Grease and Grace

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. ~Emily Post

Decades ago, in the early days of my husband’s ministry, we were told by a parishioner that a relative of theirs was having marital difficulties. As the parishioner put it, “There’s no grease in that relationship.”

Manners are grease. Please and thank you and I’m sorry and do you mind. Somehow we don’t seem to think we need to use them with our nearest and dearest, when nobody else is watching. Maybe that’s just natural human laziness. But when you think about it, it’s really a bit presumptuous. They have to put up with us no matter what, we think, so we don’t think we need bother greasing our relationship with them the way we would with colleagues or customers or people whose good opinion matters to us. (You would think the good opinion of our loved ones would be the most important of all to us, and yet….)

I’m not even talking about showering them with affection, let alone about being saintly and self-sacrificing and putting their needs before our own. Just a little grease, a little bit of minding our manners to keep the machinery of getting along going smoothly. If you dispense with the grease, you get clashing gears, sparks. Before long, the gears grind to a halt, and if you try to start them up again without a little grease, you end up with damage.

Grace is hard for us fallen creatures. Forgiving the hurts, big and little, requires dying to self. Repenting, when we’re the one doing the hurting, means killing our pride. Being transfigured to a selfless person, so that we proactively think about what is best for others, as opposed to what we personally want, is a lifelong process. For most of us, it is perhaps best to start with babysteps.

Grease: Practice using the manners we learned when we were preschoolers—not just with strangers and outsiders, but with our spouses, our children, our family. Use them when you –don’t- think you need them yet, before the gears grind to a halt.

Grace: Begin the day with a prayer for God to make us a blessing to everyone we encounter. God is delighted to answer this prayer—but do be aware, it will cost you in your pride, in your self-sufficiency. But it’s worth it.

Grease is an instrument for Grace to grow.

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