Sunday, April 10, 2011


It's Sunday morning, April 10, 2011. The house is quiet. Well, not really. There's the ticking of the wall clock, the whirring of computer fans and disks, and of course my tinnitus, the sound of high-pitched crickets that follows me everywhere. Nonetheless, for me, it's quiet and peaceful.

I woke up this morning thinking about grace and cordiality. It's hard to explain it (that usually precedes an explanation of something that I don't understand), but there's a difference between being gracious and being cordial that gets lost on us.

On the surface they can appear to be the same. The gracious and the cordial both listen politely as you speak. They speak respectfully and with kindness. They express gratitude for gifts and deeds performed on their behalf.

Yet there is an honesty in grace absent in cordiality. The gracious express all their opinions with respect and honor, even those opinions that others might take as negative or unflattering. The cordial keep to themselves opinions that others might take negatively.

Perhaps the difference isn't honesty, but, judgment. The gracious perceive nothing in another person as being 'bad', even those attributes that they would seek to change. The cordial maintain judgments of others that may not be expressed due to the rules of cordiality.

So honesty is part of it. However, you can't move from cordiality to grace by becoming more honest; you can only do it by eradicating judgment. Even those highly skiled in cordiality, diplomatic in every respect, stumble when expressing judgments to the one judged. It's nearly impossible to do so without a hint irritation or impatience or discomfort. So those skilled in cordiality avoid expressing their judgments.

The cordial overlook the indiscretions and blunders of others; if they do speak of them, they do so through innuendo and rarely to the one who committed them. The gracious speak of indiscretions and blunders openly and easily, directly addressing the one who committed them with apparent disregard for how he might respond.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the response to grace is never anger or defensiveness. The words of the gracious are disarming; they provide the one addressed the opportunity to hear them without judgment, an absence of judgment temporarily borrowed from the speaker.

I think that grace is far rarer than cordiality; however, I think it's probably much easier to be gracious than cordial. To be cordial requires skill and often training. One must be aware of how people respond to what she says. She must be careful to pick the right words. She must know how to shift conversations and how to navigate around uncomfortable topics.

The graceful one needn't do any of that. Instead, she just says whatever she's thinking without thought of the 'right' words or the 'appropriate' timing. Grace is easier.

I think that's it, but I'm just beginning to figure this out.

Happy Graceful Sunday,

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