It’s everywhere. It seems like lately, it’s most commonly found on the mommy blogs and vlogs, but it’s also a message heard from well-meaning Christians.
I’m talking about the phrase, “give yourself grace”. It usually is found hanging out with sentiments like, “You’re doing a great job. Don’t feel guilty.”
And those sentiments may be okay in the right context. More often than not though, the phrase “give yourself grace” is cushioned in much less than what we are actually offered in Christ.
Grace is a word that should mean everything to us as Christians, but as The Princess Bride character Inigo Montoya would have said it, “I don’t think it means what they think it means.”
Unfortunately, the self-affirmation brand of grace can’t give us what we’re looking for in the moments when we’re drawn to accepting the message of “giving yourself grace”. There is actually so much more hope found in the truth of what grace isn’t and what it is for us as Christians.
Grace isn’t something you give yourself – not actually.
To be honest, we’re generally good at giving ourselves grace. In fact, giving ourselves grace tends to be at the root of a lot of our sin problems. We give ourselves grace in the wrong areas, amounts, or ways, and then find ourselves either suffering or inflicting the consequences.
I gave myself grace to complain.
I gave myself grace to lack compassion.
I gave myself grace to speak unkindly to my children.
I gave myself grace to stop putting effort into blessing others.
I gave myself grace to take a break from living for the glory of God.
That wasn’t really grace though. That was enabling sin.
Another problem with the concept of giving ourselves grace is that we aren’t great at setting limits with ourselves. Because of this, being lenient with ourselves actually costs us dearly, and it almost always comes at a cost to the people we love.
The biggest problem, though, is that if we need more grace, the place to run is to Jesus, not to our own sense of value and worth.
When we buy into the “give yourself grace” mentality, we are actually buying a lie. I can’t lavish something on myself that I don’t possess in the first place. If I need something like grace, it only stands to reason that I need to go to someone else to get it.
The whole idea that you can get for yourself everything you need is a lie straight out of the enemy’s playbook. This whole idea of “give yourself grace” is nothing new. Satan is just busy recycling lies and serving them up like they’re brand new, gourmet dishes. It’s just another way of saying, “Did God actually say…?”
Did God actually say, “My grace is sufficient for you”? Did he really mean it? Or is there a shortcut to grace that we’re missing?
The Gospel of Affirmation vs. the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Friend, it’s a lie that we just have to reach deep inside and find it in ourselves to offer grace to our own hearts and stop the pain of our insufficiency and failures.
The reality is that “give yourself grace” is usually a sugar-coated attempt to help us avoid feelings of guilt by offering the gospel of affirmation. The only way to be truly guilt-free, though, is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can take your guilt and offer you true freedom.
It’s not cheap grace
In many ways, we are minimizing the grace of God when we speak like this. God’s grace is much costlier than we give it credit for when we try to summon it up for ourselves. Jesus paid with his life, suffering more than we will ever comprehend, in order to reconcile us to God and it is in this grace that we are brought near as dearly loved children. Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf changes everything about us and there is no part of our life that isn’t profoundly made new through the hope of the Gospel.
We don’t need to give ourselves grace. We need to confess and repent and receive God’s forgiveness of our sins and failings and walk in the hope and undeserved grace that only he can give us. “He gives more grace”, James 4:6 tells us, “Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”
Giving ourselves more permission will not bring us true comfort or the welcome to walk in guilt-free peace. Those are only found in humbling ourselves and receiving the Lord’s grace, his deliverance from the burden of sin and weakness, and his gift of abundant life – gifts that we so desperately need.
The purpose of grace is not for you and me to be more comfortable about our past or current failings and sin. God’s grace covers our sins; it doesn’t enable them or give us a blank check to write for ourselves (Romans 6:1).
We have a constant, daily need for whole-life redemption. And by the abundant grace of God, we are saved not just from our sin – we are saved to a living hope in order that we might walk in newness of life (1 Peter 1:3, Romans 6:4).
Don’t try to dig deep within to give yourself grace. The grace of God is much sweeter, more freeing, and infinitely more powerful than anything you could ever get for yourself. Receive that grace and walk in it.
Bethany Barendregt is a wife, mom of five, and one of the founders of Women Encouraged. She cohosts the WE podcast and loves writing on what God is teaching her about being faithful, finding joy, and living in the welcome of Christ. You can connect with her through the Women Encouraged community on Facebook and on Instagram @womenencouraged and @bethanybarendregt. She also writes at her blog Joy Lives Here.