Originally posted on The Allergic Pagan:
I’ve been thinking about grace and humility lately. Last Sunday in the Spirit Circle discussion group at my local UU congregation, we were talking about who to credit/blame for the good/bad in our lives. The Christian in our group shared his belief that, whenever his life goes wrong, he knows he has done something wrong, and whenever something good happens, he believes it is God’s blessing. He actually referred to the “Footprints” poem. (I think I rolled my eyes involuntarily.)
His comments made me think a weird little movie called Julian Po, starring Christian Slater which I saw years ago. One part of it stuck with me. In the movie, Slater’s character is asked by the local pastor (who is having a crisis of faith) if he believes in God, and Slater’s character responds: “Somebody has to apologize.” Heaven, he says, is where God apologizes. And if God doesn’t feel like apologizing, then you’re in hell. If I were to believe in an anthropomophic God, I would probably be more like Julian Po than the author of the Footprints poem. I responded to the Christian that, for years, I believed like he did. And in my case at least, giving God all the credit and heaping all the blame on myself just resulted in tragically low self-esteem. I went on to say that I prefer to take all the credit and all of the blame. That’s been my M.O. now for years.
Even as I said this, though, I thought about how my attitude has made it so difficult for me to collaborate with other people in any part of my life. My words also rang untrue, because I was not acknowledging all the ways that so many other people have helped me along my path. And as I write now, I’m thinking about how my statement did not acknowledge the impersonal accidents of birth and genetics. Another person in the group challenged both me and the Christian. He suggested that religion is not (primarily) about assigning credit or blame, but about teaching humility — humility, not in the sense of self-abasement, but in the sense of an acknowledgment of all that is beyond our control. That would presumably include both the good, which is often called “grace”, and the bad, which is called . . . what do we call “bad” grace?
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