31 Days of Grace :: {day 20} what grace is not

Today is day 20 of these 31 days of grace. I was planning to do a post on grace in marriage today, but first, I thought it might be important to point out another very important thing about grace. We’ve talked about what it looks like in the everyday ordinary, what it feels like to receive it, where it comes from, and what it means. But we haven’t talked a lot about what it’s not.

grace is not . . .

  • subjecting yourself to the same rejection by the same people over and over no matter what.
  • putting yourself or your family members in emotional danger because of someone who is unsafe.
  • something you can manufacture by the grit of your own strength.
  • hands-folded polite, nodding in the midst of injustice.
  • trying hard to be nice.

Yesterday, I told you a story of when a family doctor and acquaintance forgot my name in a social situation. It stung, but she didn’t do anything wrong. She was in a weak spot, probably even aware of the fact that she ought to know who I was but simply couldn’t find me in her brain files. I’ve been there, too.

There are so many moments just like that with friends and family members where I believe God continues to be the strength I need to enable me to pour heaping handfuls of grace upon their heads–moments of weakness, of mis-judgement, of mistake, or even intentional hurt. He offers me the opportunity to show grace, but it doesn’t mean I always take advantage of that opportunity. But these are examples of the type of situation we have mostly been talking about this month.

But there are other times when the grace-showing feels tricky. There may be a person or people in your life to whom you have shown grace and from whom grace has not been returned. Over and over again. Or even worse, you have been hurt by them in big ways, causing deep wounds and the need for soul healing. Showing grace towards them does not necessarily mean you are to remain quiet and continue to pursue them and allow the rejection to go on and on. Instead, showing grace means releasing them of the responsibility to meet your needs – perhaps your need to be loved, to be understood, to be right, to be safe – it may mean you are to continue to pursue that person. But it may not.

It is not your responsibility to be sure they receive the grace you extend. That is not your job. Releasing them of your expectations can be done from a distance, if need be. And often, in those situations, that is the only way it can be done. Sometimes, it is necessary to extend grace towards someone who is absent in your life, who has hardened themselves toward you, or who isn’t even alive anymore, evidence that the grace-showing isn’t always for them. Sometimes, it’s for us.

Only God can judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. If he leads you to continue to pursue, then trust him with your heart. If he leads you do keep your distance, then grace gives you permission to do so. Either way, he is the keeper of your reputation. He is the source of your acceptance. Only he knows which way is appropriate for every situation.

And so grace means trusting him by the minute, knowing you can’t but he can. And also? That he will.


  1. Teresa says

    This post is hitting me today, as I think about my “relationship” with my father, who has refused to speak to me for the last 6 months. Am I showing grace? Should I stop trying to reach out since the rejection hurts more and more each time?

    Thank you for a wonderful series. I love your writing.

  2. says

    Oh, yes. Grace to us and in us and through us enables grace from us. But part of grace to us involves the ability to keep ourselves safe and well. God’s grace is there for us; sometimes we lag behind in offering our own grace to ourselves, don’t we?

    Your words remind me of a song I’ve sung sometimes. I wonder if you know it:

    Grace to you
    Grace to you
    May grace abound in all you do
    Grace to do the will of the Father
    Grace, grace to you.

    I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a series more than this one, Emily. Thank you. Bless you for writing.
    Richella´s last blog post ..Halloween fun a recipe and a giveaway

  3. says

    Excellent! I’m glad you wrote a post like this. Extending grace doesn’t mean subjecting oneself to abuse or something that’s against the law either. Sometimes this can get confused in our Christian thinking, I think, especially as women. I’m glad you tackled what grace is not . . .
    Danielle´s last blog post ..Two Months

  4. says

    Beautiful, soul healing words! My husband and I have been in this exact situation for close to 5 years and it can be hard to explain to people why grace has freed us from expectations of persons that require us to live (fake) lives. Great writing!
    Living A Bona Fide Life´s last blog post ..Starbucks deal!

  5. Alexandra says

    Wow! This series gets better and better. Praise God for the wisdom and insight he has given you, and for your gift of capturing that wisdom so beautifully in your blog.

  6. Patti says

    I so needed this post today in dealing with a lifelong friend (although her actions say otherwise). I’m at the in-between stage of deciding to stay in the relationship or pull away. Your honesty and wisdom comes thru so clearly in your writing, it’s such a gift. Thanks for making a difficult concept easier to understand.

  7. says

    Your posts on “Grace” has really hit home and are helping me thru a very difficult time in my life Emily…thank you.
    I receive a daily prayer in my email each and everyday from Heartlight…today, this is right on purpose and I wanted to share it with you…

    Verse: Restore to me the joy of your Salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…Psalm 51:12

    Thought: In the face of sin and separation from God, grace is a refreshing stream that restores salvation. But the joy of salvation is found only when we realize and accept the forgiveness, grace, and restoration God has given us — when we drink from the stream of grace. The joy of salvation is sustained in a changed lifestyle and an ongoing recognition that we walk with God. http://www.heartlight.org/cgi/todaysverse.cgi

    Thank you Emily for these wonderful “grace” posts.

  8. says

    I actually lay in bed thinking of this last night and wondering. Is it grace if I smile politely when someone purposely hurts me? It’s one thing when it wasn’t intentional but what about when it is? Then what? Make it about me and my heart and not about them?

    “Instead, showing grace means releasing them of the responsibility to meet your needs – perhaps your need to be loved, to be understood, to be right, to be safe”

    So now I have to think about my needs and figure out how to let the need I have from that person/people go. Oh, that sounds fun and easy! :)

  9. says

    thank you so much for this post. i wish i had read this 1 year ago. i just recently found a way to show grace to my biological dad who has been absent from my life for 25+ years. i did it for me to move on and heal and now we are building a relationship. slow and steady. i am glad you wrote about this i hope it helps other people find some peace in their lives. grace is such a powerful thing.
    Mikelle´s last blog post ..donuts with dad day

  10. Carolyn says

    This reminded me of a sermon I heard as a child and still remember to this day. The pastor was speaking about difficult people and how sometimes it’s okay to say, “God bless you and keep you…far away from me!” The bible calls us to live at peace with others, as far as it is up to us. But living at peace doesn’t always mean living in their presence. Thanks for another wonderful post!

  11. says

    If you were here, I’d hug you right now girl for writing this!!! I SO needed to read it and just hear it from a human….even though My Lord has already said this to me…it helps to hear it from another person…and GOD knew that! :)
    Mrs.B´s last blog post ..Busy!

  12. Sissy says

    I like the way you lay it all out. Sometimes defining something by what it is NOT helps us clarify. Life has certainly been an adventure of late, and there are so many times when I want to be angry. I have been trying to release the injustice that has been done me, since there is no real solution. I can’t fix it, but I can try to accept it and let him heal the wound in me.

    No one ever said that being a righteous, Christian woman was easy. But I’m glad you are doing this series.

  13. says

    I will forever be stunned by grace.
    And this… this is so very true: “…grace-showing isn’t always for them. Sometimes, it’s for us.”

    Such a beautiful truth…

  14. says

    I just found your blog yesterday and I LOVE this series on grace you’re doing! Grace is something Jesus has been teaching me a lot about recently, and to have found your series is such a blessing! This indeed looks for a place for my soul to breathe, and for it to be refreshed as well. Thank you!
    Annie´s last blog post ..football- blogs- boutique- Jesus!

  15. danielle m says

    Emily, thank you so much. This post meant a lot, and confirmed some things I was hopeful God was speaking, but it was hard for me to believe and release some things. Seriously. THANK YOU.

  16. says

    The tears stung my eyes as I read this because I have someone in my life who I have to extend grace to over and over again. And, after MANY years I am finally realizing that this extension doesn’t mean I have to be a doormat! You wrote this so beautifully and truthfully and as I am recently finding myself slipping back into that place of wondering “Why? Why does this person not like me? Why do they do things to intentionally hurt me when I have only ever shown them love and GRACE?” I am reminded that extending them grace in this situation is for my own benefit and hopefully to be a reflection of God’s grace to them. He has given that grace to me over and over when I so don’t deserve it. Isn’t that the least I can do for another? I can’t tell you enough how much I needed to read this tonight! May God richly bless you for speaking His truth in this way!
    Vanessa´s last blog post ..The Times They Are a Changin

  17. says

    Thank you for posting this. It feels hard to show grace to someone from a distance. I don’t know, maybe I’m not understanding grace fully, but it hurts to know that they have not and aren’t going to show the same grace in return. I may have this all wrong, but its hard.
    Livi´s last blog post ..TRIO!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge