At Dayspring, we think it is important to ask questions. Students are taught to seek original and primary sources, ask the question “why?” and relentlessly pursue truth. The oration process is a hallmark of the Principle Approach. Each spring, students write a persuasive oration on a topic of their choosing and must present it in the fall during the Headmaster’s Oration Competition. Topics are passionately held beliefs of our students who learn to effectively communicate through written and spoken word. Lyric was in 11th grade when she wrote this oration in the Spring of 2017.
A Reawakening of Grace
by Lyric Williams
“Good words are worth much, and cost little,” stated the British poet, George Herbert (“Why”). “Grace” is one such word. Grace is not a quaint notion, but rather a powerful character trait greatly lacking in today’s society (“Why”). The word “grace” is defined as “favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace” (Webster). Gracious living is putting grace into action in the way one interacts on a daily basis with the people that surround him. Given the backdrop of the current culture of narcissism, living graciously takes the focus off “me” and places it on others, it provides the personal security and confidence necessary for good leadership, and Christians are called to be gracious imitators of God. The art of gracious living is a lost art worthy of restoring.
In 1922, Emily Post wrote the book, Etiquette: In Society, In Business, In Politics and At Home, which laid down a “law” of proper social conduct. However, Post addressed far more than just what it means to have good manners. She also emphasized the importance of a society that embraces good etiquette, which she argued is accomplished through gracious behavior towards others based on the fundamental pillars of respect, consideration, and honesty (“Emily”).
Focusing on Others
The lost art of gracious living needs to be restored because it naturally takes the focus off of oneself and places it on others. The current culture no longer demands or even expects its individuals to practice respect, consideration, and honesty. When a society becomes so lacking in graciousness as to not even demand respectful behavior and honesty from its leaders, the needs of its very members begin to go unnoticed (“US”). Awareness of the needs of the people around one is a necessary first step to becoming a gracious person, and the natural result of that awareness is more selfless behavior. When the three fundamental pillars of respect, consideration, and honesty are deliberately put into practice and repeatedly demonstrated by a person or group of people, that person or group of people will develop an increased awareness of the needs of others (“Emily”). However, abandoning gracious behavior creates an atmosphere of narcissism and selfishness that only serves to hurt the greater good of a people.
Being Mindful of Our Influence
The art of gracious living needs to be restored because putting the principles of gracious living into practice provides the pillars of security and confidence necessary for good leadership. Everyone has a circle of impact: people he or she has an influence over either for good or for bad. Christian author, J. R. Miller, said it well: “There have been meetings of only a moment which have left impressions for life, for eternity. No one can understand that mysterious thing we call influence…yet…every one of us continually exerts influence, either to heal, to bless, to leave marks of beauty; or to wound, to hurt, to poison, to stain other lives” (Maxwell,4). Understanding and practicing Post’s pillars of gracious living prepares people to confidently lead in whatever situation that they may find themselves as well as provide opportunities to beautifully impact and influence the lives of others.
Everyone has influence over someone. Sociologists have reported that even the most introverted individual will influence ten thousand different people in his or her lifetime (Maxwell, 2). People are constantly influencing as well as being influenced, and they need to make certain that their words, actions, and responses to others stem from grace and love so as to positively influence the world, even in the smallest way. This is what leadership is. Possessing grace gives people confidence to lead as their behavior and poise are observed and modeled by others. Leading with grace can be demonstrated by having an awareness of the rules of proper etiquette in various situations, when to extend an arm for a handshake, which fork to use first at a fancy dinner, or simply being aware of a seemingly small social need of the quiet person sitting next to them on their morning bus commute. Living graciously will render respectability to the people around them and will provide a deep-rooted confidence that will make one a more compelling and effective leader (Edwards).
Being Imitators of Christ
The art of gracious living needs to be restored because Christians are called to be imitators of Christ. “For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (English Standard Version, 1 Peter 2.21). The life of Christ is the ultimate example of gracious living. Christians do not have to wonder what their behavior should be. They know, because it has been beautifully recorded for them in the Holy Scriptures. Christ’s example of love, kindness, respect, honesty, and humility towards even the lowliest of people is the ultimate goal of how to live. He demonstrated this behavior when he had dinner with the Pharisees and a prostitute started washing and kissing his feet. Instead of casting her away for who she was, he forgave her sins and loved her. Christ lived graciously everyday and Christians should strive to do the same.
Restoring the Art of Gracious Living
Some people believe, however, that Emily Post’s ideas about manners, etiquette, and gracious living are no longer relevant to today’s society because they are “old fashioned” ideas. Although Post’s ideas are quite old, it does not mean that her ideas about respect, consideration, and honesty do not still apply today. The concept of gracious living is vitally important to the function of any society. It is the skill which is used to interact, converse, and debate with others in a God honoring way, and it is the perpetuator of peace.
Philippians 2.3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ” (English Standard Version). Mastering the art of gracious living is not an option for Christians. Practicing gracious living will put the focus on the needs of others, it will provide the necessary confidence to be a good leader, and Christians are called to be gracious imitators of Christ in all that they do. Help restore the worthy art of gracious living, bless others with an attitude of respect, consideration, and sincerity, while striving to follow after Christ.
Dayspring Christian Academy is a PreK-12 Classical Christian School in Lancaster, PA. If you’d like to learn more about Dayspring, please register for a personal tour or call Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000.
Edwards, Tyler. “Yes, You Are Called to Be a Leader.” RELEVANT Magazine, 29 Feb. 2016, http://archives.relevantmagazine.com/god/god-our generation/yes-you-are-called-be-leader. Accessed 23 May 2017.
“Emily Post’s Etiquette.” The Emily Post Institute, Inc., 28 Feb. 2017, http://emilypost.com/book/emily-posts-etiquette/.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Crossway, 2011.
Maxwell, John C. Developing the Leader Within You. Thomas Nelson, 2018.
“US Election 2016.” BBC News, 25 Mar. 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-35899703. Accessed 2 Oct. 2017.
“Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Online Edition.” Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Grace, 18 Apr. 2017, http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/grace.
“Why It’s Important to Be Gracious Every Day.” OPEN Forum, 14 Dec. 2012, https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/top-10-ways-to-be-gracious/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.