What's at the top of your "got to have it" list? A pair of in-line skates? A new computer? A set of wheels? A position on the football or fi eld hockey team? A girlfriend or boyfriend?
A friend of mine, when he was a high school junior, discovered one day on the football field what he needed most. He had tackled the ball carrier forcefully - but also very awkwardly. After the two of them had collided, they lay on the grass, trying to collect themselves. The coach came over to him and said, "You should pray for more grace."
To this football player, "grace" meant wearing a leotard, and he wanted nothing to do with that. Even so, he listened to the rest of what his coach had to say: "You'll find that when you're the most graceful, you'll be using the correct form and will be the most powerful. There's more power in moving with grace than with physical force." That was a completely new idea to him. And although he didn't fully understand it then, he realized it was important advice. So he started trying, in his own way, to express more grace.
Later, he went from expressing grace in sports to expressing it with friends and family members. Having grace meant being patient, acting unselfishly, and doing good deeds. Eventually, he came to define grace as getting along with others in a way that didn't injure anyone physically or mentally. He became friendlier, more thoughtful, happier. Gradually, he realized that he liked himself better the more graceful he was.
In the years since then, my friend's entire life has expressed a lot of grace. I've seen him ridiculed because of an interpersonal situation in which he was misjudged. But he expressed the grace of quietness, never changing his original, friendly attitude toward the person who had criticized him. He didn't resent what had happened, nor did he ever talk about it. Instead, he put into practice these words: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 4).
This grace shone through Jesus' life and teaching. His instructions require a lot, especially, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:44, 45). As difficult as this may be, the reward - knowing yourself as God's child - is well worth the effort.
That's what my friend found out one night when we were in the car together and he had to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a bicyclist who was speeding across the street without any reflectors on his bike. The angry bicyclist confronted him, yelling. Traffic stopped, and people quickly gathered.
Unafraid and with deliberate grace, my friend got out of the car, walked up to the bicyclist, only to find himself facing a man half his age and a head taller. He quietly spoke to this man, who then turned and left. The crowd dispersed, and the traffic moved on. When my friend got back in the car, I asked him what he'd said. He answered, "I said, 'I'm sorry this occurred.' " Then I inquired, "Do you mean you apologized to him for something that wasn't your fault?" He responded, "I didn't apologize, nor did I accept any blame. I just said, 'I'm sorry this occurred.' "
I was impressed by his compassion and dignity. Self-respect and respect for others are fundamental to the increasing expression of grace in every aspect of life. That coach's advice years ago on the football field pointed to what is most needed.
Originally printed in the Christian Science Sentinel. For a free sample copy of this weekly magazine, see www.cssentinel.com.
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