all good & all bad

One of the classic conundrums that has seemingly long tripped adults up is actually a rather simple question…

How much grace should we give?

Better yet: how much grace should we give in contrast to truth?

It’s as if grace and truth are opposites and can each only be imparted pending how much of the other is in play. Consider the image of the scales of justice, with grace on one plate — truth on the other. If 100% grace has been extended, any ounce of truth is impossible to display. In other words, it’s an “either-or” world.

Yes, we are living in an “either-or” world.

But what if that’s not an accurate application?

What if we’re doing not only a disservice to ourselves but also to one another?

What if, therefore, we are wrong — and both could be applied? What if we could be generous with both grace and truth?

Consider the insight of Dr. Henry Cloud, the leadership expert, clinical psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, whose books have sold more than 20 million copies.

Writes Cloud:

“… It is the tendency for a person to experience themselves, others or the world as either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad.’ It is the hallmark of immature formation. I say immature, as it is a normal developmental stage of thinking and perceiving in which everyone starts out life. If you think about it, you don’t meet a lot of infants or small children who are mature. They’re either happy and smiling, or it’s rage city.

Mature character, however, does not do that. She sees the world in what psychologists refer to as whole representations. In other words, when she looks at a person, even one who has frustrated her, she sees that person as the ‘whole’ of who they are and not just that mistake. She sees someone’s strengths as well.

For mature functioning, we cannot operate well in seeing the world in either-or terms. It is like trying to play tennis with only a forehand and not a backhand. There are a lot of shots you just cannot get to. It is frustrating to work with or be in a relationship with someone who cannot tolerate ‘gray’ or any degree of complexity that challenges their rigid thinking. Resolving conflict is more than difficult, as resolution usually requires an ability to see and work with the truth from the other side and integrate it into yours, finding a solution that transcends either polarity.”

No doubt, my friends, this time is tough. It would be so easy to conclude that whoever the other is in my life — the other person, party or perspective holder — is 100%, totally, completely, wholeheartedly, blindly, idiotically wrong, ignorant, incompetent, etc.

I get it. That would be easier. That is also a byproduct of the either-or world.

My strong sense is we are doing a massive disservice to self when we succumb to a culture which encourages us to decide who we are for and who we are against — as if all who think like us are “good” and all who don’t are “bad.” We have taken the bait of a culture actually encouraging the immature.

So what is it? 

Grace or truth? One or the other?

Allow me to suggest both…

Give grace to the different, even and especially when we don’t understand — recognizing mature processing doesn’t allow one to be all good and one to be all bad. And then, never omit the truth. Know that neither grace nor truth need be sacrificed.

But allow me to also suggest that the order matters in regard to how each is extended, as one sequence is clearly more effective. Let us lead with grace. Never omit the truth, but yes, lead with grace.

It’s both attractive and mature.