When Grace Doesn’t “Work”

This week, I’ve been forced to consider grace.

The offering of it, and how it is received, mostly.

I think we all have people in our lives who resist the grace we try to offer them. Our encounters with them leave us feeling bewildered, sometimes hurt. We can’t understand how when we go in with an open heart and open arms we are met with a brick wall, or worse, sniper fire. We stagger our way back out, clutching our wounds, and our friends might tell us to stop trying, because those people don’t deserve us to be kind and good to them. We might be encouraged to be unkind to them, an eye for an eye, fire with fire.

And an eye for an eye and fire with fire feels really good in the moment. I can admit it. It feels amazing sometimes to give back to someone all that they have given to you. Pile up the pain and put it back in their lap. But then that moment is over, nothing is better, and possibly, everything is so much worse.

So, what can be done with these people who won’t accept your grace?

I’d argue that the people who resist grace are the ones who need it the most. Your compassion could be their lifeline. Imagine being so unhappy or hurt that you cannot accept the light and love that others offer you. That you have to wholeheartedly shove it away from you. The key as the grace giver is giving without getting hurt each time you do. And you do that by letting go of the outcome.  Expressions like “Kill ’em with kindess” have an expectation of the way that things will pan out – the person will be so bowled over, they won’t be able to resist your kindness, and they’ll have a change of heart. It simply doesn’t always play out this way.

That was my lesson this week. I have given grace and kindness. I  have lived with an open heart and open arms and I was so convinced it was going to work out the way I hoped it would. And it didn’t. So two nights ago, I found myself in tears because it just wasn’t working. I was discouraged for having tried so hard, because honestly, being loving in the face of bitterness is not my default reaction. I consciously choose to give grace, even when some of the other options look pretty enticing. (And sometimes, I choose the other options, then later regret it.) I had allowed myself too much time living in the daydream of how things were going to be, that I forgot how things were. I’d forgotten that the person I was working with just wasn’t in the position they needed to be to accept it. I was convinced I could kill them with kindness, and they didn’t die.

As the holiday season approaches, more and more of us will be dealing with the friends and family members who are like that – who just can’t be in that place to receive grace. Give it to them anyways. It’s okay if you give it and it just hangs in the air. All you have to do is give it, and then it’s not yours. Let the receiver decide what to do with it. You can let go of the string that ties it to you.


Stephanie Ostermann

I’m the sort of girl who you meet for coffee and end up pouring your entire heart out to. The friend you come to when you need someone to call it straight. No bullshit. No extras. Just truth.

I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.

When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.

Latest posts by Stephanie Ostermann (see all)