How do you find the balance between a culture of grace and enforcing discipline and “tough love”? I ask this with regard to things like raising children, running a business, dealing with customers or merchants who may want to take advantage of you? I want to extend grace but at the same time I don’t want to be a doormat.
This is a great question, and an important one. We should start here: having grace towards people is not the opposite of being an assertive person. The idea of trying to strike a balance between those implies that they are on the opposite ends of the scale, which isn’t the right mental construct for looking at this.
It is entirely possible to be loving, forgiving, and graceful while you are being very firm with someone. The key is knowing how to have healthy confrontation. You may not have heard this talked about in church, because church people tend to be afraid of any kind of confrontation, so the idea of necessary, healthy confrontation is not something they want to hear or talk about. That very much includes pastors.
That discomfort is where the idea of doormat or raving jerk comes from. If you don’t know how to have a healthy confrontation, that is all you are left with- either put up with it or blow up about it.
A healthy confrontation is firm, assertive, and graceful. It is very possible to be all at the same time. Let’s look at examples you gave.
The best parents I know are aware of their responsibility of disciplining their children, especially when they are little. They also end every disciplinary episode by hugging their child, reminding them that they love them, and telling them that it’s over now. The forgiveness and grace comes in that last step of declaring that it is over. The word translated as “forgive” in the New Testament (ex. Matthew 6:14-15) literally translate “to send away.” Healthy confrontation doesn’t hold a grudge.
In a business situation, it is easy to assert yourself without being judgmental or angry about it. If a customer or vendor is trying to rip you off, you can stand up for yourself. A simple “I’m sorry, but that’s not how it is” can shut down a lot of messed up behavior. You don’t have to be angry. You don’t have to make threats. You just have to stand your ground.
In Matthew 10:6, Jesus says “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Treating people with grace doesn’t mean being naive or a pushover. In fact, being those things kind of makes it impossible to show grace because grace is an act of will. Saying “I see what you are trying to get away with, and it’s not going to happen. Here is the fair thing we agreed to, we are doing that. Let’s shake hands. No hard feelings.” will show grace and let someone know that you aren’t playing their game.
-Matt from The Bridge