Grace (def) Courteous goodwill.
I was driving with my boss, on our way to meet a new customer. I was in the middle lane of a three lane freeway, running at or just a little more than the speed limit. I could see the silver car, weaving in and out of lanes, at least ten miles per hour faster than the flow of traffic. I debated if I should lift off the throttle to create a bigger gap to the car ahead of me, maybe I even did a little. Then the car was alongside me and cutting into my lane, much too close. I hit the brakes, not too hard, but enough to create the space to keep from getting hit in the passenger side front quarter. My boss flinched and said something that sounded like ‘excrement’.
I was angry. That driver was being reckless. He nearly hit me and a number of other cars. I saw him coming in the mirror, so my reaction was almost pre-calculated, but what if he’d surprised me? What if he’d hit me, with my boss in the car. A thousand things ran through my head. None of them were good. I have to confess I wished severe consequences on that driver. But it didn’t make me feel better. Being indignant and offended is natural. But is it the best thing for us?
It turns out that our desire for revenge and holding grudges is very unhealthy. Justice is often delayed or (more frequently) denied altogether. And the truth is, even if you get your revenge, and the person who wrongs you is punished, celebrating it really doesn’t heal you does it? It turns out, the best thing for our souls (and our health) is grace. Why?
Cultivating the ability to let go of offenses frees our mental cycles to concentrate on things that really matter to us. Our jobs, our families, our faith. Conversely if you don’t release these burdens, you may train your mind to dwell on offenses, a focus that increases your stress level, potentially changing your perspective in ways you don’t even realize. Since our perspective impacts almost everything we do, the inability to let go of an offense can your literally shorten your life.
It turns out that the impacts of stress aren’t just mental or emotional. When we are stressed, our body releases Cortisol, a hormone that changes our body chemistry, including blood sugar levels. Chronic stress can impact our ability to sleep, promote anxiety and lead to serious health problems like heart attack and stroke. Yikes!
However, if we learn to release our stress, forgive offenses and cultivate a positive outlook, we enjoy better sleep, more energy, better personal relationships and potentially a longer life. And who doesn’t want that?