by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 NASB
Our response to other people’s failures and mistakes matter. A lot.
Our daughter has always been the type who longs to please. She hungers to know her father and I are proud of her, and at times, this heightens into an unhealthy fear of displeasing us. When she was younger, I often told her, “I almost want you to fail in this, so that you can see failure isn’t the end of the world.”
Mostly, I wanted her to experience grace and learn to live in it.
Grace isn’t overlooking sin or acting as if it’s acceptable, nor is it diminishing its effects. Grace says: I know you messed up here, and that stinks. But your actions won’t push me away. Instead, they motivate me to draw closer. Because I know you can do better. I believe you will do better, and I’ll be walking beside you each step of the way.”
Fear paralyzes, but Scripture says perfect love casts out fear.
Let me play on those words a bit. We all fear that we’ll be cast out. That others will reject us when we fail. But love draws near. If I instill nothing else into our daughter’s heart, I want it to be this: my love will always remain. No matter what.
Imagine our relationships, our churches and Bible study groups, if we learned to communicate grace-based love, not just with our words, but more importantly, with our actions and reactions. How can we create a culture of grace in our churches?
Understand failure will occur. We’re all in a process of growing. We know this intellectually, but it’s easy to forget when someone behaves badly.
Often, when I disciplined our daughter when she was growing up, I’d say, “You’re supposed to mess up. You’re a kid. That’s why God gave you parents.” That didn’t mean I condoned or ignored her behavior. It meant I saw it through a grace-and-growth-based lens. Paul put it this way to the relatively new believers in Philippi: “[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).
Prioritize relationships above behavior, mistakes, and incidents. We need to keep the end goal in mind: working toward the kind of relationships that go beyond the superficial. One bad incident does not a relationship make. The challenges that inevitably come can actually be relationship builders, if we work through them together with an attitude of grace.
Jesus offered Himself. Completely. When He met a tax collector who’d swindled money from others, He didn’t list all the man’s sins. Instead, He drew the man close, saying, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5, NIV).
We forgive because of what Jesus has forgiven in us. When healthy and filled with grace, relationships give others a safe place to land, an opportunity to come clean with themselves and others, and grow from the experience.
Deal with things as they come then move on. When our daughter was a teenager, she and I went through a “passive-aggressive” phase where we routinely threw snarky comments at one another. Whenever we took the effort to unpack these interactions, we learned one of us had spoken out of hurt or fear. Watch others, or even better, analyze yourself, and I suspect you’ll discover the same.
Usually, passive-aggressive behavior stems from aversion to conflict, yet that is precisely where it leads—to ongoing, unresolved conflict. We discovered how important, how healing and powerful it can be to simply state our feelings and concerns. This allowed us to get to the real issue, which so often wasn’t what originally presented. It gave us the ability to move on, grudge and hostility-free.
I’ll never love others as Christ loves me. But I want to grow in this area. I want to create a culture of grace, where relationships are prioritized over mistakes and poor behavior and growth is valued above perfection.
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.
Hometown Healing: She’s home again, but not for long…
unless this cowboy recaptures her heart…
Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?
Join the conversation: When has someone extended grace to you? How did it affect the outcome of your failure?