeout and ground them for at least two weeks. However, instead of punishing our daughters, we offered them comfort and explained why we were upset. We all picked up the pieces and glued the souvenir back together. It will never be the same, but our relationship was stronger because we all calmly communicated instead of acting out in anger. To this day, it is our grace souvenir. Once again, grace changed the outcome.
Author of Grace Based Parenting, Dr. Tim Kimmel, says, “if we have done our jobs adequately, our children should leave our homes with a love that is secure, a purpose that is significant, and a hope that is strong.”
Giving children grace does just that. A healthy parent-child relationship gives children the emotional and mental strength they need to grow. It also teaches them how to give grace and that they, and others, are more than their mistakes.
Whether it’s in Bible stories, movies, parenting, or everyday life, there is no doubt that grace is important. Its threads affect our emotions, relationships, and overall well-being. And guess what? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe. Grace is something we are all worthy of.
So, as you go about your day, think about what grace is. If grace is just something you say before a meal or just a word used in church, I encourage you to dig deeper. My hope is that you see grace is just as important as love. It is a way of life, and just like love, it should be woven in and out of our stories because grace changes everything.