It seems to me, one is best served by living the adage, “There but before the grace of God go I…” Not only is one best served, by living humbly and non judgmentally, but society is benefited as well. A win win. What then does it mean to live by the adage, there but before the grace of God go I? It is to harbor compassion in the heart, wisdom in the soul and results in charity in one’s works. Moreover, to be non judgmental, protects us from all sorts of misfortune in our lives. Lets face it, most, if not all the adversity we face, is of our own creation. Our own bad decisions, which might have seemed right at the time, led to almost every hardship we have ever faced. Obviously many are born into poverty, but especially in such circumstances, those who remain virtuous succeed, while those who turn to crime fail. The start to virtue is to embrace wise adages like, there but before the grace of God go I.
The term itself was first coined it is said, by John Bradford, at seeing criminals executed. Most probably because he considered, if he had been born in their shoes, he might have been the one jerking at the end of a rope… instead of that criminal. It is the understanding that, had you or I been born German in Germany in 1920, we could very well have become Nazis, even if you are a Jew today! Thanking God that in his grace, he didn’t test us as harshly as he did them. Or perhaps he did, and we passed, that is why we stand here, either way, it is by the grace of God that we are who we are, not by some inner superior strength. Many would like to imagine they are good because of inner superiority, but put in the right circumstances, might do anything. They don’t know if they are not tested.
Human heartedness, and living by the adage there but before the grace of God go I, correlate significantly. Human heartedness is E. R. Hughes translation of Confucius’ term, “jen” and others have translated as benevolence. The human hearted man seeks to do his or her best, at everything they put their hand to, are not envious of those above, or despise those below. They love and are beloved by their families, while they maintain their fences to the right, as they would have those on their left maintain theirs. The human hearted person has a love of learning. To be non judgmental by acknowledging one’s own weaknesses and failings is a step onto the path of human heartedness. It should be obvious that human hearted people do better at business and indeed in life.
Those who are non judgmental doesn’t compare themselves to others. The person who is not judging their fellows is obviously not comparing him or herself to others. Alternatively, those who sit in judgment of their peers must also measure themselves against everyone else. To constantly measure oneself against everyone else can only lead a person to be both prideful and envious. Two character traits that are often called character flaws, and for good reason. To live by, There but before the grace of God go I, is good protection from becoming prideful and envious, as well as the social roadblocks such characteristics create. To recognize one’s own weaknesses and failings puts us in a more charitable mood, if we are in a more charitable mood, we are more likely to donate time or money. Since charity benefits the giver as much as the receiver, especially effort over money, we are benefited in that way too.
It isn’t hard to practice, there but for the grace of God go I, just say it in your head when you find yourself judging, envying or pitying. It might just remove some social impediments to your progress up the ladder. Ever notice that many Chinese people do well in business and succeed in corporations? It is not some intrinsic trait of being Chinese, it is because of the philosophy many still live by, Confucian human heartedness. Looking at your fellow human beings, even those who live, both today and in history, through this lens, allows us to have a little more compassion, even for the villains. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love thy enemies, bless those who persecute you…” because your enemy’s burdens have been, are or will be, much worse than yours. That is not to diminish the inner happiness that embracing, there but for the grace of God go I, gives the adherent…