Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
– EPHESIANS 4:29
I thought Christians were supposed to give grace?
The challenge for each of us, flawed as we are, is to see God in other people and treat them as He would – gently, honestly and seeking the best for them. This is grace at work. Grace reaches people where they are and takes them to where God wants them to be.
Grace is empowering.
Grace is one of the most important concepts in the New Testament. Paul opens with the words “grace and peace” in almost every one of his thirteen letters. Sometimes it’s defined as “unmerited favor” or God giving us what we don’t deserve. The author of Hebrews writes, “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” Grace is active and empowering. Grace is always driving toward an end. We’ve been given grace so that we can glorify God in everything we do. This same word can also mean “blessing,” doing something for someone with no expectation of return.
So what does it mean to give grace to other people? It starts with having their best interest in mind. We give grace because we want people to be the best they can be, not because we want to avoid a tough conversation.
Results matter in the business world. Giving grace means giving your people what they need to succeed, whether that’s specific encouragement, constructive feedback, a new assignment, or a second chance. It also means letting team members know you have their best interests in mind. Do the people on your team know where they stand? Do they know what it takes to succeed? Do they know where they can take a risk?
Think about grace as a gift you can give, a tool to empower, not a penalty to withhold.
Grace starts with the little things.
This is where I missed the mark and set both of us up for failure. I knew this guy was on a bad trajectory, but I didn’t do anything about it. When we finally got to the performance review, I couldn’t give him a second chance because I had been giving him second, third, and fourth chances in my head for weeks before that conversation.
It takes more work, but it’s always better to have smaller conversations early than a big conversation when it’s too late. Grace doesn’t mean I own his failures, but it does mean I own my role in helping him do the best he can. Grace should have entered the process a lot earlier. It’s in nobody’s best interest to give out unlimited chances.
Grace means taking steps early and often to help the team succeed.
Grace means building people up.
In the New Testament, grace almost always comes from God. We should remember that God’s grace is different than ours. By his grace we’ve been saved, his grace transforms us to live like Christ, and his grace will raise us and take us to be with him for eternity.
Paul only mentions giving grace to one another one time. In Ephesians 4:29, he writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” This is the only explicit example of giving grace to others - saying things that build them up.
What grace looks like in us at work
Think and pray
We’re called to be ambassadors for Christ. Giving grace to others reflects the grace we’ve been given. Let’s find ways to empower our teams, keep everybody’s best interest in mind, do the hard work of having tough conversations early, and always making an effort to encourage the people around us.
Father, as I enter this workplace, remind me that I bring Your presence with me. Help me to speak Your peace, Your grace, Your mercy, and Your perfect order in this office. Give me a fresh supply of strength to do my job in a way that brings You honor and reminds others of Your love for them. Amen.
Michael McAfee is the president and co-founder of Inspire Experiences [http://inspireexperiences.org/], a teaching pastor at Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and an ethics and public policy PhD student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michael is happily married to his Sunday-school sweetheart, Lauren Green McAfee. They have a daughter, Zion. Michael blogs at MichaelMcAfee.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.