The steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation include the giving of—and getting of—grace.
We don’t often think about grace (other than maybe as a person’s name, in light of physical attributes, or as a ritual that some families perform before a meal) but the fact is, there used to be public, shared discourse around grace, regardless of politics, emotions, educational attainment, or material situation.
This was grace in the Christian conception of such a term, meaning “God’s unmerited favor.”
Webster’s New World College Dictionary provides this theological definition of grace: “The unmerited love and favor of God toward human beings; divine influence acting in a person to make the person pure, morally strong; the condition of a person brought to God’s favor through this influence; a special virtue, gift, or help given to a person by God.” This definition is based in virtue harkening toward a strong moral core.
Another way of framing grace is that it is getting what we least deserve, when we least expect it, through no effort of our own.
Getting grace implies faith and surrender.
Giving grace implies forgiveness and reconciliation.
Understanding and appreciating the depth of the need for grace and the skillset to give grace is implanted in people through developing a strong moral center.
This is deep and dark waters though, because moral centers (and the ballast that undergirds them) are so very rarely considered by individuals at depth, much less by societies at scale, in countries where the Church is no longer as powerful a moral force as it once was.
We outsource parts of our emotional life to politics that we used to outsource to the Church. The Church used to be a bulwark of morality—even in the face of conflicts so detrimental and consequential that they used to escalate to World Wars.
But the skills that undergird giving grace—such as humility, obedience, and discipline—are harder to acquire now than ever before both individually and corporately. And when the skills that undergird giving grace are lacking, getting grace seems as unattainable as going to the moon on the back of a cardboard rocket.
Grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation; these are what the world—and our civil discourse—need now.