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1. elegance and beauty of movement or expression; “a beautiful figure which she used in subtle movements of unparalleled grace”

2. seemliness: a sense of propriety and consideration for others

It has taken me most of my life to learn this thing called “grace.”  It never even occurred to me that I had it until someone told me that I handled a situation with more grace than he could ever hope to have.  I certainly was not born with it; grace had to be learned the hard way (as have most lessons truly worth learning).  A lifetime of overreactions, road rage, tantrums, throwing things across the room,  and stomping my feet (yes stomping my feet) when things didn’t go my way had finally segued to thinking before acting, calmness, and this thing I like to call “sleeping on it.”  I’m not going to say that I always do the right thing, but it has made me much more aware of people who act on their emotions and thus burn some very important bridges that could have taken them somewhere really special.

The easiest example that comes to mind is rejection.  Rejection sucks.  We all know it.  We’ve all experienced it in all sorts of forms – interviews, school applications, love, friendship…hell even a pet can reject you.  So when you’re rejected you have the choice between grace and bridge-burning.  Let’s play it out:

“Hey Tim, I really like you.  Would you like to go out sometime?”

“Well, I’m actually seeing someone right now.  I think you’re really nice but I just can’t.”

Bridge-burn: “What the hell?  You’ve been flirting with me for months!!  It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it?”  Then you completely avoid Tim, severing any kind of friendship you had.  Tim feels like a jerk and is completely uncomfortable around you.

Grace: “Oh jeez!  That’s great!  I’m so embarrassed…well best of luck…”  Then when some time has passed, you and Tim are back to being friends.  He introduces you to some of his cute friends, he remembers how mature you were and recommends you highly.  OR – things don’t work out with the other chick and he can’t wait to see how things will turn out with you since you were so cool when he had to turn you down.

The same thing is true with most things in life – you get turned down for one job, but maybe a month from now the interviewer has a friend at another company that needs someone with your exact set of skills.  Your wife comes home from work in a terrible mood and is rude to you – you can react and be rude right back, or you can give her some time to calm down and ask her if she wants to talk later, maybe even confront her about how rude she was.

Luckily I have had some good influences over the last few years that showed me what it’s like to be graceful in a tough situation.  Unfortunately, I’ve been at the receiving end of some not-so-graceful behavior as well.  After my experiences of the last year and the experiences of my friends,  I’ve decided the worst part of dating is having to tell someone that it’s not going to work out.  You just never know how they are going to react.  For me, hearing those words is a blessing, a relief of sorts.  Being honest is a good thing.  I’d much rather have someone tell me that he isn’t into me than to just stop calling, or worse – keep up the facade until I come to the same conclusion (that’s also known as dishonesty by the way).  Sure, it sucks and it’s disappointing, but isn’t the alternative much worse?  For some, that kind of honestly is SO disappointing that they become hurtful and mean.  These people burn bridges without thinking, and lose the respect of their peers in short order.

Food for thought: In a game of chess, you have to think 2, 3, or even 4 moves ahead.  If you do the same with your relationships and the choices you make every day, chances are people will notice.  Practice grace in all that you do.