One of the calamities that I see our communities and our country suffering from is the lack of grace. We no longer use grace in our everyday vocabulary and as a result we certainly do not keep grace in our minds during interactions with our communities. This I think is a result of two deficiencies. First, we no longer hold to strict universal standards. Second, because there is no standard to hold, there is no necessity for grace and mercy for those who fail to live up to the standard.
I watched a recreated Western classic the other day and was struck by how old fashioned it was in its story. Of course Westerns are well know to tell tales of the good and the bad and the consequences of following one or the other respectively. The overtones of Black and White, Good and Evil, Truth and Lie cannot be missed. And although the Western usually strives to show the gritty reality of the existence of man and his constant struggle in choosing Right from Wrong, what is Right and what should be done are usually positioned so that the audience knows, without a doubt, the Good cowboy from the Bad. At the very least, they know when a wrong has been done.
Clarity is only available to the audience because the characters work within a framework of objective truth. Circumstance does not change morality in these tales, although it may cloud it for a time. But more importantly, the characters act upon their belief in Right and Wrong. A real virility exists in these types of tales, men act and do simply because they believe they are acting and doing justly. Those who act with equal confidence executing wrong-doing know they are going against order and are attempting to live outside of the standard; they are either brought to justice through the law or eventually killed for their destructive behavior and crimes. Those who do wrong rebel against Right and order. They are selfishly breaking a natural order to satisfy themselves; they embrace the destruction of good order, social and moral, and whether it is for a reason or simply to disrupt order they cannot be allowed to continue in that path.
Now that is all very black and white, which I hold to be a good position. But we as a culture need to call dark grey black enough, and light grey white enough, if only to stop analyzing everything to the point of paralysis. Call a spade a spade and act accordingly. You will quickly find a framework of order begin to form if you will simply make judgements. Here is the kicker though, and my real point in writing this section; you allow for grace when you have a standard set.
When someone fails, acts in a way that harms others, or goes against the established order, you know he is wrong to act is such a way. There is a standard, he does not meet the standard. Whether it is acting morally or simply politely everyone should know when the line is crossed, and everyone would have the authority to point out the failure to meet the standard. We no longer have standards, so we no longer have authority. If we have lost moral authority then we have also lost the ability to gracefully forgive. If everyone’s actions are equally neutral, then we have lost the ability to give mercy.
Because Universal Truth does exist we naturally understand and desire order derived from what is True. Morality is derived from the Order of Truth. Yet as each one of us can attest, we do not meet the standard of morality. We all require mercy because we do not uphold the standard. What has been lost is that understanding, and the humility that comes from that view.
There is defiance or there is acknowledgement.
In our Western, the bad cowboy dies desperate and angry, or admitting his wrongs and accepting his fate. No one admits their wrongs anymore, instead we make an excuse and this ends up driving us further apart. This act of excuse making separates us from the Order of Truth, as well as sets barriers between our human interactions. Eventually, constant excuse making and, “no one understands the circumstances I deal with,” leaves you friendless and alone. Emotional detachment occurs when you refuse to let others in your life, and part of that is allowing others to judge your actions against a standard. No one can say, “he is a good friend,” unless they make judgements from a standard of what is good. And once the judgement has been made one can then decide whether mercy and grace should be applied.
Let me break this down to the lowest simplest level. My grandmother was a good woman, and my grandfather was a good man. They both knew and understood right from wrong. They both lived with each other and knew each other for nearly sixty two years. As we like to say in my family, “she put up with him for sixty years, but he put up with her for sixty years.” You cannot have a relationship with someone without knowing their faults, and so it follows, you cannot have a relationship with someone without forgiving them their faults; you have to have mercy, you have to have grace.
To have healthy relationships, which lead to healthy lives, leads to healthier families, leads to healthier communities; communities must have standards to judge by, and grace to live by.