Now I like this word.
Like you, however, I have been around some people for whom the word “gracious” doesn’t seem to fit.
It was a busy evening. This particular church was attempting to feed a lot of people. Volunteers had been working in the kitchen in their church building throughout the day to prepare for a big crowd that evening. Other volunteers had come the day before after purchasing food at the local Sam’s. Here were lots of people working together. Again, all were volunteers.
One couple came through the line. He complained because his portion was smaller than what he wanted. The person serving apologized and explained that they were trying to give small portions of this particular dish because they wanted to make sure that everyone got some before they ran out. The man was visibly displeased and muttered something about the volunteers needing to do a better job of planning. No thank you. No gratitude.
That is not graciousness.
On the other hand, I have known gracious people. For example, I witnessed one gracious man interact with people many times in social settings. He would never humiliate, embarrass, or in any way communicate displeasure over something like the above example. He spent his time thanking people and expressing gratitude to them for the work they had done. At such dinners, he often wandered through the kitchen complimenting people and thanking each person for their service.
Graciousness is reserved for people who recognize that they are privileged to receive what they have been given. Or as Fred Craddock once said, “The final act of grace is graciousness.”
So what is a gracious person?
A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise.
A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another. Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary. (Please don’t say something that humiliates another and then try to escape responsibility by saying, “I was only joking.”)
A gracious person is always thanking others. Do you go through an entire day without thanking another?
A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Someone else has something to offer.
A gracious person doesn’t try to play one-upmanship. (“That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!”)
A gracious person pays attention to people. Sometimes people come away from such conversations saying, “He made me feel like I was the most important person at that moment.”
A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate. (There is no redeeming value in emptying one’s mind of whatever fleeting thought has happened to land at the moment.)
A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others.
A gracious person looks for the good. Maybe you are visiting a friend who lives in another place. Instead of pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are constantly finding things that are good. “This cafe has outstanding peach pie! That was delicious.” “I just love the way you have planted your garden. It is beautiful!”
I believe that in so many of us, there is a genuine hunger to experience the beauty of graciousness. After all, this is nothing more than grace lived out. And — that grace originates in the heart of God.
What else would you add to this list? What have you observed about gracious people?