Why "Give Yourself Grace" Often Falls Short

It was a rare day for both my friend and I. We were in the car alone, coffee in hand, and all the carseats in the back were empty. During the drive, we got to talking about the bible study we were in at church together, about how it's hard, requiring more thinking than our mom-brains have done in years.

"Give yourself grace," I said. "God knows the season we're in, it's okay if we don't get it done each week."

It was a nice thing to say, balm to our guilt, salve to our failings, but was it true?


A month or two later, I'm on a walk with a different friend of mine. Each of us pushing our double strollers, doling out apple sauce and cashews every ten minutes to keep the kids quiet. We're talking about how we can't do it all. How we try to add something to our plates, and for a time, it seems pretty good, but after a few weeks or months, we start to see our plates cracking and we know something has to give before they crash.

We start talking about how thankful we are for God's grace, how he knows our hearts and how there's grace when we fail. But then she says to me, "You know, I used to always say, 'I just have to give myself grace.' But really, I'm learning I should say, "Come stand in the grace that's been offered to you.'"

And in that moment, I had never heard anything more profound.

"Give yourself grace." It seems to be the latest catch-phrase. I'll admit, it sounds good and  I've caught myself saying it multiple times. And sometimes, it's a good saying, a truth to hear when holding ourselves to impossible, unrealistic standards of perfection in areas we don't need to be.

But usually, that phrase can quickly lead us to sticky ground.

I don't know about you, but when I'm truly honest with myself, I often find myself saying "give yourself grace" as an excuse for my sin, rather than something to motivate me out of my sin.

When I lose my temper with my children from impatience, or choose to ignore the dishes in the sink out of laziness, or tear apart my post-partum body out of insecurity, then tell myself, "It's okay that I do this, I'll be better tomorrow, don't worry about it, give yourself grace." What I'm doing is coddling myself by excusing bad behavior and tolerating sin. "Giving yourself grace" skips one giant, vital, all-important step: repentance.

Self-grace isn't true grace at all - it's taking the grace right out of grace, to a point it no longer has any meaning. It's cheapening grace - effectively disgracing, grace.

Cheap grace ignores repentance. Cheap grace ignores the cross. Cheap grace ignores our need for forgiveness. Cheap grace ignores the beautiful, sacrificial redemption story.

Because when you truly understand what Jesus Christ crucified has done for you - when you understand the full weight of your sin and what grace cost: the pain, the suffering, the undeserved wrath poured out on the Son - you will no longer use grace as an excuse to sin in your heart or actions. 

We are not able to pardon ourselves with self-imposed grace, it is based purely on the will and good pleasure of God. Grace doesn't mean you did a little something here or there or even a little bit, grace means you did NOTHING - least of all to impart it on yourself.

Moms, grace isn't about giving yourself anything - it's about receiving and accepting the work that's already been completed on the cross.  We don't give ourselves grace, we accept the grace that has been given to us by God.

And that is true good news. Because time and time again, we will fail – we cannot be perfect moms – but the gospel of grace brings us back to the cross to refine us, transform us and make us new.  It is his grace from beginning to end. It is his grace forever and for always. It is his grace alone.

Come stand in the grace offered to you.


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