Silhouette of woman looking at night sky with grace birds moon


Ila Gartin

Ahhh, Grace. We typically think of grace as the attribute we don’t have: elegance in movement and attitude, which some of us may actually have. The rest of us often joke that we aren’t named Grace for a reason. Unless, of course, you ARE named Grace. Then it gets awkward.

When we think of giving or receiving grace, it’s often from a higher power, blessing us with forgiveness or love which we don’t truly deserve. What we don’t realize is that WE can actually give grace to ourselves! And when we do, something magical happens.

This magic can be called our “inner grace;” a notion of being forgiving, understanding, and gentle with ourselves. Foreign concept, right? Exercising this inner grace allows us to not only recognize and change our own self-talk, but it can lead us to find an inner peace and self-acceptance that trumps any opinions of society. As we go out into the world, interacting with and affecting others, we then unintentionally and beautifully transfer that peace to the rest of humanity. We find ourselves in a position to make a positive change in our community, without even intending to do so. See the process below.

As humans, we make mistakes. We fall off the wagon, we cancel plans, we procrastinate, we disappoint ourselves, among other “mistakes.” Often, along with those missteps comes self-judgment and self-shaming. We don’t even realize it’s happening because it’s become such an ingrained response to a “failure.” Not only do we disappoint ourselves, but we add to the negative feelings by judging our “mistake” and making it MEAN something about ourselves that it really doesn’t mean. 

For example, just because you ate a handful of bite-size candy without actually thinking about it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure and should just throw away your whole plan to eat healthy. To go a little deeper, if your best friend (of 20+ years) suddenly isn’t talking to you anymore, it doesn’t mean that YOU are a terrible friend. On a broader scale, just because you didn’t get accepted into the top collegiate program of your choice doesn’t mean you should scrap your whole career plan. (All these things have happened to me, btw. And I’ve had all these thoughts, judgments, and accompanying shame.)

Eating the candy didn’t push you off the wagon. A friend’s (or your) misunderstanding doesn’t make you a bad friend. Nonacceptance doesn’t make you inadequate. It was that one thought; that one split-second judgment that you made, labeling yourself a failure, that derailed your whole plan for progress! 

This habit that we have of judging each action we take and SHAMING ourselves for it is what’s really at fault for us never reaching our goals. Don’t misunderstand – DO NOT shame yourself for shaming yourself. That’s a difficult cycle to come back from! Instead of thinking it’s your own fault for falling off the wagon and letting it mean something about you and feeling some sort of way about it, change. your. perspective. 

The first step to changing your perspective on this is to become aware of the disappointment that occurred. Notice that the action has already been taken, it’s in the past, and you can’t take it back. But, what you DO have control over is the present moment, which changes EVERYTHING.

Bring your attention to the fact that IF you are the cause of the problem, that also means that YOU ARE THE SOLUTION! Isn’t that amazing?! Because you’re in control of the judgment and shame, it means that you can STOP the cycle of judgment and shame! THAT is where GRACE comes in.

There’s a reason we often hear of grace as given from a higher power. It’s because the very definition of grace means it’s something we don’t deserve, that God is able to give in a way we can’t even fathom. Even if not from a higher power, grace is at least a kindness or courtesy given freely, without expectation. We tend to be so unkind and discourteous to ourselves…and we get so caught up in what we THINK we deserve.

Don’t get caught up in whether you deserve the grace you give yourself. You deserve it if you DECIDE you deserve it. It’s time to change your way of thinking. It’s time to stop judging, blaming, and shaming yourself into falling off the wagon all the dang time. It’s time to give grace a chance and let it change you.

Instead of falling off the wagon or starting a never ending string of disappointments or scrapping your whole life plan; instead of getting sucked into the cycle of judgment, blame, and shame, change your mindset and recognize that you did something you didn’t want to do. This mistake, this disappointment, it’s just a learning opportunity. Simply learn from it. Give yourself the grace to know you experienced a failure; it doesn’t mean you ARE a failure. You made a mistake; it doesn’t mean you ARE a mistake. That’s it. It doesn’t have to MEAN anything about you. You simply had a setback.

Just making that one simple change, giving yourself some grace, you can stay on the damn wagon and move on! Sure, you may make the same mistake again, but practicing awareness and grace becomes more automatic as you continue to practice them. Every single time you disappoint yourself, start with the awareness that a mistake has been made. And that’s OKAY.

Choose that grace. Choose to make a different decision next time. And if you make the same mistake again, be aware of it, give yourself grace, choose to make a different decision next time. You see, we don’t get this right on the first try. RARELY do any of us get ANYTHING right on the first try. It’s a skill. You learn it over time as you practice.

Don’t forget about that magic. The magic that happens inside you and the peace you gain when you keep practicing giving yourself grace; the feeling of liberation from your own judgments and shame – don’t forget that it can be so easily and unintentionally transferred to all those we come in contact with. So keep practicing. Awareness. Grace. Decision time. 

  • To which area of your life will you be applying the giving grace concept?
  • What would life feel like if you were receiving more grace in your inner dialogue?
  • How would your relationships change if you were able to extend that grace to those around you?
  • How would your relationship with yourself change if you exercised more inner grace?

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