If there is one value that I have always wanted to instill in my children, it’s teaching them how to be graceful. In all moments, in any given situation—even when it seems counterintuitive or downright hard.
Teaching grace isn’t easy, and honestly, it goes deeper than just being a kind-hearted person. I believe that grace is first an inward action, and the more you learn to be graceful with yourself in the midst of your own mistakes and downfalls, the more you have the ability to extend grace to others in the midst of theirs.
Grace involves understanding, empathy and forgiveness. But in today’s cancel culture, it has become harder and harder to teach and extend grace. Especially when we want to hold people accountable when they have wronged or offended us or someone else. Especially when we want to encourage love and kindness to all. Especially when we want to take a stand against injustices and inequalities.
But even in the midst of all of those things, it's quite possible to still show grace. It may be hard—but it is possible. And I want to teach my kids to show grace, even when it may seem unfortunate.
I quite honestly don't know how I feel about cancel culture. I see pros and cons of it from many angles, but one thing I have thought of is while the reasons for cancel culture are to serve as a teaching moment and accountability check for an individual’s actions or behaviors, have we considered the negative effects of making a split-second (and sometimes uninformed) decision to “cancel” someone completely? And have we taken into account our (sometimes) lack of appropriate context or proper understanding in situations that are more complex?
We as parents are the starting points for our children's learned behaviors and values.
A colleague of mine raised a question that is now ingrained in my mind: “How do I encourage my kids’ fire to fight injustice, yet also encourage them to see people as imperfect beings who are, for the most part, trying their best?”
I know that a lot of times, things are more than meets the eye. And sometimes, people's mistakes are just that—mistakes. Mishaps that arise from lack of understanding, being uneducated on a topic, or simply just not knowing. So in my years of living, I have made it a practice to be slow to anger or respond. I have attempted to listen more and gain understanding before I react.
I was having a conversation with my sister a while ago about how I wanted to show more grace to people and how for me, that starts by understanding that everyone is taught their behaviors and values by someone or something—be it their parents/guardians, their environments or social settings, or their upbringing. And though I know that once people grow up it becomes their responsibility to unlearn things and educate themselves, sometimes it may be more complex than it seems.
And that was the lightbulb moment for me. Sometimes, we have no control over the behaviors or attitudes of anyone else, but understanding that those attributes were learned from somewhere can help us to reflect on what we are teaching our kids—and what they may be picking up from us.
Because we as parents are the starting points for our children's learned behaviors and values. And even in the culture of canceling others, we can teach them to extend grace—even when it doesn’t seem to be in their favor.
I understand that there will be moments when people or situations are seemingly undeserving of grace or even forgiveness—but in teaching my kids grace, I’m teaching them that extending grace sometimes has more to do with their own character than it has to do with how they feel about a person or a situation.
And at the end of the day, I want them to be proud of their character—despite the characters of others. I want them to look deeper and not examine everything from just a surface level. I want them to be fulfilled when they choose to meet harshness with a soft, yet firm and moving response. But most importantly, I want them to choose grace.