Is Giving Yourself Grace Letting Yourself Off the Hook?
As we dig into finding grace for ourselves, this question often comes up:
Is giving yourself grace letting yourself off the hook?
Like, is it excusing my bad behavior? Won’t it make me keep screwing up?
I have some thoughts on this.
When we mess up, many of us feel like the need to punish ourselves. You know, you said the wrong thing to a friend… so you replay it in your mind over and over (with a running mental commentary about how stupid you are). Or, you had a night out and ate all the fried food, drinks, and dessert your heart desired… so you go work yourself to near death on the treadmill for 3 hours (with a running mental commentary about how stupid you are). Or, you had sex again with that guy you know is using you… so you might as well go back for more (with a running mental commentary about how stupid you are). Or, you missed a deadline at work… so you hole up in your office for two weeks, saying no to anything fun (with a running mental commentary about how stupid you are).
See all the ways we punish ourselves? Downright mean. Why do we do this? Not because it’s effective, but because it’s embedded in our psyches. As a society, we are really only one or two generations removed from very authoritarian, punitive parenting being the norm. (And some of us are zero generations removed from it.) We learned as children that the only solution to unwanted behaviors is to punish them. But. That. Doesn’t. Work.
Let’s think about what punishment brings, whether in the context of a small child, or a grown adult:
Shame. Anxiety. Feelings of unworthiness. Regret. Fear.
They might stop the behavior (probably only temporarily), but what are the unintended consequences? Can we all agree that those states of mind don’t really bring about any good things?
Do they make us want to pursue more creative endeavors?
Do they make us want to go volunteer for someone in need?
Do they make us want to stick up for someone who has messed up themselves?
Do they make us want to do our hair, change out of our pajamas, and go participate in the world?
So how to do this? I touched on it in the previous blog post, but let’s look at it pragmatically. I pulled this parenting graphic off of ourdailymess.com. I want you to try something. Replace “your child” with YOU. Read each principle and insert yourself as the subject.
- Misbehavior (mistakes) are your way of communicating an unmet need.
- Validate your own effort.
- Give yourself the respect you want from others.
- Never punish yourself for your feelings.
- Express confidence in your abilities.
- Remember: The worse you feel, the worse you behave.
How does that feel to read it that way? Did it make you let out a little sigh of relief? Did it make you say, “Ohhh.” Did it relax your shoulders and face? Did it form the “cry ball” in your throat? If so, that is what grace feels like. And if you get into the habit of welcoming it in, it will change your life.
We all mess up, and we all mess up a LOT. So, with that being a constant factor, who do you want to be after you mess up? There are plenty of people who are willing to dish out judgment and condemnation. You, my darling, have gotta be your number one supporter. Be the one who gives you grace first. Then it will be easier for others to follow suit. When I think of the people in my world who are the most critical, judgmental, and condemning, it’s easy to see why. They have no grace for themselves, therefore definitely none to extend to others.
These life lessons are hard to grasp, and often need repeated. Laura has made a career combining life lessons and motivational jewelry. Her gorgeous, wearable reminders of inspiration, motivation, beauty, and grace will not only elevate your outfits, but your mindset too. Lots of people sell inspirational jewelry, but we know ours is special because each piece is designed directly from personal, lived experiences. (Jewelry #forthemagicheart ☺️)
So as the days are getting colder and we face all that’s ahead of us, wrap yourself up in this quote from Mr. Rogers:
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone (yourself) is to strive to accept that person (yourself) exactly the way he or she is (you are), right here and now.”
Sending you all the warmth and grace of hugs, cozy blankets, and chai lattes,