Most of us hope that when we die, we are able to pass on with a little grace and dignity. However, what is important to me right now is living in the present moment, awake and aware to the flow of life, of awen, hearing the songs of the ancestors and truly finding the meaning of the word, grace, within my own life.
Grace is a brilliant word that has so many meaning: to favour, to honour, elegance or beauty in form, ease, fluidity, mercy, clemency and pardon, just to name a few. If we look to the Latin languages’ use of the word, we find echoes in the Italian grazie or Spanish gracias, or in the French merci. The Latin root is grātia, meaning: (1) a pleasing quality, (2) favour or goodwill, and (3) gratitude or thanks. All three of these I find are essential to living honourably in today’s world.
To have a pleasing quality can have a myriad of meanings, from being aesthetically pleasing to simply being kind. The key word in this description is please in a verb form, which is something that makes one happy, whether it is the self or another. Why would we not want to make another happy? As long as it isn’t at our own expense, or hurtful towards ourselves, it seems a wonderful way to live. When we are hurtful towards another person, it doesn’t make us feel very good – or if it does, there might be something rather wrong with the brain’s chemistry. This doesn’t mean that our lives are not our own, and that we have to make others happy first – finding happiness within the self should come first, as should love for the self, in order to spread it around a little bit. Finding a peace and contentment within helps us to bring that to others. When we are not at peace with our sense of self, we cannot bring peace to others.
To have goodwill for others is at the heart of living with compassion, and also living with grace. The moment we wish another being harm, we have stepped outside of grace and into a hellish world of anger, retribution, revenge, bitterness and so on. We will not always immediately have good will for another being, especially if we have been hurt by someone in the past. Sitting with our own hurt, and then recognising the other’s pain helps us to open up our perspective from just ourselves to the wider situation. People who hurt others are often very hurt themselves. Those who try to pick-apart, to undermine, to speak unkindly to/about, who cause emotional pain – we can work with this with grace. We can see their hurt, empathise with it (though we don’t have to engage it, especially if it means further hurt or abuse from them towards ourselves), and feel compassion for them. We can wish them well, wish them love and peace, which feeds our own inner peace and peace throughout the world. The compassionate being is one who lives gracefully. (Please note: If you are being physically or psychologically abused, please do talk to someone about it right away and seek help.)
For me, perhaps the most important part of grace and its root word is to give thanks. To have gratitude is one of the key components of my Druid path, along with reverence, honour and compassion. When we have gratitude, again we step outside of our “small self” and enter into a way of being in which everything is part of everything else. No longer separate from the world, we are able to experience a deep gratitude for the world, our experiences, our loves and our lives. Our ancestors have brought us to where we are today, and it is through their strengths and weaknesses that we walk upon the earth. Our future ancestors are the ones to which we will be accountable for our actions in the present moment. Having a deep gratitude for our ancestors, not only human but also other-than-human ancestors helps us to see the inter-connectedness of all existence. Again, it shifts the perspective away from the self and into a broader, more integrated view.
This is the essence of grace – widening our world and our views, and in doing so living with kindness and compassion. It is something that is achievable for all, and something that will lead us to lives with more peace and harmony. Listening to the notes of the Great Song, the Oran Mòr, we are able to move with grace, to live with grace and to extol grace upon others.