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Becoming a person of grace

An old friend picked a fight with me by email. It was unprovoked, out of the blue, and offered me a test. At first I wanted to respond defensively. But for all it’s drawbacks, the good thing about email is that it allows you time to think about your response. What’s really at stake here is …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

An old friend picked a fight with me by email. It was unprovoked, out of the blue, and offered me a test.

At first I wanted to respond defensively. But for all it’s drawbacks, the good thing about email is that it allows you time to think about your response.

What’s really at stake here is not my reputation. Most of the skeletons are out of my closets, and people can judge for themselves the fruit of my life.

What’s really at stake here is whether I can pass the test before me now. Some questions:
  • Will I be a person of grace?
  • Will I look like a disciple of Jesus by not responding in kind to an attack?
  • Can I trust God with my reputation?
What we all want and need is a generosity of spirit. We want to not be thin-skinned, to be able to absorb perceived slights.  But how? It begins with your sense of self-worth. Do you feel valuable as a person? If, down deep, you’re still reeling from the wounds of a childhood where your basic needs for food or security weren’t met, then you’re going to struggle to find grace.

My experience with graceless people is that they are almost all still recovering from some deep trauma. When they lash out in a hurtful way, their gracelessness is connected to that trauma.

We have a neighbor who as a boy one day saw a man kill his father with a shotgun. It was apparently over an affair with his wife. Our neighbor has become an irascible old man who lashes out at people for small, perceived slights. My guess is that it’s connected to that early trauma.

Psychologists tell us that we can get “stuck” in a stage of development. Somewhere along the line, our basic needs didn’t get met and while our bodies continue to grow, our character doesn’t. From that point forward, in a thousand graceless ways, we seek to meet those needs.

It’s an odd thing to see grown men and women seek to meet their needs for approval and love by tearing down other people. It’s the schoolyard behavior of people who are stuck. Life for them is a zero sum game. If I can take you down a notch, then I feel a little better about myself.

It’s the root cause of so much graceless behavior. And it begs the question, “How do I become a person of grace?”

The answer is that you’ve got to go back to that place where your needs didn’t get met and you got stuck. And you have to find a way to legitimately meet those needs.

I’ve seen how God wants to go back and mend old wounds and address insecurities, replacing lies with truth. It happens through prayer and therapy.
 
The truth is, God loves you and didn’t abandon you, even though it may have felt that way. Embrace that truth and then you no longer have to tear down others to feel good about yourself. You become free to respond to an attack with grace.

Changing years of negative behavior won’t happen overnight. God will give you hundreds of new opportunities to respond to new tests with grace. It’s hard work. It will look miraculous to those who have come to expect gracelessness from you. And in fact, it is miraculous. It’s a miracle available to all of us who are tired of the person we’ve become.

Comments (15)

  • This is a great post! Thanks this will be my armor for dealing with negative people, also it will also help oneself be mindful of one’s behavior. Thanks Seth!

  • Seth,

    I just cried reading this blog post. I too ask the same question: Am I or How do I become a person of grace?

    The enemy is so good at using other people’s sin and brokenness to combat what we are doing for the kingdom. Discouragement breeds distrust and insecurity…

    I especially loved your comment “Psychologists tell us that we can get “stuck” in a stage of development. Somewhere along the line, our basic needs didn’t get met and while our bodies continue to grow, our character doesn’t. From that point forward, in a thousand graceless ways, we seek to meet those needs.”

    Age, wealth, reputation and facade hardly ever are a true representation of where we are in our stages of development. It comes from the long term fruit of our labor… character doesn’t grow like our bodies do. That to me is sad in a lot of ways (as I feel that there can be traumas) but narcissism is a poison. It corrupts, stunts and defiles character.

    At least God continues to be faithful. I have walked this journey for awhile Seth.

    I read your posts often. Thank you for you honesty and vulnerability.

    Mackenzie T.

  • Wow! Way to confirm the two books I most recently read here in Kansas City, MO. I read a book called ‘Grace & Forgiveness’ by John and Carol Arnott; it was a short read, but so worth the time it took to read and it definitely propels you forward from the scars of the past. I, then, read ‘The Little Boy in Me’ by George Bloomer and it’s about becoming the man God intended. The book is very insightful and probably would have been good for me to read before I left on The World Race. Either way it talks about the ‘getting stuck’ part you refer to and was definitely worth the time it took to read it (it was a short read too for me, but I read fast so yeah). Thanks for sharing and solidifying what God’s been workin’ on in me here at IHOP. 😀

  • Thanks Seth for these insights. I read your posts every day and you and I share a more than thirty year friendship. I do believe that when wounded people keep being wounded there is a point where they say…”enough already”. Boundaries become healing when even those you love hurt you to the point where healing just cannot happen.

    I’m really sick of the tired…fake…religious bullshit that characterizes so much of a world I used to be a rockstar in. I literally become physically ill going to most “Christian” bookstores these days because of the pablum and self defined integrity of former clients and others who compartmentalize life. Its just wrong so I’ve retreated from the spiritual venereal diseases and pray those I love are inoculated from the madness.

    Let’s talk sometime soon. I have new stories to share you won’t believe.

    Love always friend…Me

  • One of the more important lessons to teach/model to our kids. I am blessed to have seen it modeled in my grandparents and parents and hope my kids see it in me.

    One of the ways we try to teach this is to ask our kids about the person who has hurt them. Do they live w/ their mom and dad? Do they wear clean clothes? Is their hair brushed?

    Usually the answer to these questions is NO. We remind our kids that they have been hurt by someone who is also hurting.

    Being a follower of Jesus is really hard sometimes especially when I’ve been hurt & I still have a cheek to turn.

    Wes

  • Good word, Seth. Was just reading “Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship” this morning and this blog fits so well with it.

  • My mother truly is a person of grace. Not something she learned, but who she was from birth it seems. I am so blessed to call her my beloved..in everything she did throughout her whole life, it was always covered with humor and grace. As a depression era child, she was faced with many challenges, but when life struck her down she always turned the other cheek. And moved forward – giving forgiveness to those who did not deserve it. She held us together as a family with her amazing love, and covered each person who came through her doors. As a broken child, she loved me Fiercely and unconditionally, I would not be the woman, wife and mother I am today without her in my life supporting me and covering me daily in prayer. As God is preparing to take her home, I find myself thanking Him profoundly for putting this amazing woman in my life. I love you mom. Go in peace into the arms of Christ – now is your time to receive Gods loving grace.

    • What a wonderful testimony, Patricia! I pray that my children would think about me as you think about your mom. She has indeed fought for you and raised you well.

  • This post is so good, Seth. It really speaks to me. I absolutely agree about the cause of such defensive behavior coming from having low worth in yourself. It’s amazing how you can know something in practice, but when someone states it so clearly, it just opens up new avenues of understanding. Beautifully put.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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