(Photo by Selma Komisky)
How to Be Gracious in a Graceless Culture
By Jasmin Patterson
We live in a culture that encourages hostility toward one another. It’s so normal in our society to belittle people we disagree with, make harsh comments on social media, slander people, to rejoice in their failures. Sadly, we see these interactions in all kinds of relationships–from social media influencers to news commentators, to friends and family members. If I’m being honest, I struggle with this too. I’m a passionate, opinionated person. I’m quick to lose my cool and when I speak my mind it’s not always in the kindest way.
The reality of the ways we fall short in this area as a culture and in our personal lives might be discouraging sometimes but, thankfully, there’s a better way. As followers of Christ, we are called to embrace that better way and take the lead in modeling it to others. That way is called grace.
“Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractiveso that you will have the right response for everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
You know why I love this Bible passage? It highlights the fact that not only do we serve a gracious God, who extends His kindness and goodness to us, but God calls us to be gracious in our interactions with other people. The English definition of gracious is “pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous; merciful or compassionate.” Similarly, the Greek word translated grace or gracious in the Colossians passage describes graciousness as being characterized by sweetness, charm, delight, kindness, good will.
When we’re not gracious, it hinders our representation of Christ and hinders our relationships with others. So, here are a few practical tips–straight from God’s Word–on how to be a gracious person both face-to-face and online.
Ephesians 4:2-3 tells us to always be humble and gentle, and to work to maintain peace and unity with one another, especially fellow members of the Body of Christ.
James 1:19-20 is another familiar passage that teaches us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Have you read that one before? Sounds a lot different than go on a Twitter rant, cancel people, and assume their motives before you even know the full story, doesn’t it?
Or, how about this? Both the passage in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3:13 exhort us to make allowance for each other’s faults because of our love and to forgive anyone who offends us, just as Christ forgave us. Here’s what that looks like: giving people room to make mistakes and not be perfect (just like you and I make sincere mistakes and aren’t perfect), being forgiving, and when necessary, helping to restore people back onto the right path with gentleness and humility (Galatians 6:1) All this doesn’t mean we can’t ever disagree with anyone or we can’t have tough conversations, but it does inform the way we go about those conversations and how we live life in general.
Be gracious with your words.
In Ephesians 4:29-32, we learn that as believers, our speech should be good, encouraging, and helpful to those who hear. Is that what your words sound like? I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately and man, do I need God to help me grow in this area!
Being gracious with our words means not gossiping or slandering people. It means no name-calling or mocking people. It means speaking God’s truth but doing it in a loving way and boldly preaching the gospel but doing it with gentleness and respect. It looks like being winsome and attractive in our tone and delivery. Colossians 4:6 tells us that, in God’s eyes, the right response isn’t just about having the right content of a message but it’s also about the way you communicate that message.
I encourage you to spend some time reading the Bible verses we talked about and ask God to highlight specific areas where He’s calling you to grow in graciousness. Honestly, that growth isn’t going to be comfortable, but it’s worth it. As God help us, we’ll honor Him and honor others well as we learn to treat them with grace, just like our God treats us.