‘Grace’ has two main definitions. It can refer to elegance and poise. But it can also mean decency or honour. Both of these aspects can be helpful to us, especially the latter. Let’s consider each in turn.
A graceful person, in the first sense, is one who is unruffled, someone who can deal with trials and tribulations without breaking step. This can be a distinct advantage in relating to other people. It can help put them at their ease and help them have confidence in us and what we are trying to do. Having the poise of inner calmness can also work wonders for our blood pressure, our ability to cope with pressure and thus keep stress at bay. It therefore has benefits all round. Some may see it as a quality that some people are born with, while others have to learn how to do without. However, in reality, it is a skill (or set of behavioural skills) that can be developed over time. There is no reason why people cannot learn to develop poise and grace if they are prepared to make the effort and to develop the self-awareness involved.
Think about the range of people you know. Think about the extremes – that is: who do you see among them who are particularly graceful? At the other end of the spectrum, who are the people you would regard as far from graceful? What distinguishes the first group from the second? In other words, what makes the graceful people graceful and the not so graceful people not so graceful? What can you learn from this analysis that can help you optimise your ‘gracefulness quotient’?
The first sense of ‘grace’ is therefore a matter of skills. The second meaning, by contrast, is a matter of values. Being graceful, in our second sense, is about committing ourselves to a value position that involves being respectful, treating people with dignity and thereby being a decent and honourable person. Of course, much of this derives from our upbringing, the ways in which we are taught right and wrong and other aspects of our culture. But, while cultures are very influential, each of us has our own role to play in shaping how we behave and how we treat one another. We need to take ownership of our ‘grace’.
Values are often seen as abstract issues, but in reality they are very concrete, in the sense that they are very influential in shaping our, thoughts, feelings and actions. It would therefore be very unwise to dismiss them as ‘abstract’, as if that means they make no difference to our concrete reality. That would be far from the truth.
To develop grace in this second sense, we can undertake a parallel exercise to the one outlined above: Who are the people we know that we regard as particularly decent and honourable? Who are the ones we would see as lacking grace? What distinguishes the first group from the second? What can such an analysis teach you about making grace an important feature of your value base?
What is particularly interesting is that, if we look closely enough, we can see important links between these two different meanings of ’being graceful’. The more poise we have, the more confident and self-assured we can be, and therefore be in a stronger position to treat others with dignity and respect, as we will have less baggage of our own to get in the way. Similarly, the more we treat people with dignity and respect, the fewer problems we will have and the more respect we will get in return. That will then put us in a stronger position to adopt an elegant and self-assured approach to our lives, to have the poise that comes with grace.