Well, it’s that time again when we start thinking about what we are either going to give up or add to our lives for the next 40 days. For many, the Lenten season is a time of reflection and making life adjustments.
In thinking about the Lenten season, two words come to mind: grace and judgment. These two words are central to this season. Because amazing grace was shown to us through the suffering and death of God’s Son, Jesus, we may stand in the Day of Judgment and not be condemned for our sins.
I also started thinking about grace and judgment in terms of how we relate to each other and wondered how different life might be if we intentionally lived more graciously and less judgmentally toward each other.
What might happen if we decided to be gracious before being judgmental when dealing with others? How might life be different if, when someone cuts in front of you while driving or in line at the store, before getting angry or responding in anger, you respond in grace? What might happen if you choose to be gracious to the person who has disappointed you for the third or fourth time?
Have you ever thought someone was mad at you only to discover they were not? Or thought someone was avoiding you but they were not? Perhaps you thought you knew the reason for an individual’s actions, only to discover you were wrong and had to apologize. That’s being judgmental.
Being gracious on the other hand is saying, I do not know why the other person is behaving the way they are, so rather than becoming upset by their behavior I will give them the benefit of the doubt. In that way you do not get angry or say things you later regret.
The reality is not so much what it does for the other person as what it does for you. Being gracious, although not always easy, surely pays larger dividends than being judgmental. When we are judgmental, we assume that we know why a person is behaving in a certain way based solely on the behavior of the other person. We then respond to them on the basis of that conclusion.
Being gracious calls for you to be willing to give the other person a chance to explain himself. It calls for you to intentionally be positive toward the other person even if she has wronged you. Being gracious keeps you from unnecessary anger because you don’t know all the facts surrounding the behavior of the other person.
How might the next 40 days leading up to Easter be different if you decide to be more gracious toward others? How will it change your response the next time you are tempted to get angry at someone? How might it help you to have less stress and be happier, because being gracious is calming while being judgmental is emotionally and physically exhausting?
How might life change for you if you decide to be gracious to the person you are mad at right now? Give it a try and see how much lighter and brighter life becomes.
Make this season of Lent a season of grace.
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