Several years ago, I was honored to share the platform at a “Better Man” event with Kennan Burch. It was there I first heard his captivating story and a powerful metaphor that has encouraged me so many times over the last few years.
Kennan has since become a good friend and I recently asked him to tell his story again, as a guest blogger, for you, our LiveTrue subscribers. As you read this, I pray you discover a greater grace for yourself and others.
“One morning I journaled my way into a huge discovery that has changed my thinking forever. It was a discovery that I had a mindset that worked very much like a hockey penalty box. However, mine was not a visible or physical penalty box, it’s an emotional one.
So there I was in this place of isolation, doing penance.
Back then, this is the way my mind worked. Any time I “goofed up” I would go into this internal place of isolation until I did my atonement and then finally coming out again after I felt that I had done enough.
While I was in this place of emotional isolation, I was still actively engaged with people socially, but privately there was an emotional barrier between us. Above all else I needed to emotionally hide from them.
Seemingly, the worse thing that could happen to me was to let them know I didn’t have control over my stuff. Exposing any failure or loss of control could be devastating.
Why was I doing this? Well, for some reason it just seemed to make sense. If I could demonstrate to God that I was sorry for my infraction, and I could rebuke myself enough, then maybe He wouldn’t have to expose me, or judge me in front of others. I punished myself so He wouldn’t have to.
Here’s what I finally realized.
If I’m in the penalty box, I’m cut off from the only thing that gives freedom.
And that’s God’s unconditional love. His amazing grace. It’s like cutting off the oxygen to my soul.
Can you relate to this idea? Have you ever been in the penalty box? Do you know someone who is in the penalty box?
Is this the plan of a loving God? Or, the plan of an archenemy designed to keep God’s people completely ineffective. Well, here’s what I now know:
The Seven Habits of Highly Gracious People
Habit 1: Allow God to love me even in my imperfections
If a person suffers from the Penalty Box mentality, one of the hardest things to do is to allow God to love them, even in their imperfections. They beat themselves up for their imperfections and somehow believe that God is beating them up too. Why? They deserve it.
They aren’t performing to the standards they know they should. But this is where the journey begins. This is is the crux of grace. Grace is unmerited favor, not based on performance, or doing anything at all.
Habit 2: Have the Freedom to say “No”
Did you know that guilt and grace are opposite, mutually exclusive emotions? They cannot occupy the same mind-space at the same time. So, if I am experiencing guilt, I am not experiencing grace. And vice versa. People with the Penalty Box mindset do not like disappointing people. They tend to feel guilty if they say “no” to others demands and agendas for their lives.
They tend to be “guilted” into a lot of activity they ordinary would not say “yes” to. So, if a person is to experience grace, they need to have the freedom to say “no” to others’ demands and agendas for their lives.
Habit 3: Have the Freedom to Express your Innermost Thoughts
We all have bad thoughts. They come and go. We all would be appalled if someone else could really see and hear what we are thinking.
A person with very high standards may be appalled by their own thoughts.
If they entertain them, and indulge in them, they tend to go into the Penalty Box. Or, they may simply decide to stuff or ingnore them, and pretend they do not exist. Either choice isn’t good.
Stuffing thoughts and pretending they don’t exist carries it’s own problems and issues.
We can know we are experiencing grace, when we have the freedom
to express our innermost thoughts appropriately without fear of judgment.
Habit 4: Feel God’s Love and Forgiveness
When looking at our life’s shortcomings and major infractions, we all have a tendency to think “well, I deserve to feel guilty for this one.” The “big ones” I mean. The ones that you really never want anyone else to know about.
If I believe that, then I’m basically saying this, “God you didn’t pay enough for this one. Your son’s death on the cross was not enough for this one. I’m going to have to pay for it.”
What does God have to do? Does he have to send another son? Do you seriously think you’ve done something that he cannot forgive? So, if a person is going to experience grace, they needs to feel God’s love and forgiveness throughout their entire body, holding no guilt back – even for big ones.
Habit 5: Forgive Others of All Wrong and Remove all Blame
If am to experience grace, the Lord’s Prayer says to “forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” It’s almost as if God wants to use my heart as a conduit for his love to other people.
But, if I don’t forgive someone, or if I place blame upon someone, then it’s almost like I shut off the flow of grace. If I’m not showing it to others then I’m not receiving any myself. So, if I want to experience God’s grace I need to forgive others of all wrong a remove all blame.
Habit 6: Be Open About My Faults (Don’t Wear a Mask)
Hiding is one the defense mechanisms of the Penalty Box mentality. The internal mantra is, “above all else I must not let others see my faults.” The tendency is to hide all imperfections and constantly wear a mask.
But if we always wear a mask, then only the mask gets loved.
And, the fear of taking the mask off gets greater over time as the cavern between the public person and the private person gets bigger. But, if I am to experience grace, I need to be open about my faults with myself and other safe people.
Habit 7: Share God’s Grace with Others
One of the greatest ways to experience more grace is to give it away.
The more grace a person shares with others the more their reservoir will keep being refilled.
Kennan Burch is the Founder of Brand Catalyst. He is a branding expert and master facilitator. He spent 20 years at Darden Company and then launched Brand Catalyst Partners in March 2008. He is also Founder of Dream Builders, a network that provides encouragement, group mentorship, and creative resources to help men pursue their God-given dreams.